Women allowed to join men-only Garrick Club

updated on 15 May 2024

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The Garrick Club has reversed its 200-year men-only policy following a two-hour debate and vote in which 58.9% of members agreed that the club should admit women.

Members of the club, including actor Stephen Fry and musician Sting, pushed for the vote and threatened their resignation if the private members’ club didn’t make a U-turn on its exclusionary stance. The vote needed a 50% majority to be passed, a lower proportion than previous votes on this issue, which required two-thirds in favour.

The ballot follows pressure for gender equality which came after the Guardian published a list of the club’s members in March, garnering criticism of senior political and legal members.

While many lawyers called for judges to resign from The Garrick Club in an open letter, the Bar Council released a statement explaining that while it doesn’t condemn men-only clubs, "closed doors and exclusionary spaces do not foster support or collaboration between colleagues”.

Four notable senior judges opted to end their memberships after the announcement, including Lord Justice of Appeal Sir Keith Lindblom and High Court judges Nicholas Cusworth, Nicholas Lavender and Ian Dove. The cabinet secretary, Simon Case, and the head of MI6, Richard Moore, also resigned from the club following the scrutiny.

The Financial Times reported a mainly positive mood after the voting results were announced, with one member commenting that the shift would help “rejuvenate membership”. The club has also announced that it’s set to name its first female member, Dame Judi Dench.