If you’re lonely at the top, you’re a lot more lonely when you’re a woman,” Lindsay Kaplan says of the fact that she and Carolyn Childers found out they founded Chief, a private membership network specifically focused on female executives.
Kaplan, a former vice president of the mattress company Casper, and Childers, a former senior vice president of the Handy home improvement market, created Chief “as a way to connect and support executive leaders,” says Kaplan, adding: “There are There are many organizations for women in business, but we felt that the female executive was overlooked because she often became the de facto mentor or speaker on panels for those organizations.”
Since its launch in 2019, the group now has 20,000 members and welcomes female executives from the likes of Disney, Netflix, Paramount, Shondaland, A24, UTA and Capitol Music Group. Annual membership dues range from $5,800 for vps to $7,900 for C-suite executives, with most fees covered by employers, and women must apply or be nominated to join. He now has clubhouses in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and London, and in 2022, Chief closed a $100 million Series B fundraiser, valuing the company at $1.1 billion.
Chief’s Los Angeles outpost, located on La Cienega Boulevard just off Melrose Place, opened in 2021, but with limited capacity due to the pandemic; Two years later, the space is finally open for member events, like a recent Women’s World Cup party hosted with Megan Rapinoe’s lifestyle brand RE-INC. The impressive space was created by architect and designer Tanya Paz of TAP Studio, in association with JM|A+D and AvroKO, who reinvented a venue that had been a puppet theater in the 1940s and 1950s.
“We discovered this huge wall of celebrity signatures where they used to have barbecues,” Paz says of the renovation. The club has large conference rooms, as well as smaller meeting spaces, a bar, and a lounge.
Paz makes it clear that it wasn’t designed as a co-working space “where you go and just connect. We want it to be a space for people to connect with each other, to share ideas, to land.” Heather Somaini, managing director of Hackman Capital, whose holdings include Culver Studios and Radford Studio Center, has been a member since 2021, noting: “I always compare it to Soho House, (but) in many ways I feel like it’s much more accessible.”
Chief’s membership offerings include access to workshops, guest speakers, community events, and Core Groups, which are selected groups of 10-12 women who are grouped based on their level of work experience and meet monthly with an executive coach. In Los Angeles, most members work in entertainment, but also include executives from fashion, technology, and other industries.
“You’re with 10 other executives who understand what you’re going through — all the pressure you have on your shoulders as female executives, and we have these confidential conversations that allow people to really talk about things that you can’t necessarily share. with your colleagues or people who are potentially competing for your job or have political intentions,” says Kaplan. Members sign confidentiality agreements to secure conversations within the group.
Somaini notes that frequent Core Group themes include impostor syndrome and frustrations with sometimes being the only female executive in a room. She highlights “getting amazing feedback in real time from other women who are in similar positions, maybe at totally different companies, but facing the same kinds of issues. That has been super invaluable.”
Diversity is also a focus at Chief. Although only 18% of women in corporate America at the vp level and above identify as people of color (according to a 2018 McKinsey study), Chief reports that 33% of her community identifies as women of color. The group committed $5 million in grants last year to cover those who can’t afford a membership. They also feature programming from DEI and identity groups and have an annual commitment of $1 million to donate to reproductive rights causes and support young women leaders.
And while Los Angeles is no stranger to private clubs, Kaplan says Chief operates in his own lane: “What we do is really special and focuses on building community and changing the face of leadership.”
This story first appeared in the July 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here for subscribe.