06/08/2018 14:06 BST

All-Women Members Group AllBright Appoints Male Chairman

The move has sparked heated debate.

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Co-founder Debbie Wosskow has defended the move 

A female members club that offers funding and training in a bid to make the UK a better place for working women has appointed a male chairman.

AllBright announced that Allan Leighton, the former chief executive of Asda and current chairman of the Co-operative Group, would be the group’s first chairman on Monday.

Inspired by a quote by the first woman to become a United States Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, the group counts media mogul Martha Lane Fox and actress Naomie Harris as members.

In a statement on Facebook, the group said: “People have been asking why we chose a man? Well, AllBright is all about celebrating and championing women, but it’s also about bringing enlightened men, like Allan, on the journey with us.

“We recognise that having Allan on board demonstrates the need for men like him to be part of the solution in helping to change the economic landscape for women – there is the only way that real change is going to happen.

“Anyone who believes in equality is, in our view, a feminist and we continue to pave the way for the UK to be a better place to be a woman at work.”

Speaking on the Today programme on Radio 4, co-founder Debbie Wosskow defended the decision, saying: “We believe that modern feminism and affecting change needs to bring men with you… Men are very welcome in our club. They will be treated with dignity and respect when they come in.”

Comedian Kate Smurthwaite told the show “of course we need men on board,” but added: “What I’m not entirely convinced about is having men in charge.”

Ann Francke, chief executive of the Chartered Management Institute, told the Sunday Times: “We would never see a female chair of a men’s networking club, would we? This underscores how far we have to go to get true equality in the workplace.”