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Women tech execs rejoice as San Francisco opens female-only leadership club

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Executive women platform Chief opened a new clubhouse in San Francisco this week.


In a bustling building in New York’s Flatiron district, two executive women who work at separate companies discuss marketing strategies for their respective businesses. Next to them, three retired women in their sixties share a champagne toast. Across the room, several other women, sitting at single wooden tables, have their heads down at their laptops. Whitney Houston’s “I’m Every Woman” plays in the background.

“I’m in the middle of a career transition,” says one woman to another she just met at the nearby bar. She says she works for Cushman & Wakefield but plans to change careers from her job in human resources.

“I’ve done big companies for far too long and I think it’s time to move on to something smaller,” she continued. “Covid did us all in,” the other woman said, agreeably nodding.

It may sound like a typical professional networking environment but one thing about this building is different: there’s not a single man in sight.

‘Sense that this is a first’

On the opposite coast, a counterpart executive clubhouse just opened in San Francisco and it holds great meaning beyond its four walls.

Start-up Chief launched an exclusive networking platform for executive women in 2019 and saw a surge in popularity during the Covid-19 pandemic. It subsequently opened physical clubhouse spaces in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Men are allowed in but members are exclusively executive women.

Earlier this year, Chief received a $100 million Series B investment led by Alphabet venture arm CapitalG with plans to use the money to open a new club where founders say they were getting the biggest demand: The San Francisco Bay Area.

Chief’s San Francisco clubhouse includes a full-service bar.

The recently-opened clubhouse is located adjacent to the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco’s financial district. Silicon Valley had the highest demand from members, said founders Lindsay Kaplan and Carolyn Childers. The region is home to 2,000 local members working for Apple, Meta, Google, Microsoft, Salesforce, Zoom and Stanford among others.

The 8,600 square-foot space features a full-service bar with specialty coffee, open lounge space, meeting rooms, private call booths and a Mothers Room. All the artwork in Chief’s clubhouses comes from the women-led company Uprise Art, founded by member Tze Chun.

Over 300 members attended the launch event at the San Francisco clubhouse. Members flew in for the clubhouse opening night in late October. Some arrived straight from the airport. “So exciting!” one woman rolling a suitcase said as she greeted Childers and Kaplan with hugs. “I’ve f—–g earned this,” Kaplan recalled another saying.

Susan Cevallos Coleman, a global vice president at GoPro attended the opening night. “I just looked around and had a moment,” Coleman said.

“You have the profound sense that this is a first,” said Attica Jaques, Global Head of Brand Marketing at Google who also attended the opening night.

‘Full circle’

A month after the San Francisco Chief club’s opening, women say they already see it as a milestone moment that represents more than just a new building.

Silicon Valley has historically had the highest density of homogeneous demographics that favored white men in executive ranks. It’s also historically been unfriendly to women as exclusionary “boys clubs” long overtook the world’s tech epicenter. Unlike other nearby clubhouses like the Battery, Chief’s new clubhouse is a place designed just for them.

“I know deeply the feeling of the tech industry led by white men,” Jaques said. “It’s interesting coming full-circle and it feels long overdue.”

Executive women platform Chief opened a new clubhouse in San Francisco this week.


Jaques, a San Francisco native who moved back to San Francisco from New York in 2019, said “we tend to always feel like we have to pull up a seat at the table if it’s not there, so we’ve built a muscle around it.”

Coleman added: “The women who have somehow, some way made it to where we are now, can now influence the younger women who may be hesitant to dip their toes in the lake because what they read is it may not be a friendly place for them.”

“But when I walk into the Chief space, that premise that tech is exclusionary no longer feels true,” she said.

Coleman, who’s spent her career working in tech auditing in Silicon Valley since the early 2000s at Sun Microsystems, said she’s looking forward to using the space as a central meeting place for her core group of Chief members dispersed across the Bay Area. Jaques said she’s looking forward to networking happy hours and programming speakers. The platform hosted a virtual event with speaker Melinda French Gates in early November when around 2,000 Chief members tuned in.

“This is the physical manifestation of what I’ve been benefitting from,” Coleman said after the opening. “I saw so many amazing women, including one I worked with three companies ago.”

The Covid-19 pandemic bolstered Chief’s business as women flocked to Chief’s platform, which served as a support system during a time of solitude, members said. More than 20,000 senior executives have signed on from over 8,500 companies including HBO, American Express, Nike, Google, Goldman Sachs, NASA and Apple. Annual membership starts at $5,800 for women at the vice president level and $7,900 for C-suite executives. About 70% of members are sponsored by their employers.

With backing from Alphabet’s venture arm and a business model that relies on subscription to its digital platform, it’s more sustainable than a real-estate-focused business like The Wing, which was forced to close its doors over the summer.

The platform has a massive waitlist of 60,000 people, but Childers and Kaplan say they should be able to start vetting applicants more quickly now that the company has additional money to hire people and build out the technology.

