No-man's-landWomen-only clubs get a makeover


MOST Finns celebrate the summer solstice with a long night of sweaty sauna sessions and binge-drinking. But this year, on an island off the coast of Raseborg, an hour-and-a-half’s drive from the capital Helsinki, a group of women from around the world gathered for the opening of a private island resort to cleanse their bodies and minds of toxins—including, it seems, the patriarchy. “SuperShe Island” is a place for ambitious women to network while experiencing a “vacation on steroids”, says Kristina Roth, the resort’s German-American founder. Men are strictly banned.

The island resort is just one of a crop of new women-only spaces hoping to bring a sea-change in the way women network. The Allbright, a new club in London, focuses on creating business networks for working women. An American firm called The Wing is an all-female co-working space, and plans to open a London branch later this year. Her Global Network, originally from Sweden, helps women find business contacts in 14 cities around the world.

In the #MeToo era, it is little wonder that many women are seeking the equivalent of influential men’s clubs. In the EU women earned 16% less than men in 2016, according to Eurostat. Female entrepreneurs tend to have smaller networks than their male counterparts, mainly consisting of family and friends. Women only represent a third of all entrepreneurs in the EU and are half as likely to be self-employed as men.

Women-only clubs are not a new concept. They existed in London as early as 1860. Today’s gentlewomen’s clubs, unlike their male counterparts, feature Instagram-friendly interiors, and mindfulness classes. The Wing has a lactation room. At SuperShe, women can fly in on a private helicopter from Helsinki, skinny-dip in the Baltic Sea and dine off a low-cal menu.

Like their male counterparts, these women’s clubs have not escaped criticism. The Finnish equality ombudsman investigated SuperShe for discrimination. The project was given the all-clear on the grounds that to achieve its goal of female empowerment, women had to feel comfortable on the island. The Wing, however, is still facing a similar investigation in New York.

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