If every woman could equal the career pinnacle achieved by America’s first female secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, then the dream of two British entrepreneurs will be delivered.
While it is 20 years since Albright served under president Bill Clinton, it was her blunt warning of “a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women” that inspired former Hearst CEO Anna Jones and multi-millionaire entrepreneur Debbie Wosskow to launch a private networking club for women—fittingly named The AllBright.
With two clubs currently open in the U.K., this week they’ll launch AllBright Academy in the U.S., offering a free digital course aimed at arming women with the tools they need to achieve their career goals.
“We want to grow a global sisterhood, and the more women you have in your girl-gang the more successful you are in your career,” Wosskow explains. “The AllBright is a manifestation of the things we think other women need. Nobody really talks to you about how to raise money, hire people, build the brand and the product. So we help build networks, confidence, resilience and skills in both a physical space and at-large in a digital community.”
“The more women you have in your girl-gang the more successful you are in your career.”
Jones and Wosskow earned success the hard way, Jones climbing the corporate ladder at the Hearst Corporation, while Wosskow founded Love Home Swap, a home exchange service, in 2011 which she sold six years later for $53 million.
They’ll offer two digital courses, Doing It For Yourself and Smashing the Glass Ceiling which run for 10 weeks to cover everything from how to start a business, fundraise, build a brand and develop professionally in a corporate environment. Course “teachers” include Sandy Nunez, Head of West Coast Production at ESPN; Moj Mahdara, CEO of Beautycon; and Sophie Kelly, SVP of Whiskies at Diageo North America.
“We want as many women as possible to have the experience for free, wherever they live and whatever they’re doing,” Wosskow says. “When you’re starting a business you can end up spending a lot of time in your kitchen, so we need to network and get out.”
In addition to the digital platform, members can connect through organized, local meet-ups and via chat through the site or the newly released AllBright Connect app.
AllBright also announced the opening of its first U.S. membership club in Los Angeles, set to be completed later this summer, with founding members Olivia Wilde, Meg Whitman, Jameela Jamil, Maria Bello, and Maha Dakhil on board.
The 9,000-square-foot space on Melrose Place was designed by Brigette Romanek (whose client list includes actress Gwyneth Paltrow, singer Kelly Rowland, and ballerina Misty Copeland) and boasts a fitness centre, beauty salon, restaurant, bar and meeting rooms.
With an obvious priority promoting women, there are innovative works from artists Susan Hiller, Francis Upritchard, and Tracy Emin lining the walls. Behind the bar, guests can drink Pinot Gris from female winemakers including New Zealand’s Jannine Rickards, and Paula Fandino in Spain. AllBright also has a partnership with female-forward brands such as Johnnie Walker, whose Jane Walker initiatives celebrate the many achievements of women.
Up on the rooftop, overlooking the iconic Hollywood sign, is an al-fresco setting for regular ‘pitch’ nights, events, film screenings and wellness pop-ups. They’ll amp up the entertainment each day with events including cocktail-making nights and DJ parties to provide opportunity for members to network with other members.
Meanwhile celebrity facialist, Georgia Louise (her clients include actresses Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, and Jennifer Aniston), will be on hand for guests needing a quick beauty fix. Louise’s first permanent L.A. space on the ground level with hair stylist, Lona Vigi will offer express treatments so members can return to work within 30 minutes.
“Our members want everything on tap, in one place and quick,” Wosskow says.
Wosskow adds that entrepreneurialism can be lonely and hard. With less women than men in leadership roles (women made up just five percent of Fortune 500 CEOs in 2018), she says it’s time to encourage women to stand up and be heard.
The goal is to maintain a mix of executives, entrepreneurs, and freelancers across every age, ethnicity and sector, and the purpose is to change the world of work for women.
While women’s workspaces are a growing phenomenon across the U.S., what sets The AllBright apart from competitors including the Jane Club and The Wing, is having men contribute to the conversation.
Recently, they appointed British business executive Allan Leighton as chairman of their company. Wosskow says change won’t happen without enlightened men sharing the journey.
“We think it makes sense to be celebratory of women while not being anti-men. It’s a big part of why the club’s been such a hit in the U.K., because [men] need to be of practical use in women’s lives,” she explains.
“Women work with men, partner with men, have meetings with men but there’s a real dynamic that comes from having spaces that are celebratory of women…I don’t like turning up to a networking event where I’m the only woman and it’s full of men eating bad canapes in grey suits. Nobody loves that, and women find it easier to network in female-friendly environments,” Wosskow adds.
The cost of membership for the L.A. club is $2,100 a year with a discounted rate of $1,050 for women under 30, and they allow monthly payments.
“We genuinely want a mix of women, that’s when the magic happens.”
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