Calgary women-only club helps lonely adults make friends

Jessica Painter didn't know anyone in Calgary besides her husband and her dog when she first moved here, and as she struggled to make friends in a strange, new city, she realized she wasn't alone. So she created In Her Circle to help women find friends.

'If I made it co-ed, it would turn into dating and drama,' jokes founder Jessica Painter

In Her Circle began in September 2018 to help women in Calgary make real connections through events like the one pictured above. (Ariana Garcia/In Her Circle)

Jessica Painter found herself pining for friends after moving to Calgary from California three years ago.

She didn't know anyone in the city besides her husband and her dog, and as someone who worked from home, she found it difficult to meet people.

Hungry for community, she'd go to the gym and chat up people, and often they'd wonder what on earth she was doing, she said.

It took Painter roughly a year to build up a true circle of close friends. Along that journey, it struck her how many others were struggling with the same loneliness and isolation.

So last September, she created In Her Circle. 

"And what we do is we help women fight loneliness by helping them create authentic friendships and build a local community," Painter told the Calgary Eyeopener.

Jessica Painter, founder of In Her Circle, sits down with host Doug Dirks in the CBC Calgary studio for an early morning chat about her club. (CBC)

The friendship club hosts monthly events in the city, like DIY perfume workshops, sleepovers and games nights, with more casual get togethers like weekend happy hours sprinkled between.

"Our community is growing, but our events are purposefully very small. We keep it maximum 20 people," Painter said. 

"I found that when there's an event larger than that, those authentic connections start to get lost because this community does tend to attract people with high social anxiety. And so if it's more than 20, they just want to run out the door."

In Her Circle has more than 250 followers on Facebook and almost 1,000 followers on Instagram since its inception last year. (Ariana Garcia/In Her Circle)

The gatherings are exclusively for women.

"That's just where my heart is," the 32-year-old said. Plus it keeps things simpler, she added.

"That's what I worry about a bit. If I made it co-ed, it would turn into dating and drama."

Countering isolation in the digital age

Though the world is more connected now than ever before in this age of the internet and mobile phones, Painter believes social media actually contributes to loneliness.

"When someone is uncomfortable or they don't want to connect, they just stare at their phone, or they stay home, and they're looking at everyone else's highlight reels and thinking, 'Oh wow, their life is perfect,' whereas none of our lives are perfect," she said.

"And so it's funny, because we do have more ways than ever to connect and stay connected, but it's actually having the opposite effect."

Painter says most of the attendees are between 25 and 40, and that many of them have recently experienced a major shift in their life, whether in their career or personal relationships. (Ariana Garcia/In Her Circle)

Painter hopes to start similar initiatives in other cities in the future, but she says for now she's focusing on continuing her success in Calgary.

"I have seen so many women who have come to an event, and I see a little wolf pack forming. I watch them through Instagram doing happy hours and all these fun things together, and that just makes my heart so happy, because it means it's working."

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Account Holder

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?