It’s said that it can be lonely at the top, but for women, it can be even lonelier. “Women are so surrounded by men [in the workplace] that there is an even greater need to find ‘your people’ and have an environment that is a reflection of you,” says Lindsay Kaplan, who, along with Carolyn Childers, founded New York-based Chief in January as a private network focused on connecting and supporting high-level women leaders at the vice president level and above through mentorship and coaching programs.
While working in New York’s startup scene—Kaplan at mattress company Casper and Childers at house cleaning marketplace Handy—the duo would occasionally run into each other at various panels or conferences. “We recognized that the most meaningful conversations and discussions happened in the green room—backstage among peers,” says Childers.
They wanted to replicate that with Chief by leaning in, but in a different way. Forget the old boys’ club; here, women empower one another in a safe space designated specifically for them. “We created Chief to capture that energy and to create an atmosphere where confidential conversations could take place and build a support system linking powerful women together,” says Childers.
That recently materialized in a physical space in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood. Dubbed the Clubhouse, with a design by local firm the Springs Collective, it serves as an event space for programming and an environment for connecting or relaxing between meetings, fostering a sense of community with an elevated riff on the old school men’s club aesthetic.
“We wanted to play with these stereotypically male accents with the intention of reimagining that palette rather than feminizing it,” Kaplan says. “The space was designed to reflect the power it was to accommodate.” That translates into rich green and blue tones with dark wood and leather details.
With more than 700 members and a waitlist of thousands from across the country, Chief has filled a desirable niche for high-powered business executives, counting an app and another Clubhouse among its future ventures. That list also includes growing an inclusive and diverse membership. Men are invited to join as long as they align with Chief’s mission, and the duo has aggressive plans to grow its women of color membership to 30 percent, a demographic that accounts for only 18 percent of vice president and higher positions. “We’re not only helping women succeed, we’re helping women build lines of succession,” says Childers. “Everyone claims they want gender parity, but strides aren’t being made to change the power dynamic. At Chief, we seek to change that.”
Photography courtesy of Chief