An entrepreneur challenges a private members’ club in London over its “gentlemen only” membership policy.
Emily Bendell, founder of lingerie brand Bluebella, says the Garrick Club’s rules allowing women to participate only as male guests violate the 2010 Equality Act.
The exclusive West End club counts Sir Laurence Olivier and Charles Dickens among its former members.
Ms. Bendell was refused membership in March.
She is now threatening legal action against the Garrick, demanding that it open membership to women for the first time since it opened in 1831.
Speaking to the BBC, she said: “I had no idea that this men’s club still existed and I was quite shocked and surprised that it did.
« [It’s] deeply troubling on many levels so I thought I would see if there was anything to be done about it.
“These are clubs whose members run this country – what does that tell us? That we don’t allow women to be part of these networks and gatherings?
“By denying women access to these networks, it hurts our cause, so I think that’s important.
“I hope the members of the Garrick Club can see that the world has changed and do the right thing. “
The Garrick Club was founded by a group of “literary gentlemen” with the aim of bringing together actors and supporters of the theater.
Although the Garrick does not allow women, it does employ women and a letter was sent to Ann Robbie, the Garrick’s secretary, with a request for a response by October 5.
The letter says Garrick is obligated, under section 29 of the Equality Act 2020, not to discriminate against any person who needs or seeks to use his services.
The letter goes on to outline the allegations of direct and indirect sex discrimination as part of its “gentlemen-only” policy.
Ms Bendell’s attorneys at Leigh Day said: ‘Ms Bendell has a successful career and an affinity for the arts and, like any man in her place would have the opportunity, she wishes to become a member of the Garrick Club and access the services of the club. .
“The Garrick are one of the oldest and best known member clubs in the world, but they retain values that are outdated and just plain illegal today. It provides services to the public and as such is bound by the law of equality.
“The firm and Ms. Bendell look forward to receiving confirmation that the Garrick Club intends to change its policy on admitting female members. “
The Garrick has been contacted for comment.