Wendy King: Madame President

It’s an amusing irony that the first queen to take command of the formerly men’s-only Vancouver Club is actually a King. Weyerhaeuser senior legal counsel Wendy King, 37, assumes her duties as president of the club’s board of directors next March. Here’s her perspective on how a venerable private institution is transforming itself from an old boys’ club into a thoroughly modern, wine-and-dine social spot. You’re the first woman in the club’s history to be appointed president. How did that happen? Shortly after I joined in 1997 – there were about 30 women members at that time – the board held several focus-group luncheons with younger members and I was invited. I guess I had strong opinions, and they invited me to join a younger members’ committee. I’ve been on the board for six years and was appointed vice-president last March. Why focus groups? The club wanted to become more relevant. They realized that lifestyles and social business activities had evolved. People in business today are a little more family oriented. In the past, your business took priority. Now you can bring your children to the club, there are more family functions – we just introduced a Sunday brunch – and the club is open seven days a week. Did you raise any eyebrows when you first joined? No one ever said anything to me. They were quite welcoming. When I arrived, women weren’t allowed in Bar 3. It was just an old, arcane rule, but in practice women were going in. I had a liquor locker there! The membership is currently 20-per-cent women, and the average age of new members is between 37 and 42. What influence are they having on club activities? The Extravaganza started in 1999 as one of the first initiatives of the younger members’ committee. It’s a one-night party for members and guests and every room in the club is given a theme, with decorations, dancing, live music, different food buffets, port and wine bars, etc. It sells out every year. It starts at 6 p.m., and the older members come early. The demographics change over the evening. The party closes at 1 a.m., and I’ve often gone out with a group afterwards. Jazz nights at “The Grill” are usually packed with members of all ages. Poker nights tend to attract both male and female members, mid-20s to mid-40s. I guess you could say a bit of cruising happens then. Men definitely come to the women’s mix-and-mingle Martini Nights. I don’t know if any women go to the men’s nights! What are your goals as incoming president? To continue to diversify the membership. In the past, the membership was mostly lawyers and business people. Now we have entrepreneurs, senior members of cultural organizations and healthcare professionals joining. I really want the club to be a place where members choose to come over other places in the city. Why should women join? There are more than 1,000 women with accounts using the club, either as members or those who applied for spousal privileges. I think the benefits are much the same for them as they are for men. There are many networking organizations, great restaurants and social activities in Vancouver. However, the club offers all of these things at once, along with the collateral benefits of a private club: ease of use, personal service and traditional ambience. I’m at the club three to four times a week.