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Female-only networking group defends decision to appoint a man to serve as chairman

Co-founders Debbie Wosskow and Anna Jones are defending the appointment of a man to lead their female-only private club, AllBright. (TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images)

A networking group for female entrepreneurs in the United Kingdom is taking heat for picking a man to serve as the organization's chairman, the BBC reported.

What's that about?

The women-only AllBright club was launched in 2016 by former Love Home Swap CEO Debbie Wosskow and former Hearst Magazines U.K. CEO Anna Jones. But its leadership is taking some heat after announcing that they appointed a man —Allan Leighton — to serve as its new leader.

While membership in AllBright is exclusively for women, men have served on the organization's advisory board since its inception.

Wosskow explained to The Londonist that their private club is not anti-men.

"We think it's really important that men are allowed in the building," she said. "We have men in our company and we have male investors, so it wouldn't make sense to not let men in."

AllBright boasts that its educational platform and networking opportunities for females are aimed at "making the U.K. the best place to be a female leader" — which is why critics say the naming of Leighton to chair the collective is at odds with the group's purpose.

In an interview with the London Times, a spokesperson for the Women's Equality Party said that hiring Leighton "seems at odds with [AllBright's] mission to change the way the world thinks about female-led businesses."

Wosskow defended the decision, telling the BBC that in order to create change, you "need to bring men with you."

In response, comedian Kate Smurthwaite told the BBC's "Today Programme," "Of course we need men on board. How can we get anywhere until men are willing to share their power? What I'm not entirely convinced about is having men in charge."

Anything else?

Other critics oppose the formation of such clubs altogether. Allyson Zimmerman, executive director of women's advocacy group Europe at Catalyst, told NBC News, "Now, more than ever, women and men need to come together to share their perspectives, rather than retreating solely into gender groups."

According to the Financial Times, AllBright is named after the first U.S. female secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, who famously said: "There is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women."

The paper noted that an "L" was added to the group's name to "avoid legal issues."

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