chief, the exclusive women’s network open only to VPs and up, has been dubbed “the club of the 60,000 women waiting list”. For individuals, peer-based mentoring groups and online workshops with the likes of Amal Clooney or Michelle Obama come with an annual price tag of over $5,800. The reach of the cool ‘clubs’ in cities like San Francisco and New York extends even further.
But now, the Women Executives Network is launching a new offering aimed at corporate clients that will not only fast-track membership reviews of qualified female leaders for employers, but also make companies foot the bill automatically. The new service, called Head of Organization, could lead to significant growth in the Class B funded membership network — as long as employers don’t cut back on their spending on diversity commitments or funding leadership initiatives in the midst of an economic downturn. (Chief says eligible members can usually join between four and six weeks after applying; many who applied but weren’t accepted don’t meet the seniority or geographic requirements.)
Although companies have long compensated CEOs for membership in the chair position, they have usually done so “interactively,” Carolyn Childers, Co-Founder and CEO of Chief says, Nurturing executives who joined on demand.
By offering the network as a feature instead, Childers said Forbes In an exclusive interview, the company is able to demonstrate “I want to support you, I want to invest in you” at a time when more women are leaving the workplace than ever before. ” she says “Over 90% of women say they would stay in a company if they just invested in it. Just switching from reactive to proactive [approach] It gives a great signal.”
The enterprise product, which launched on Tuesday, has been piloted with a few major employers, including UnitedHealth Group, Morgan Stanley and IBM. Leaders who become members through their companies will receive the same benefits as regular members, which include a small group of vetted colleagues who meet monthly, workshops with notable names like Melinda French Gates or former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi and access to physical clubs. in four major cities.
Childers says women would not be placed in peer groups—the president’s “core” mentorship groups of women at similar levels of their careers—with people who work at the same company, in order to allow women to share openly about the professional and personal struggles they face. In fact, the president’s external network can be more attractive to female executives than existing internal leadership development initiatives where concerns or difficulties can be traced back to the senior executives.
“It’s really hard to talk about your leadership challenges confidentially at a company,” says Childers. “It’s almost impossible to really feel like you can have that real conversation about what you’re struggling with.”
In the meantime, companies will receive quantitative information on how much female leaders use the network, the ability to suggest activities from the Chief that tie into the company’s goals, and ultimately, the possibility of tailored programming. For the largest employers, Chief will offer rate cuts.
Chief launched in 2019, pivoted during the pandemic to be less focused on physical spaces and took its membership national earlier this year. With investments from General Catalyst and CapitalG, its membership grew 100% between January and December of 2022, even as co-working spaces like Wing closed their doors in August. A spokeswoman for the company did not comment on the financial statements of the company’s president.
When asked about launching the company’s offering amid a slowdown — a time that typically hits employee training and development budgets — Childers indicated she’s not worried. “We’ve seen that investment continue,” she says. “Companies still really want to make sure they invest in their leadership. Even when they’ve had to make difficult decisions, it’s actually more important than ever to support those who remain while they face increasing challenges.”
Instead, the Chief’s biggest challenge will be ensuring that the diversity that members can expect in their “core” peer groups remains high as he adds, say, hundreds of new female members from a single employer. “It’s the thing we spend the most time on,” Childers says. “That’s why we’re very systematically trying to build Chief and not just open it up to anyone.”
This is one of the network’s biggest advantages, says Penny Novick, managing director at Morgan Stanley, who became a member less than a year ago – and the firm has sponsored more than two dozen women as principal members. She says belonging to a peer group with people outside her organization or industry is “really essential.” “I think if I’m in a group and there are others I know directly or indirectly, I’m probably less apt to be so open.”
Joining through Morgan Stanley, rather than having to research membership herself, was a great perk, Novick says, and one that she “says to her employees ‘here’s another way we help you invest effectively in.'” “I think this is really important.”