My first reaction after walking into the Wing, the new women-only club at 1056 Thomas Jefferson St. NW, right next to the C&O Canal, was that it seemed like a really chic sorority: tasteful floral displays, modern furniture and light-filled, loft-like spaces.
The club’s founder, Audrey Gelman, didn’t seem offended by this assessment. “Sororities get a bad rap,” she said.
So do women, which is why so many private clubs and civic organizations excluded them in years past, denying women important networking opportunities. Not in 2018.
Today, Gelman, a former Democratic Party operative, is harnessing the zeitgeist of women’s empowerment to build her budding empire.
She got the idea for the Wing while on an Amtrak train, she recalls. Gelman needed a place to change clothes and freshen up before meetings at her destination. “Nobody wants to do that in the Union Station bathrooms.”
The Georgetown location, her fourth club, opens today, April 12. She operates three others in her home state of New York and is winging out to Los Angeles, Toronto and London this year.
The not-so-subtle undercurrent of feminist politics wafts throughout the pastel salons: names of pioneering women (Anita Hill is given such a distinction) grace the doors of the “phone booths” to ensure maximum conversation privacy.
There’s a color-coded library, a restaurant, a meditation room, a lactation room, showers and a beauty bar, where bottles of Chanel stand like elegant little soldiers. “We have a great partnership with Chanel,” Gelman says proudly.
Members (sorry, no “cisgender” men allowed, but trans women are cool) are encouraged to relax, network and attend speaking engagements by what is said to be a diverse group of influencers and authors. Hillary Clinton stopped by recently at the Wing’s New York branch.
Gelman tells me she’s already got 1,000 “Wing Women” signed up at Georgetown and “many thousands” waiting to be let through the velvet pink rope. Her criteria for membership is based mostly on what she calls “diversity.” Gelman explains that women from a wide variety of professional backgrounds from engineering to media fill her roster.
To the Wing’s credit, its affordable monthly rate of $215, plus a $100 initiation fee, allows an even greater diversity to the mix.