For $5,800 per year, Chief helps women reach the C-suite

A new network for powerful women launches today with $3 million in venture capital funding.

For decades, women in business have lacked the resources necessary to navigate to or sustain executive roles. Finally, venture-funded projects have emerged to fill this gap.

The latest is Chief, a private network for New York-based women in senior roles in tech, retail, enterprise, finance, media and more. The company launches today with $3 million in venture capital funding to provide its 200 members access to a Tribeca clubhouse, monthly executive coaching and leadership development sessions and a salon series, which includes “intimate dinners with captains of industry” and celebrity fireside conversations.

The catch? Chief membership costs $5,800 per year for members with a vice president-level job title and even more for those in the C-suite at $7,800. Its founders, Carolyn Childers and Lindsay Kaplan, say the ideal is for companies to pay the way for members, similar to how a startup might pay to send one of its employees to a conference.

Chief and its investors, Primary Venture Capital, Flybridge Capital Partners, Accel, Box Group, Able Partners, XFactor Ventures, Silas Capital and BBG Ventures, are betting the company’s coaching sessions, clubhouse, mobile application and network of successful women will keep its members coming back every year — $5,800 check in hand.

“Companies are looking for something like this,” Kaplan, the former VP of communications at Casper, told TechCrunch. “They have these amazing women, they know there is a problem with equality up top and this isn’t something they can provide within their own four walls.”

Though Chief’s initial 200-person cohort does not include any men, the group is open to all genders. Given the controversy surrounding The Wing’s former membership policy, which barred men from entry, Chief’s decision to accept anyone ready “to fight the 200-year gap in gender equality,” in the words of Kaplan, will probably save them a headache down the line.

“We are a very mission-based company,” Childers, the former VP of operations at household services marketplace Handy, told TechCrunch. “If a man is inspired to help women get to the C-suite, they can apply and become a part of Chief.”

Though Chief wasn’t able to provide specific data on membership diversity, Childers and Kaplan did say its “top of mind” and when I first spoke with the pair this fall, months before launch, they said they planned to offer grants to members who are unable to pay the annual fee.

“We don’t want to see a 1 percent increase in female management in 10 years,” Childers said. “We want to close that gap as quickly as possible.”

The startup seems to have the best of intentions, though what Chief appears to be is an expensive networking opportunity for New York’s existing elite. With that said, if Chief only helps the existing 1 percent of women in business maintain executive roles, at least its helping move the needle ever so slightly.

The Wing, a co-working space for women, opens its doors in San Francisco

The Wing’s newest co-working space is equipped with a lactation room, a library, a cafe and a conference room named for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.

Women-focused co-working space The Wing has made its way to California, opening its first of two planned locations in the state this morning.

On Sansome Street in San Francisco’s Financial District, The Wing hopes to attract professional women able to shell out $215 per month for access to its 8,000-square-foot workspace, which is complete with conference rooms, a cafe, a library stocked with books on feminist theory, a lactation room and more.

In addition to its chic decor and feminist messaging, The Wing is also known for its programming. Headquartered in New York City, where the company operates three of its four existing spaces, The Wing has hosted events with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, actress Jennifer Lawrence and New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, to name a few. The San Francisco location will be no different.

A spokesperson for The Wing tells me they have a fully booked calendar of politics, tech, entertainment and lifestyle-focused events prepped for members. In the first month, San Francisco Mayor London Breed will stop by, as will Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.

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As a brand founded by women — Audrey Gelman and Lauren Kassan — and inspired by the women’s club movement of the 19th century, The Wing and its majority female staff very carefully and skillfully practice what they preach. In building their spaces, for example, they hire female architects to design and perfect the location. Their conference rooms are named for notable women. One, in particular, named for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, stands out.

The dozens of art pieces scattered throughout The Wing are by female artists. The menu at The Wing’s cafe, which has a sign above it that reads “I’ll have what she’s having,” showcases women of the Bay Area’s food and beverage industries. Even the wines served at The Wing are made by female wine makers in California.

If there’s on thing about The Wing that stands out, it’s the startup’s attention to detail.

Founded in 2016, The Wing plans to open its next location, in West Hollywood, in early 2019.

The Wing is backed by venture capital firms NEA, Kleiner Perkins, Forerunner Ventures and BBG Ventures, as well as co-working unicorn WeWork. It has raised just over $40 million to date to expand its co-working spaces throughout the U.S. and beyond.

“The Wing answers a desire by women to connect with each other in an environment that aims to promote learning and camaraderie,” Forerunner’s Kirsten Green told TechCrunch. “It’s both a timely and timeless need. With so much focus on entrepreneurship and start-ups here in the Bay Area, The Wing offers the community that many independent women are looking for and can benefit from.”