SA women only: a new kind of club

February 11th, 2015


COMMENT | A modern taken on the gentleman’s club aims to lift young South Australian women higher, writes one of its founders, Lucy Travers.

Young, ambitious South Australian women are connecting through a new community that aims to encourage, inspire and celebrate a diverse range of achievement from its Adelaide-born members.

Named the ‘Spence Club’ after iconic South Australian suffragette Catherine Helen Spence, the club has a focus on linking high achieving young South Australian women, based both at home, interstate and overseas.

In an effort to draw these women together, the club is creating an online network of peers that encourages members to celebrate their successes, inspire others and draw on one another as fellow mentors.

A modern take on the gentlemen’s clubs of the past – minus the stuffy men’s business – we expect to host about four premium networking events throughout the year and link online to interstate and overseas members. The club is chiefly about creating an intellectual environment for growth and ideas for its members, but there is a philanthropic element too, with the club looking to raise funds for complementary charities aligned with our causes.

Launched last year by founder Lauren Zwaans, together with founding members myself, Madeline Charlton and Vanessa Jeyapal, who are based in New York, Ottawa and Sydney respectively, the Spence Club has already received a flurry of applications. To name some examples, one application was from a South Australian expatriate undertaking field work for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and another came from a leading local fashion designer.

The arrival of Spence Club comes at a time when powerful women are increasingly in the spotlight. From Emma Watson’s United Nations gender equality campaign, to Sheryl Sandberg and Hilary Clinton, women from all walks of life are being encouraged not just to lean in, but also to lead.

Spence Club provides that community for successful young South Australian women looking to connect with other professional women from their hometown, as well as internationally.

For Zwaans, the motivation behind starting the club was simple. As a South Australian expat living and working in London for the past year, a desire to stay connected to her hometown roots was the inspiration for the idea.

“In London I was part of some networking groups with a very broad focus, but what I felt was missing was a group that kept me connected to my home,” she says.

“For me, Spence Club is about linking up young professionals – the next generation of leaders across industries – and being inspired by the scope of young women’s talents and ideas.

“It’s also about celebrating what we’ve achieved and encouraging each other to keep going despite the obstacles that face young women in the workforce.

“There’s no better encouragement than that of our peers.”

In a country where tall poppy syndrome is rife, Spence Club aims to tear down the negativity surrounding success, instead setting the example that achievement and ambition aren’t dirty words for young women.

“I feel like women are quick to downplay their achievements,” Zwaans says. “Spence (Club) is an environment where we don’t have to do that.”

Perhaps the most unique element, however, is the club’s exclusive link to South Australia. Adelaide-born young women are kicking goals professionally both at home and across the globe. Through Spence Club, these young, ambitious women have a collective voice, inspiring one another and the next generation, tied together by the strength of the Adelaide pedigree.

The result is an impressive community of young South Australian women with inspiring and varied backgrounds.

Young South Australian women interested in joining Spence Club can apply here.

Lucy Travers in an entrepreneur in the health and wellness industry who hails from Adelaide and has called New York City home for the past two years. She is about to return to Adelaide.

This piece was first published in InDaily on January 28, 2015.