Female-Owned Coworking Spaces
Are Changing The Workplace
The spread of coworking spaces could be the beginning of a major shift in the corporate climate – especially for women.
Studies have found that the flexibility and autonomy associated with coworking yields greater productivity and happiness among employees. As the idea progresses, companies of all sizes are beginning to adopt the coworking model in their own environment.
Women have a unique opportunity to gain from a changing workplace that favors flexibility. The majority of caretakers are still women – meaning it’s mostly women who have to leave their office jobs or work around an inflexible schedule when called to act as a caretaker to an aging parent or a child. In the long run, this leaves women marginalized or undercompensated across the workforce.
But as we shift to a coworking model – one that relies less on 9-to-5 routines and long commutes – work can remain an important piece in the lives of the many women who take on other, often unforeseen, responsibilities.
Female-owned businesses play an important role.
According to an article in the Huffington Post, women-owned firms have an economic impact of $3 trillion – that translates into the creation or maintenance of 23 million jobs, or 16 percent of the United States job market.
If each of those female business owners created a work environment that complemented the unique role women play in society — in part by recognizing that there is much to gain by making work fit seamlessly with familial responsibilities, and by creating opportunities for women to help one another — it could have a major impact on the workforce across the board.
Female-owned coworking spaces take this shared growth a step further.
Programming at female-owned coworking spaces stretches beyond workplace skills. It focuses on the bigger picture to help women succeed.
In addition to the classes for professional development and networking events you’d find at most coworking spaces, those owned by women integrate wellness programming. Membership at One Roof Women (locations in Culver City, Calif.; Montauk, N.Y. and Melbourne, Australia) includes yoga and meditation classes, both of which help manage the stress of work. Design is inspired by the idea of home, from the layout of lounge areas that resemble a living room, to the small details of a candle burning and Aesop hand lotion on every table.
Rather than try to recreate a typical office setting, Hera Hub provides work spaces that founder Felena Hanson says are focused on making you feel good overall: Live plants, candles, spa-like music, tranquil water fountains and a variety of comfortable seating — or even standing — work arrangements are a few of the features.
In similar fashion, Los Angeles-based Paper Dolls features artwork, fresh flowers, chandeliers, plush printed pillows and lots of natural light, while also providing amenities like private conference rooms and printers, which members need to be efficient. Members also have access to complimentary healthy snacks and beverages throughout the day.
They foster an environment where women can network, as well as find mentorship and guidance that can be difficult to access otherwise.
Hera Hub – whose members are a mix of 30- to 50-something attorney, CPAs, marketing experts, management consultants, authors and product developers – offers a 12-week program for startups to help flesh out new ideas and marketing strategies. Hera’s built-in funding arm allows women to invest in one another’s projects, as well.
L.A.-based Paper Dolls offers a tiered membership based on goals. The base-level Start-Up Sister ($99 per year), for instance, includes private networking events and discounts on trainings and speaker series. The Fearless Founder ($499 per year), includes the ability to host private events at the space, one-on-one business coaching, opportunities to promote your business and complimentary webinars. And One Roof Women hosts business problem-solving sessions, guest speakers and one-on-one coaching.
Women-owned coworking spaces accommodate childcare and personal care.
The most significant upside to coworking is that it makes work fit into your life, rather than forcing you to build your life around work. But female-owned spaces go further, still. When it opens next year, Women’s Plaza in Portland, Ore. will offer, in addition to childcare and yoga, massages and catered meals as well as life coaches, nutritionists, love and intimacy counselors, and fitness instructors.
“People don’t fit into a box anymore,” says Deborah Engel, founder of Work and Play in South Orange, N.J. “With today’s technology, people don’t need to be in the city at an office for eight hours a day and parents in our community don’t necessarily want to sign up for three to five full days of childcare at a traditional daycare center. Our main mission is to provide a solution for those looking for more flexibility as they try to balance life.”
Work and Play offers onsite drop-in babysitting, with packages including 20 hours per week for workspace and childcare for approximately $1,200 per month, and slightly smaller packages like 12 hours per week of workspace and 12 hours of childcare for $740 a month. It can cost less than some childcare facilities and you’re gaining a place to work.
Another benefit of its South Orange location is that it lets people escape the choice between urban burnout and more spacious or affordable housing. More suburbs are beginning to follow suit. At Thrive in Gilbert, Ariz., women relish the chance to maintain an efficient workspace while still being close enough to home, yet also remain in a downtown hub where they can have a lunch meeting and head across the street to work or do a presentation.
Whether it’s a space in the center of L.A. or the suburbs of Phoenix, it seems the thing that all female-owned coworking spaces have in common is that they seek to provide something women have fought for decades to find: A balance between their work and personal responsibilities.
These founders understand that some women could work best by jamming away at a keyboard in between tending to familial duties, while others prefer getting their writing done at 7 a.m. when they are most focused — and that they need a place that can satisfy both of those needs while helping them thrive.
We can only hope that this could have an affect on workplaces overall in the future.
Christina Garofalo is an essayist and journalist whose work spans food, travel and femme culture. Her work has appeared in Paste, First We Feast and Robb Report, and she runs the blog Adventures in Frugal. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.