CEO and Founder Emily Bendell challenges the Garrick Club’s male-only members policy
That is, as long as those patrons and professors are men.
The Garrick Club has a male-only membership policy, with women only permitted to attend as guests when accompanied by a club member. Even in this capacity, they are not allowed to pay for anything themselves, relying instead on the generosity of the Garrick Club member in their lives.
So far, so 1831.
The letter states:
“By (a) stating that use of the Garrick Club is restricted to ‘gentlemen members only’, (b) only allowing men to become members and use all of the services it offers, and, (c) treating women who attend the club differently to men (for example, by not allowing them to pay for themselves), the Garrick Club treats women less favourably than it treats men.”
Says Emily “I understand that some organisations exclude based on gender or race in order to try and address serious imbalances and under representations in our society. I am a member of various women’s networks in the business community. But that is not the case here. The Garrick is a place of serious power and influence, and a service provider, that has no good reason for excluding women”
This is not the first time the Garrick Club has been called to account for its arbitrary gender policy. Many of the club’s famous patrons, including Damian Lewis, Hugh Bonneville and Stephen Fry, have spoken in favour of updating the Garrick Club rules to include the possibility of female members. In 2015, a bid was called on the issue, with 55% of the club’s membership voting in favour of allowing women the full privileges of being a club member.
Says Emily: “The key question we have to ask ourselves here is why, in 2020, the Garrick is still so reluctant to exclude women? The idea that women somehow detract from the culture of the club rather than add to it, or that men are unable to ‘be themselves’ around female members is deeply troubling”