Do co-working spaces just for women have a future?

In 2016, Audrey Gelman established The Wing in New York as a co-working place for women.

Do coworking spaces just for women have a future?
Do coworking spaces just for women have a future?
Women-only business networking and co-working spaces, such as Chief in London and The Co-Working Space in Nottingham, have closed recently.

The concept gained enormous traction during the height of the Me Too movement.

Some women consider these groups as a way to achieve equity, while others believe the idea is out of date.

With establishments like White’s and The Garrick Club in London dating back centuries, the concept of men-only “gentlemen’s clubs” is well established.

Over the past ten years, however, women-only ones have also become more popular, albeit frequently with a twist—they emphasize the concept of co-working.

Co-working spaces are large, open-concept workspaces that are available to the public on a membership basis. They have heated workstations and lovely amenities. Their ubiquity has increased in tandem with the ease of working remotely.

Thanks to The Wing in the US, women-only co-working spaces made news approximately eight years ago.

Audrey Gelman, a former press secretary for Hillary Clinton, launched it in New York against the backdrop of the Me Too movement and the ascent to prominence of Donald Trump. With the promise of empowering women, it raised millions of dollars in funding.

The epidemic, however, caused a sharp decline in its value.

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Do coworking spaces just for women have a future?
Do coworking spaces just for women have a future?

Allegations of racism and mistreatment led to a staff mutiny. Its pricing strategy sparked claims of socioeconomic exclusion. Legal lawsuits alleging sexual discrimination against it based on its fundamental women-only membership policy also hurt it.

In the summer of 2022, the self-described “female utopia” abruptly closed all of its locations, including a branch in London.

There are still other women-only co-working spaces open despite The Wing’s closure. There are roughly fifty throughout Europe, with a few in the UK. The Hearth in north London is one such location.

Bonnie Lister Parsons, founder of SOS Dance Global, a website that teaches women how to dance, frequently attends.

Is she a member, then? She notes that, as a woman, it has been difficult to build her business because only 2% of venture capital funding goes to companies run by women.

“When you are operating in a world with a lot of headwinds, being in all-female space is refreshing and joyful,” she explains.

Her tour of the co-working space We Work, where they were eager to brag about the free beer on tap, didn’t impress her either, according to her: “For the guy showing me around, it was a massive selling point.” Though I’m sure some women enjoy beer, I myself don’t give a damn.”

The Wing’s creator, Audrey Gelman, once claimed that competing co-working spaces offered “pumps for beer but not for breast milk.”

The Hearth’s founder, Oi Leng Lui, says it’s meant to seem like “your dream home.” Women’s hot desk areas have soothing pastel-colored walls and furnishings, as well as a pervasive scent. Even a wellness room is present.

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Another regular is Susie Campbell, a coach and business advisor.

“I used to work in the city for many years—a very male-dominated environment,” she says. “The air conditioning was always down too low… there’s something just really safe here and a sense of community.”

A few more women-only co-working spaces exist in the UK, such as Edinburgh’s Egg and Winchester’s Maven, which was originally a wedding shop that its owner opted to transform.

A patio at the Boston location of The Wing in 2019. The originator of Spaces to Places, which offers guidance to businesses on where to locate the most flexible office space, is Zoe Ellis-Moore.

It’s important to consider women-only co-working spaces in the context of a broader trend toward flexible work arrangements in groups or “tribes,” the author suggests.

These specialist markets, such as spaces for digital start-ups or adaptable catering spaces for hospitality businesses, have experienced tremendous development, the speaker claims.

The Hearth

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