The gender-specific workspace is always a contentious subject, and a proposed new coworking space billed as “exclusive to men” is already attracting a backlash, months before its planned launch.
Nomadic Thinkers is the brainchild of two entrepreneurs in Brisbane, Australia, who seek to launch a “hybrid gym and co-working space [to] assist men in developing their business and physical well-being.”
From its proposed base in Woolloongabba, Nomadic Thinkers aims to create “a place for men to workout, collaborate, learn, work and grow.”
However, their plans have taken a setback.
Early reaction to the space has been unsurprisingly frosty with a significant online backlash. Among them, video bloggers Bondi Hipsters ridiculed the idea and even threatened to sue Nomadic Thinkers for using their imagery without permission.
According to Australian news publication Junkee, which broke the news on Nomadic Thinkers earlier this week, the founders admitted that the creation of a gender-restricted coworking space “is bound to ruffle some feathers.”
But what escalated the situation into a full-on backlash is their utterly bizarre reasons for excluding women.
The following excerpt appears in Osman Faruqi’s interview with Nomadic Thinkers co-founder Samuel Monaghan in Junkee, in response to the question: why create an all-male working space?
Monaghan told Junkee that there were “a couple of things that got us to this point.”
“We’d been working in coffee shops and at home and it wasn’t that conducive to working,” Monaghan said. “We both had a mate who ended up in a violent situation with his wife. He pushed his wife over.”
According to Monaghan, domestic violence is an issue that “stems from depression in many cases”.
“Depression and suicide result from a lack of social support and community. Having a space where they [men] can be men is more of a preventative measure,” Monaghan said. “Healthy, happy men don’t hit their wives.”
Professor Marian Baird, the Director of the University of Sydney’s Women and Work Research Group told Junkee that Nomadic Thinkers could be the first workplace overtly designed to be exclusive to men. “I’ve never heard of a workplace being designed deliberately to be male only in a physical sense,” Professor Baird said.
Professor Baird wasn’t convinced by Monaghan’s justification for the exclusive nature of the space. “I don’t think there’s any excuse for domestic violence and I think that is a bit of a cop-out,” she said.
Is there justification for male-only workspaces?
Gender-specific workspace is not a new concept. Where female-centric spaces are concerned, Allwork has discussed the topic numerous times as new spaces continue to launch. Broadspace – Perth’s first women-only coworking space – is one of the most recent, which opened its doors this July in Wanneroo, Western Australia.
Last month, Allwork discussed the positive work of new Brazilian workspace Feminaria and its influential role in fighting workplace sexism.
Another example is Hera Hub, which claims to be “the first international female-focused coworking space”. Hera Hub, which carries the tagline “Workspace for Women”, now operates in 5 locations across North America and Europe.
Given the prevalence and demand for women-only spaces, the case for a coworking space designed to support male entrepreneurs could be justified – given the right reasons.
However, there is a counter-argument that such spaces are unwarranted, particularly in Australia, due to the sheer imbalance of male/female founders.
In 2013, a meagre 19% of Australian startups were founded by women, while separate research suggests that currently only 5% of female founders of tech-based startups are funded.
Back to Faruqi’s interview, and Professor Baird raises an interesting point that claims Nomadic Thinkers could reinforce damaging prejudices, and do more harm than good.
“I think the outcome of making it a male only workplace, and the disadvantages and prejudices that could flow from that, outweigh any benefits they think they’re providing.”
What’s your view? Is there a justification for men-only workspaces, or is it a needless idea? Should all spaces – be they male or female orientated – be required to open their doors to all entrepreneurs regardless of gender? Share your views on Allwork’s Facebook page.