Female-only members' club AllBright has appointed businessman and former ASDA chief executive Allan Leighton as chairman and raised £9 million in capital.

London-based AllBright is the brainchild of serial entrepreneur Debbie Wosskow OBE and former Hearst Magazine chief executive Anna Jones.

It was launched to discover and fund companies led by female entrepreneurs at all stages of growth and make the UK "the best place in the world to be a female founder".

The club's members include high-profile women such as tech entrepreneur Martha Lane-Fox, Margot James and actors Naomie Harris and Ruth Wilson.

The appointment of Leighton, who is currently chairman of the Co-operative Group, has been criticised by female business leaders but Wosskow defended the decision and said that AllBright was not anti-men.

debbie

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 this morning, she said: "I think what's very important is that this business has been founded by two women with the objective of celebrating women.

"There's a really important point here...that men are welcome in our club and they are treated with dignity and respect when they come in. We're super happy to have Allan as part of our team."

Wosskow also stressed that anyone who believes in gender equality can be a feminist and that it's important to "bring men with you" if you want to effect change for women.

AllBright also announced this morning that it had raised £9 million in a funding round led by financiers Cain International. It also included backing from Leighton; Darren Throop, CEO of Canadian record label Entertainment One; Robert Swannell, former chairman of retailer M&S; and a syndicate of existing AllBright members.

The fresh capital will be used to "drive global expansion", including the launch of a club in Los Angeles next year, marking its first opening outside the UK.

Wosskow said: "AllBright has galvanised a strong and dynamic community of like-minded women and we are excited about growing this community globally as we continue to develop the business."

On Leighton's appointment, she added: "AllBright is all about championing and celebrating women in the workplace. It has never been anti-men. We have men working across the business. For us, the appointment of chair was not about gender but about securing the right person with the credentials and experience we need."