Helen McCabe on launching Future Women Social Club, connecting women and engaging brands

Since stepping back from her role as digital content director of Nine, Helen McCabe has been focused on the network’s subscription brand, Future Women. McCabe spoke with Mumbrella’s Hannah Blackiston about the latest development, the Future Women Social Club, and why consumers are responding so well to the brand.

I’ve worked adjacent to Helen McCabe in a couple of roles throughout my professional life. Firstly, it was during my time in production at Bauer Media, where she was the editor in chief of the Australian Women’s Weekly and I would see her in the halls or on proof runs. I left Bauer before she did, but ended up at Nine a year or so after she had taken on the role as head of lifestyle. McCabe’s golden touch was already in full swing by that point, and Nine’s lifestyle vertical Honey had been completely overhauled and was swiftly on the incline

Future Women hadn’t yet been publicly announced, but we knew something was coming. Fast forward another year or so and I was back at Nine, this time in Pyrmont, post-Fairfax merger, and with Future Women rapidly growing under McCabe’s eye.

Helen McCabe and Jamila Rivzi who heads up the Melbourne events for Future Women

Today the brand announced the next level of growth, the Future Women Social Club. The club will offer members in Sydney and Melbourne a chance to take part in more networking opportunities and more tailored events, something McCabe believes there is a serious appetite for.

“We did a big piece of research six months after launch to find out what our membership wanted. Because the model wasn’t a copy of something else, we weren’t sure where exactly the interests were, so we decided to go back and ask,” says McCabe.

Overwhelmingly, McCabe says the demand was for more content delivered in a way that was easy for consumers, which will result in more newsletters, podcasts and free events. Included in those free events, will be more chances to meet people and network, something which is incredibly important to the members of Future Women.

In response to the research, Future Women is also changing up its subscription offering for those outside of Sydney and Melbourne, giving subscribers a chance to pay less as they may not receive the same benefits as those in the two capital cities.

Future Women has a series of paid membership options, from its lowest tier Red membership to their Gold membership of $23 a month.

Since Future Women’s launch in 2018, more than 3,000 women have attended 28 events across the country, with guests to date including Gail Kelly, Julie Bishop, Allison Langdon, Jane Lu, Deborah Sams, Liz Cambage and Wendy McCarthy.

“We’re announcing a three-month calendar of informal meet-ups to give Gold members the chance to pop by after work and connect with like-minded professional women and hear from our handpicked speakers,” McCabe said.

The Social Club for Gold members will see no change to the $23 a month subscription, which entitles consumers to discounts on premium events, merchandise, and access to exclusive content. There will be a discount for members outside of Sydney and Melbourne who won’t have the same access to events.

The Red membership will drop from $7 to $1 a week, giving a wider range of women access to the newsletters, member directory, a closed Facebook community and discounts on events and merchandise.

“We have reduced the entry membership fee to encourage a really broad membership and make it affordable for students, the budget conscious, or women who are unable to attend events,” McCabe says.

The different tiered members respond to the different women that Future Women speaks to. McCabe says the team has identified three key demographics – young women who may be starting out in their professional career, are perhaps still at University or have just graduated, and are looking for networking opportunities. The next is mothers who are highly educated, have stepped out of the workforce briefly or are in the process of returning, and are looking to connect outside of their social circle.

Lastly the platform appeals to established career women who are motivated by a range of factors to get involved further in the community.

“They’re motivated by the fact that gender inequality still exists, that there’s a pay gap problem. They’re motivated by the problem of getting into senior leadership roles, of hitting the glass ceiling. They’re keen to see other women or their daughters not go through the same problems they’ve experienced,” says McCabe.

These highly-engaged audiences, and the premium nature of the Future Women product, has seen the brand embark on commercial partnerships with brands like Commonwealth Bank Private, Veuve Cliquot, Cricket Australia, Twitter and The Outnet. McCabe says there’s more commercial partnerships on the horizon, and she’s confident that as the subscriber count continues to grow, the commercial partnerships will too.

“We’ve paved the gap between professional networking group and mass-market website/magazine. Brands see an audience that is really motivated and cashed up, and they’re trying to speak to that audience. They’re picking up on the momentum and the energy, and I think there’s a bit of a gap in the market that brands want to reach.

“Professional networking exists in all sorts of industries. If you’re a woman in the media, or a woman in real estate, or a woman in law, or in mining or agriculture, these groups exist, but we’re drawing the interested parties from the groups into one overarching membership.”

The Future Women Social Club speaks to the overall growth plan of the platform, which is focused on bringing in more subscribers and providing them with reasons to stay and recommend the service to others.

“We are saying get involved. Have access to our community at directory discounts with preferred suppliers so that we can really stretch the base of the membership as broadly as we possibly can.”

Future Women is currently on a national roadshow with partner Westfield, holding events with speakers who include Jessica Rowe, Em Rusciano and Rosie Batty, and there are more events to come in the near future. Above the $23 a month membership there are options for groups, including the Platinum discount for five or more friends, giving women who want the best seats, guaranteed tickets and the Future Women concierge service a membership package starting at $789 a member.

Future Women is also offering corporate clients PlatinumPlus, a 12-month package of training for mid-career professionals and diversity training as part of the Future Women Academy.

As for McCabe, having seen her hold court at Australian Women’s Weekly, grow Nine Honey and tackle Nine’s wider digital strategy, and now watching her focus all her attention onto Future Women, it’s exciting to think where the project can go.

“We will pivot significantly as we get a greater understanding of what the audience is looking for. I believe there is an opportunity to provide a different service to Australian women. I’ve worked in the mass market and the premium market for a long time and I can see the gap. I didn’t want to live through this period of disruption and excitement and not try something,” she says.

“I started thinking about Future Women while I was still editor-in-chief at the Australian Women’s Weekly and became fixated on the idea. Thankfully Nine and [CEO] Hugh Marks have given me the chance to do it, and it was clear it needed my full attention. I’m having the time of my life rolling up my sleeves and having a go and I have an enthusiastic and focused team.

“The other day someone asked me how often we wanted to send an email and I said ‘I don’t know. There’s no rules. We can do it twice, we can do it every day’. And that makes it exciting, having no rules. It’s an enormous amount of fun.”


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