In the U.S., women hold 6.9 percent of chief executive roles. As of now, it could take more than 200 years to reach gender pay parity. And at the top levels of business, the data continues to be stark. Research shows that women are more likely to be appointed to chief executive leadership when a company is performing poorly and then blamed if they can’t fix the problems, creating what’s known as the glass cliff.
But two women in New York are hoping to combat that trend. Co-founders Carolyn Childers and Lindsay Kaplan have recently created Chief, a private network focused on connecting and supporting female leaders with a mission to disrupt power dynamics from the top-down. Chief is designed specifically for senior leaders and is meant to link powerful women across industries—a kind of YPO for women. According to the company, its members include C-suite executives from Fortune 500 companies, startup founders, newspaper publishers, and advertising agency heads; the company reviews any applicant with senior credentials who’s passionate about accelerating women into leadership roles and promoting gender equity.
Chief, which has a physical space located in a Tribeca loft, will provide monthly career sessions, workshops, dinners, fireside chats, and more for its 200 founding members. (Though there are thousands on the waitlist.) The company is also providing an app for members, where people can chat and network pseudonymously and messages disappear in 24 hours. For annual membership, C-level executives pay $7,800 while VP-level executives pay $5,400, though grants are available to those who don’t have access to company sponsorship.
Childers and Kaplan, who knew each other from the New York tech startup scene, came up with the idea for Chief over a coffee meeting. “As we were talking about our professional challenges, we realized that we devoted so much time mentoring others, but neither of us spent enough time seeking mentorship for ourselves,” Childers told ELLE.com. “As women step into more senior roles at work, where do they go for support? We wanted to build an organization specifically designed to meet the unique needs of these leaders.” At the time, Childers was running operations at Handy and Kaplan was heading up communications and brand at Casper.
The two hope that Chief will help connect and support women in power so they have the resources necessary to hold onto leadership positions and create lines of succession for other women to join them. Childers said, “As a woman grows in her career, so do her responsibilities and the impact of her decisions—yet her support network is lacking when she needs it the most. Chief members are placed into our monthly peer group meetings with like-minded career contemporaries to work through challenges in confidence.”
However, unlike a female-centric co-working space like The Wing, men are welcome at Chief. Childers and Kaplan believe that parity is a “team effort” and support men who support parity. “If you are aligned with our mission, you are welcome to apply for membership,” Childers said. “And yes, everyone is welcome to visit as a member guest.”
You also won’t find any millennial pink couches in Chief’s loft. The space was inspired by Childers and Kaplan’s time in the “green room” at events, where they say they’ve experienced thoughtful and interesting conversations about business. It’s also not designed to support co-working efforts, but instead, it’s meant to prioritize connection. “Chief members are busy, and have their own offices—our space is a destination for them, where they can host a coffee meeting, gather with their peer group, attend one of our experiences, and continue a conversation,” Childers said. “We sought to redefine the traditional brawn of leather and rich hunter green to invoke a secret den that feels calm, powerful, intimate, and timeless.”
Chief officially launched Jan. 15. Find out more, here.