Less ‘pantsuits and bad cheese plates’

Kaplan briefly worried about a dusty rose art piece at the center of the main San Francisco clubhouse room. “We might have to change that,” she remarked. “It’s kind of pink. I just don’t want it to be like ’this a space for women and this is pink.'”

“So often, executive spaces for women look like a space full of pantsuits and bad cheese plates in the corner but we’re in a moment where we can redefine what it looks like,” she added.

A large open floor plan with leather couches and chairs and high ceilings with bookshelves makes it feel more like a living room for casual, serendipitous interactions, members said.

Bathrooms have brushed gold finishes on faucets and around mirrors. Marble countertops lie under Chief-branded disposable towels by each sink while low-volume music plays overhead. The bar features a mid-century modern design with wooden paneling and a large chandelier made of hundreds of glasses.

The space has several “phone booths” with ring lights built in for Zoom meetings. A room on the other side of the main space is much lighter with eggshell-colored walls, a grand piano, and plush white lounge chairs that appear like furniture from a spa.

“There’s a relaxed atmosphere, no competition,” Coleman said. “We’re just finding ways to support one another.”

“It’s a beautiful space to accompany this feeling that things are profoundly changing,” Jaques said. “Being able to walk and have a new space that you feel welcomed in and meeting other women is going to be incredible and it just feels like there’s no going back to what was before.”


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Two children and two adults survive after Tesla plunges 250 feet off California cliff

View from the helicopter during a rescue operation after a vehicle carrying two adults and two children went over a cliff in Devil’s Slide, San Mateo county, California, U.S., January 2, 2023, plunging hundreds of feet, according to the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, in this still image obtained from social media video.

CHP – Golden Gate Division | Reuters

Two adults and two children were rescued from a Tesla that plunged 250 feet off a cliff Monday morning in San Mateo County, California, officials said. 

The car was traveling southbound on the Pacific Coast Highway when it went over the cliff at Devil’s Slide, south of the Tom Lantos tunnel, and landed near the water’s edge below, the Cal Fire San Mateo-Santa Cruz Unit said. 

The car flipped and landed on its wheels in the fall, CAL FIRE/Coastside Fire Incident Commander Brian Pottenger said. Witnesses saw the accident and called 911. 

As crews were lowered down, they were able to see movement in the front seat, through their binoculars, meaning someone was alive.

“We were actually very shocked when we found survivable victims in the vehicle. So, that actually was a really hopeful moment for us,” Pottenger said. 

Fire officials called for helicopters to help hoist the survivors to safety. As they waited, firefighters rappelled to the scene and rescued the two children.

Rescue teams are seen at the scene as a Tesla with four occupants plunged over a cliff on Pacific Coast Highway 1 at Devils Slide on January 2, 2022 in San Mateo County, California, United States.

Tayfun Coskun | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The California Highway Patrol shared video on social media showing helicopters lower first responders to the scene to extricate and rescue two adults inside. 

All four were hospitalized. The San Mateo Sheriff’s Office said the two adults suffered non-life-threatening injuries and the two children were unharmed.

It’s not clear what caused the car to go over the cliff. CHP is handling the investigation. 

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Tesla shares tumble more than 10% following deliveries report

Tesla vehicles are shown at a sales and service center in Vista, California, June 3, 2022.

Mike Blake | Reuters

Shares of Tesla dropped 13% on Tuesday morning, a day after the electric auto maker reported fourth-quarter vehicle production and delivery numbers for 2022.

Deliveries are the closest approximation of sales disclosed by Tesla. The company reported 405,278 total deliveries for the quarter and 1.31 million total deliveries for the year. These numbers represented a record for the Elon Musk-led automaker and growth of 40% in deliveries year over year, but they fell shy of analysts’ expectations.

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According to a consensus of analysts’ estimates compiled by FactSet, as of Dec. 31, 2022, Wall Street was expecting Tesla to report around 427,000 deliveries for the final quarter of the year. Estimates updated in December, and included in the FactSet consensus, ranged from 409,000 to 433,000.

Those more recent estimates were in line with a company-compiled consensus distributed by Tesla investor relations Vice President Martin Viecha. 

Some Wall Street analysts think Tesla’s deliveries miss spells trouble for the electric vehicle maker, but others see a buying opportunity for the company in 2023.

Baird analyst Ben Kallo, who recently named Tesla a top pick for 2023, maintained an outperform rating and said he would remain a buyer of the stock ahead of the company’s earnings report, which is scheduled for Jan. 25.

“Q4 deliveries missed consensus but beat our estimates,” he said in a Tuesday note. “Importantly, production increased ~20% q/q which we expect to continue into 2023 as gigafactories in Berlin and Austin continue to ramp.”

Analysts at Goldman Sachs said they consider the delivery report to be an “incremental negative,” and view Tesla as a company that is “well positioned for long-term growth.” Goldman reiterated its buy rating on the stock in a Monday note and said that making vehicles more affordable in a challenging macroeconomic environment will be a “key driver of growth.”

