As people around the world celebrate International Women’s Day, a B.C. organization that mentors future business leaders is defending its men’s-only membership rules, saying it’s important for men to have a prejudice-free environment where they can speak freely.

Although the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce allows female members, the Jaycees, the community’s junior chamber, does not – and never has.

"We enjoy working as guys and being a guys group that we feel we can contribute a lot and do it as males,” Jaycees member Paul Clisold told CTV News.

Clisold said creating a leadership organization for young men only is important so “they can feel comfortable saying what they want to say without having to be judged about it."

The “no women allowed” policy comes as a surprise to businesswomen like Kim Kotowsky of Canadian Stone Industries, who said she was shocked by the rule.

“I can't believe that in this day in age they wouldn't allow women to [join], especially in a junior association. It really baffles me,” she said.

Kotowsky said there's a real negative impact to women when they aren't given a fair chance to network.

"That's who they're going to be working with in the business community, so they should be given the same opportunities that the men are,” she said.

The Kelowna Jaycees are affiliated with Junior Chamber International (JCI), a worldwide federation of young leaders between the ages of 18 to 40.

The Kelowna branch is the only chapter not to allow female members, but defenders of the Kelowna JCI policy point out that there is a separate chapter for women to join.

The president of JCI Canada, who is also a member of the all-male Kelowna Jaycees, said the club is taking a fresh look at its bylaws with an eye to removing barriers to women, after CTV News brought it to his attention.

“They want to answer those questions,” Jason Ranchoux told CTV reporter Kent Molgat. “Thanks to you for bringing it up.”

Businesswoman Maxine Dehart said the policy is a flashback to the old days.

“I hate to say archaic, but I just think we should look at individuals as they are and not for their gender,” she said.

The Kelowna Jaycees were established in 1935.