- Coworking spaces that either cater exclusively to women, or are women-centric, have garnered a lot of attention and created some controversies along the way.
- Female coworking spaces not only offer the ability to network, but also offer benefits for working mothers.
- From The Coven in Minnesota to CoWomen in Berlin, they provide women access to remote workspaces and encourage individuals to connect, learn, and expand their networks.
Between 2016 and 2019, women-focused communities were opening up everywhere – particularly in the form of physical spaces.
Despite some hiccups and controversies along the way, coworking spaces that either cater exclusively to women, or are women centric, have garnered a lot of attention.
From The Coven in Minnesota to CoWomen in Berlin, they provide women access to remote workspaces and encourage individuals to connect, learn, and expand their networks.
These female-focused coworking spaces not only offer the ability to network, but also offer benefits for working mothers. For example, The Wing in America provides women with lactation spaces, childcare, beauty rooms, and other accommodating women-specific features.
Some may wonder if these women-centered coworking spaces are exactly legal. The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) believes that spaces catered to women do not break any laws as they were designed to protect women in the first place.
Felena Hanson, the founder of a women coworking space, Hera Hub, explained why female coworking spaces are flourishing.
“Women have long operated in a business world we didn’t create. So many women feel like outsiders in various industries that it’s great to create room where our needs come first,” Hanson said.
The playing field in the corporate world and in the startup ecosystem has yet to be leveled. Spaces where women feel comfortable, supported, and can work toward their goals will continue to be in need.
Why are female-centric coworking spaces valuable?
- Women-led workspaces are creating an environment that gives women a fair chance of success. Female-only coworking spaces are empowering women entrepreneurs to enter the world of business on their own terms and focus on the goals of their business while having their unique needs met.
- There is far less chance of sexual harassment in female-only spaces. The Australian Human Rights Commission found that 39% of women have been sexually harassed in the workplace in 2018, with 79% of the offenses committed by men.
- These spaces offer necessities for mothers. Female-only coworking spaces don’t ignore the most common reason women lag behind men in their careers: a lack of resources and support during and after pregnancy. The Wing, one of the most popular female-only coworking companies in the U.S. offers amenities such as lactation rooms, high-end toiletries, shower areas, and in-house cafes. The Coven, also in the U.S., offers childcare.
In a Q&A with Erinn Farrell, co-founder of The Coven, a popular Minneapolis coworking space designed to prioritize the experience of women, non-binary individuals, and trans folk living in Minneapolis, she explained the importance of an inclusive workspace.
Allwork.Space: What is the value of a female-centric coworking space?
Erinn Farrell: I want to be clear that The Coven is open to everyone; all gender expressions are welcomed in our space.
I think the importance has really come through in that there’s been so many stories that many marginalized genders have been left out. We have really distinct experiences that are not necessarily part of the cultural conversation.
I can come into this space in any kind of version of myself that I am that day. I can talk openly… whether it’s my menstrual cycle, parenting that I’m going through, whether it’s a conversation or interaction I had with someone, whether it’s in my family or whether it’s in my workspace or in the media, and feel like I’m really seen, celebrated, and acknowledged in that experience, versus it being something that feels perhaps like a novelty.
That has created a really incredibly connected environment that I don’t think is found many other places.
Allwork.Space: How has The Coven fared through the pandemic?
It’s been quite a learning experience for all of us. Really early on we closed our doors for a number of months. Throughout that time we created a whole new level of membership which is 100% digital. We created a new platform; we actually have an app and platform that we’ll be launching here in February that we’re offering nationwide.
People have this really distinct and deep connection to our physical spaces and how they feel in our physical space. How do you create that feeling of comfort and psychological safety and acceptance and acknowledgement? How do you create that in a virtual environment? That’s been a lot of our focus.
We’ve been really bullish from the beginning about health and safety within our spaces. We have an incredibly diverse population of members from all cultural backgrounds, industries and from socio economic backgrounds.
We have known from the beginning that the Coronavirus has impacted communities of color and lower economic communities harder, and so it was always a matter of ‘we are going to create the most physically safe environment as possible because our community is so broad and because this virus has been so oppressive for so many communities that are directly in our spaces.’ So we were the first in Minnesota to mandate vaccinations.
Allwork.Space: If more coworking spaces offered childcare like you do, would more women be able to join coworking spaces?
100%. We have a wonderful partnership with an organization called College Nannies, Sitters and Tutors, and they’re actually based in our St. Paul location.
Nationwide care for new parents and childcare is a massive obstruction for people and women in particular, and marginalized genders in particular, being able to enter or reenter the workforce. It really gives a lot of our members the opportunity to continue to pursue whatever kind of self-care they need whether it’s time to themselves or working on their business idea or collaborating or pushing forward with their business. We’re really proud to be able to offer that option.
Allwork.Space: Will you be expanding The Coven to new spaces around the country?
Looking at other cities… we were touring really seriously where we were going to expand to and then the pandemic shifted a lot of that. It’s absolutely something that’s still on our minds.
Wherever else we may go, we recognize that we want to be bringing something additive to those communities, and we want to feel that the work that we’re doing is also honoring and acknowledging all the work that’s already happening in those communities.
We’re really thinking about where those underdog cities are, and who are the folks that we want to be partnering with that are already doing fantastic work in those areas, and then how our expertise can operate and how we can help.