- A lack of representation is what led Bridgid Coulter Cheadle to launch Blackbird Collective, a coworking space dedicated to supporting the betterment of women of color in the entrepreneurial and creative industries.
- The McKinsey Women in the Workplace 2021 report shows that women of color make up 17% of entry-level positions and just 4% of C-suite roles.
- In discussion with Allwork.Space, Coulter Cheadle explains why coworking spaces geared towards women of color are important for business sustainability and wellbeing.
Coworking spaces are often looking for new methods to set themselves apart. Some tout access to kitschy amenities like coffee bars and yoga rooms, while others offer up-to-date technology that promises to make the workday run smoothly.
But beyond material offerings, one of the most desired aspects in a coworking environment is community.
Coworking communities are nothing new. In fact, it could be argued that the concept of these shared spaces was intended to bring together like-minded professionals and curate a strong community.
Despite these efforts, research indicates women of color face barriers when trying to find an environment that is truly inclusive.
It’s already been determined that the pandemic has disproportionately impacted women compared to men, but that number grows even more disparate when considering women of color.
In fact, the McKinsey Women in the Workplace 2021 report shows that women of color makeup 17% of entry-level positions and just 4% of C-suite roles.
This lack of representation is what led Bridgid Coulter Cheadle to launch Blackbird Collective, a coworking space dedicated to supporting the betterment of women of color in the entrepreneurial and creative industries.
In discussion with Allwork.Space, Coulter Cheadle explains why coworking spaces geared towards women of color are important for business sustainability and wellbeing.
Some quotes have been edited for length or clarity
Allwork.Space: What inspired you to create a coworking space for women of color?
Bridgid Coulter Cheadle: [The] original inspiration is still deeply rooted in what we are building with Blackbird today and I’m excited to dream and share what we’ve learned, where we’re at and where we’re going.
Blackbird was conceived as a space to gather, connect, level-up and be well together — and also a collective where we might simply find our other ambitious community of women of color, trailblazers, and allies.
Allwork.Space: Why is it important for women of color to have their own dedicated work environment?
Bridgid Coulter Cheadle: By centering on women of color in the work and wellbeing space, we are creating a safe place for aligned work, permission to rest, courageous conversations, connected opportunities and to seek a work-life culture that is aligned with our best and balanced selves.
I think coming out of this profound time, it is more important than ever to have Blackbird and aligned spaces that represent, review, educate and connect us. Black, Latinx, [and] AAPI solidarity makes us stronger — so we need a home, a workspace, a respite for all the incredible work that so many of us are doing around the country and the world at large.
Allwork.Space: Have you worked out of other coworking spaces? If so, what was your experience there?
Bridgid Coulter Cheadle: Yes, I have been to other coworking spaces — whether to get work done, attend a business meeting or connect with a friend for a drink; I have generally had good experiences.
I explored a ton of different spaces before launching Blackbird and there was such a variety of flex offices, coworking, and social clubs — it was definitely a boon industry in the making — and I found myself attracted to the ones that aimed to foster creativity and community.
Also, while I always felt welcome, I didn’t necessarily find that a particular space understood how to relate to me personally. There are incredible spaces out there, some made me feel cool and creative, others made me want to medicate and relax, others made me want to be the next CEO or investor on Shark Tank. With Blackbird, I was able to make a space that connects us and communicates to the soul of who we are so that we feel empowered and less alone.
Allwork.Space: How important is design to creating a nurturing and inclusive workspace?
Bridgid Coulter Cheadle: [With] “design” perhaps we should look at it from a higher level than just basics of tactical design — layout, adjacencies, color palette, scale, lighting, surface materials — but perhaps it is more vital in that larger idea of what it is to design.
How do we design for community connection and interaction? How do we design growth and expansion? How do we design for equity, equality, and equanimity?
Design as a metaphor for storytelling. Design for profound culture shift.
Allwork.Space: What are some common mistakes that workspaces make when trying to be inclusive?
Bridgid Coulter Cheadle: I simply am not familiar with this and don’t have any context to speak to on it.
I know that we are humble and plucky and ambitious and aware that we are here to learn what we can, contribute what we know, and share what we have. We, along with everyone else, will take missteps in this profound time of reckoning and renewal.
I wholeheartedly believe that we should open the conversation for growth and exploring intention when we allow ourselves and each other to stumble and learn.
Allwork.Space: Do you believe that niche coworking spaces are sustainable? Why or why not?
Bridgid Coulter Cheadle: I believe in empowering women of color and allies to create positive change for each other and the world. Blackbird is not just a wellbeing and workspace — it is an interdependent life-work community that celebrates creativity, promotes wellbeing, inspires productivity, and encourages advocacy.
Whether the building or online platform can sustain is a question of timing — we are more than a moment — the need is here and we value and want to participate; so if the niche is servicing authentically it will sustain. As for coworking spaces, only time will tell. We are taking it step by step and learning as we go.