Let Them Eat Their Cake


The brouhaha over last week’s vote at The Australian Club to remain male only has caused ripples and riposte from ropeable men and women from well beyond its Sydney environs.


While I have no particular view on the oldest gentleman’s club in the southern hemisphere admitting women - 'tho I do wonder if any would actually want to join – it’s worth taking a step back and looking at this from a broader perspective.

As a feminist who seeks and works to empower women, I find myself asking if I would be prepared to give up:

  1. Women only private clubs that only accept female members - 'tho men can attend events and stay on the premises. These include the Sydney based Queens’ Club and The Women's Club (of which I am a member) and its many affiliates in Australia and overseas.  Clubs that bring women together in safe and private spaces to share knowledge and information, network with each other and generally let their guard down away from an often frantic corporate life. 
  2. Women only gyms such as Curves, which tells us that it is dedicated to helping women achieve their fitness goals and transform their lives.
  3. Women-only and women-focused spaces, such as the Allbright Club in Mayfair and, in the USA - The Wing, launched in 2016 as a network of work and community spaces; The Riveter, a co-working and community space “built by women, for everyone,” launched in 2017....and others that are springing up across the globe to support women in tech, female-led start-ups and other initiatives.

Then we have women only angel investors in organisations such as Scale Investors, which seeks to redress the huge imbalance in access to capital between male and female founders. Or organisations such as Chief Executive Women - which has as its mission ‘women leaders enabling other women leaders’. Would CEW be nearly so effective if it were Chief Executive Women and Men?

Safe Spaces for Women

Women’s safety and the right that women have to be respected in their workplaces, community and homes is (finally) becoming a global issue. Safe spaces for women to gather and freely associate with other like-minded women have for a long time been recognised as extremely important to women’s professional and personal development.

I am not a fan of the push to de-gender everything from bathrooms facilities to language in our schools and universities, as I fear it will lead to poorer outcomes for women and girls. Females are different to males and bring different perspectives, experience and understanding at board and leadership level and across professional and life roles. Any organisation or community that does not yet get the 'diversity dividend' is destined not to last very long in our fast paced and changing society.

So let's leave the older white men who largely make up The Australian Club membership to remain in their male only club. Anyone wanting a female only club can wander up the road to The Women’s Club or, those who prefer a mixed gender club can join one of the many Royal Automobile Clubs, University Clubs or other business and social clubs that welcome both sexes and other genders.

I suspect I am not alone in saying that I have no desire at all to join The Australian Club. In fact the only reason I might like to enter is that I have heard that the food is excellent - so an invitation to luncheon would be lovely!

Enjoy your week!

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