Annie Rogaski, one of the few female partners at the elite law firm Kilpatrick Townsend in Silicon Valley, often represents tech companies headed exclusively by men. Despite working closely with the men over long periods of time, she also found that she's rarely invited to socialize with the team after work.
"It was getting a little ridiculous," she says. "And at a certain point I just realized we, as women, had to get together and change something. And we had to make it big, expansive, more than just another 'women in patent law' conference."
So Rogaski decided to shake up the Silicon Valley fraternity mind-set by starting her own women-only clubhouse.
And she has executives from top companies like Salesforce.com, Hewlett-Packard and Adobe supporting her efforts. Her clubhouse, she says, will be very different from the white-gloved ladies' clubs of the past, like San Francisco's floral-print-heavy rooms at the venerable Francisca and Metropolitan clubs. There will be shared work space instead of tearooms, high-powered cocktail parties instead of leisurely luncheons. It will not feature the arcane secrecy of the Pacific-Union men's club or the cross-dressing antics of the bacchanalian Bohemian Grove. Admissions will be decided by ambition, not genetic lineage.
"You don't have to have made it yet," says Rogaski, "but you need to be on that path."
The first of its kind in Silicon Valley, her space will simply be called the Club - an acronym for Connect, Lead, Unite, Build.
With its corporate slogan "An Incubator for Women Leaders," and an executive board made up of local leaders, Rogaski's endeavor is more strategic than simply creating another networking outlet.
Her goal is to change one of the most daunting numbers in the tech world, she said, the fact that women make up only 6 percent of executive leadership in tech. The statistic, from the National Center for Women & Information Technology (a nonprofit organization supported by companies like Microsoft, Google, Bank of America and the National Science Foundation), is part of a broader picture that does not look as if it will improve soon.