“We believe key debates from here will be on whether vehicle deliveries can reaccelerate, margins and Tesla’s brand,” the analysts said.

Shares of Tesla suffered an extreme yearlong sell-off in 2022, prompting CEO Musk to tell employees in late December not to be “too bothered by stock market craziness.”

Musk has blamed Tesla’s declining share price in part on rising interest rates. But critics point to his rocky $44 billion Twitter takeover as a bigger culprit for the slide.

Morgan Stanley analysts said they think the company’s share price weakness is a “window of opportunity to buy.”

“Between a worsening macro backdrop, record high unaffordability, and increasing competition, there are hurdles for all auto companies to overcome in the year ahead,” they said in a note Tuesday. “However, within this backdrop we believe TSLA has the potential to widen its lead in the EV race, as it leverages its cost and scale advantages to further itself from the competition.”

CNBC’s Lora Kolodny and Michael Bloom contributed to this report.

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Tesla makes China boss Tom Zhu its highest-profile executive after Elon Musk

Tom Zhu Xiaotong, Tesla’s current executive in charge of China, speaks as a new Tesla experience store opens on Aug. 18, 2015 in Hangzhou, China.

Visual China Group | Getty Images

Tesla’s China chief Tom Zhu has been promoted to take direct oversight of the electric carmaker’s U.S. assembly plants as well as sales operations in North America and Europe, according to an internal posting of reporting lines reviewed by Reuters.

The Tesla posting showed that Zhu’s title of vice president for Greater China had not changed and that he also retained his responsibilities as Tesla’s most senior executive for sales in the rest of Asia as of Tuesday.

The move makes Zhu the highest-profile executive at Tesla after Chief Executive Elon Musk, with direct oversight for deliveries in all of its major markets and operations of its key production hubs.

The reporting lines for Zhu would keep Tesla’s vehicle design and development — both areas where Musk has been heavily involved — separate while creating an apparent deputy to Musk on the more near-term challenges of managing global sales and output.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Reuters reviewed the organizational chart that had been posted internally by Tesla and confirmed the change with two people who had seen it. They asked not to be named because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

Elon Musk needs to go back to Tesla and have others run Twitter, says Jim Cramer

Zhu and a team of his reports were brought in by Tesla late last year to troubleshoot production issues in the United States, driving an expectation among his colleagues then that he was being groomed for a bigger role.

Zhu’s appointment to a global role comes at a time when Musk has been distracted by his acquisition of Twitter and Tesla analysts and investors have urged action that would deepen the senior executive bench and allow him to focus on Tesla.

Under Zhu, Tesla’s Shanghai plant rebounded strongly from Covid lockdowns in China.

Tesla said on Monday that it had delivered 405,278 vehicles in the fourth quarter, short of Wall Street estimates, according to data compiled by Refinitiv.

The company had delivered 308,600 vehicles in the same period a year earlier.

The Tesla managers reporting to Zhu include: Jason Shawhan, director of manufacturing at the Gigafactory in Texas; Hrushikesh Sagar, senior director of manufacturing at Tesla’s Fremont factory; Joe Ward, vice president in charge of Europe, the Middle East and Africa; and Troy Jones, vice president of North America sales and service, according to the Tesla notice on reporting lines reviewed by Reuters.

Tesla country managers in China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand continued to report to Zhu, the notice showed.

Zhu does not have a direct report at Tesla’s still-ramping Berlin plant, but a person with knowledge of the matter said responsibility for that operation would come with the reporting line for Amsterdam-based Ward. Ward could not be immediately reached for comment.

Zhu, who was born in China but now holds a New Zealand passport, joined Tesla in 2014. Before that he was a project manager at a company established by his MBA classmates at Duke University, advising Chinese contractors working on infrastructure projects in Africa.

During Shanghai’s two-month Covid lockdown, Zhu was among the first batch of employees sleeping in the factory as they sought to keep it running, people who work with him have said.

Zhu, a no-fuss manager who sports a buzz cut, favors Tesla-branded fleece jackets and has lived in a government-subsidized apartment that is a 10-minute drive from the Shanghai Gigafactory. It was not immediately clear whether he would move after his promotion.

He takes charge of Tesla’s main production hubs at a time when the company is readying the launch of Cybertruck and a revamped version of its Model 3 sedan. Tesla has also said it is developing a cheaper electric vehicle but has not provided details on that plan.

When Tesla posted a picture on Twitter last month to celebrate its Austin, Texas, plant hitting a production milestone for its Model Y, Zhu was among hundreds of workers smiling on the factory floor.

Why China is beating the U.S. in electric vehicles

Allan Wang, who was promoted to vice president in charge of sales in China in July, was listed as the legal representative for the operation in registration papers filed with Chinese regulators in a change by the company last month.

Tesla board member James Murdoch said in November the company had recently identified a potential successor to Musk without naming the person. Murdoch did not respond to a request for comment.

Electrek previously reported that Zhu would take responsibility for U.S. sales, delivery and service.

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