Since 2013, coworking spaces have grown by 300% in Australia. Despite this massive growth, one niche trend has yet to catch on— coworking spaces for women. Operators such as The Wing in the U.S. provide women with lactation spaces, childcare, beauty rooms, and other accommodating women-specific features.
Sheree Rubinstein is chief executive of Melbourne-based coworking space OneRoof that is dedicated to women-led businesses. The #MeToo movement and other social movements have brought the discussion of gender equality to the forefront, and women-led workspaces are creating an environment that give women a fair chance of success.
“We’re trying to solve a whole lot of challenges that we feel contributes to the gender gap in business and entrepreneurship,” Rubinstein said.
Oneroof is home to 85 female-led businesses, but does not close the door on male entrepreneurs and clients.
Just this year, The Wing was being investigated for sex discrimination, which begs the question to whether these spaces are noncompliant with discriminatory laws.
“In Australia, the federal Sex Discrimination Act (1984) forbids the discrimination of people “on the ground of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status…”. However, it also allows for “special measures for the purpose of achieving substantive equality between men and women,” according to commercialrealestate.com.
The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) believes that spaces catered to women do not break any laws as they were designed to protect to women in the first place.
Australian Human Rights Commission found that 39% of women have been sexually harassed in the workplace in the past year, with 79% of those were committed by men.
Just last year, Schoolhouse Studios, a coworking space for creatives and visual artists, considered transitioning their Brunswick location into Australia’s first women-only space, but then decided to make the space a place for all people looking to explore feminist ideas.