In the beginning, there was the Wing. Then the Coven. And now the Broad. Combination shared work spaces and social clubs designed exclusively for those who identify as women have been a Thing for quite a while now. If you’re thinking of joining one, or just keeping tabs on them, here are some new locations and new variations on the theme that we’ve heard and read about in recent weeks.
Traditional co-working spaces have been with us for years, with the most famous – WeWork – having expanded to more than 150 offices across the globe, thanks to the rise of the gig economy and entrepreneurs.
WeWork tapped into an unmet need that many might not even have known they had: freelance work and solo-entrepreneurship lacked the social interactions typically found in a traditional office role. Missing out on human connection and networking led to lots of people making Starbucks their regular work space.
Enter co-working: shared professional and social spaces where members can meet and interact with like-minded and similarly-situated individuals. Once that business model proved to be highly lucrative and scalable, it’s probably not a surprise that many variations targeted at smaller niches have emerged. Including those aimed at women only.
Some people might point to the current political landscape or #MeToo, or #TimesUp for this development, but this shift has actually been many years in the making. According to a McKinsey study, over half of independent workers in the United States are women, with almost 40% of these women contracting for some form of flexible work space.
Take that market size, combine it with the conundrum of professional women being simultaneously urged to lean in professionally but also to be caregivers, parents, and community volunteers in their personal lives, and it’s only natural that a subset of working women would turn to female-only clubs for inspiration and fellowship — a safe space to unwind and decompress. And a place to learn, grow and make meaningful connections.
This is not a new idea. It’s actually back to the future: there was a thriving set of women-only professional and social clubs in New York in the late 19th- and early 20th-century. Some of those pioneering organizations, like the Colony Club and the Cosmopolitan Club, still exist.
Fast forward to today, and there are women-only co-working and social clubs of many different stripes. Here’s the current lay of the land, and a preview of what’s coming in 2019:
1. The Wing opened in the Flatiron district in New York in 2016, co-founded by Lauren Kassan and Audrey Gelman, and born of the belief that “women need and deserve a multipurpose space designed to make their lives easier.” The brand’s Instagram-ready pastel pink high-design club houses offer amenities like a library with color-coordinated books by female authors and a cafe. There are showers with luxurious products by brands like Aesop, and an entire room devoted to hair-styling and primping, complete with Harry Josh hair tools and skincare by Glossier and Byredo. The space also provides remote working connections, meeting spaces and podcast recording studios. For those seeking social and networking opportunities, The Wing hosts events ranging from book clubs to poker nights, as well as gatherings for the more politically inclined. And opening soon in their Soho location is The Little Wing, where members can bring their children for classes and activities while they use the space for work.
Best for: Creatives and media moguls
Cost: Membership starts from $215 per month — “all access” membership, when paid monthly, costs $3,000 per year.
Where: Flatiron, Soho, Dumbo, San Francisco, DC and soon West Hollywood
2. The Coven in Minneapolis hopes to “inspire its members to live more empowered lives by offering a safe space for women and non-binary individuals to work, socialize, learn and grow.” The work space here is shared, with a mix of tables, couches, and chairs for members to utilize (though there are some semi private rooms available for use, too). Other perks include a nursing room, a shower and a beauty room stocked with complimentary products. The Coven offers extensive professional programming, including speakers on themed topics each month, from financial health to body positivity. Unlike some of the other women’s clubs on our list, here members can invite men to a meeting, as long as it’s held in the conference room, the space’s one co-ed area.
Best for: Those looking to reclaim their time in any line of work from finance to law to real estate to art or nonprofits
Cost: Membership is $200 a month or $2,200 a year.
Where: Minneapolis, MN
3. Instead of foosball, ping pong tables and beer on tap like you might find at other coworking spaces, Seattle’s The Riveter offers barre classes and meditation sessions for its members. Founded by NASA Space Camp and NYU law graduate Amy Nelson, The Riveter is offering more than just a place for female entrepreneurs to build businesses together – it’s also meant to solve one issue many women feel pressured to let slide in the name of success: wellness. Also unlike other women’s coworking spaces, men are welcome. Says Nelson: ‘Our goal was to change the dynamic for women entrepreneurs and business owners and I feel very strongly that to do that you have to involve all genders in the conversation or nothing will ever change.’ Private desks and workspaces are available for additional charges here.
Best for: Working moms and wellness-conscious women
Cost: The Riveter starts at $375 per month
Where: Capitol Hill, Bellevue, Freemont, LA, West Hollywood and coming soon to New York, Minnesota, Texas and Illinois to name a few
4. Inspired by the first female US secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, The AllBright is set within a five story Georgian townhouse with interiors designed by studio No.12. It offers work space, meeting rooms as well as treatment rooms for relaxation, meditation and therapeutic treatments. Everything from the art on the walls to the hand washes in the restroom is from a female or female led businesses. Members enjoy a curated list of monthly events, a 10 week digital AllBright Academy aimed at arming women with the tools to achieve their goals, forums, debates and plenty of networking opportunities including a monthly pitch day to help founders meet funders.
Best for: Entrepreneurs or those looking to change up their career
Cost: Membership starts at £750 and there’s an initiation fee of £300
5. Toronto boasts several female only coworking spaces, but Make Lemonade is one of the newest and most design savvy. Make Lemonade is the brainchild of Rachel Kelly, who struck upon the idea for the hub after growing frustrated with working from coffee shops and longed to create a physical space for female driven communities to come together. And after a job she had accepted had fallen through, she decided it was time to pursue her dream of creating a female centric space – essentially making lemonade out of a lemon situation. The light and bright space filled with vibrant yellow and lots of lemony references offers a variety of flexible packages including drop in options and also welcomes male identified visitors – so long as they relate to the space’s feminist values.
Best for: Young entrepreneurs who want flexible membership packages
Cost: Drop in sessions from $25 for ‘just a squeeze’, while a whole lemon will set you back $500 per month
6. Former investment banker Mary Aitken founded the 57,000 square foot Verity in 2004 to offer women a network in which to build relationships, further careers and find solutions to personal challenges. Specifically aimed at time crunched women, the club houses a fitness center, spa, pool, meeting rooms, in house florist, members’ lounge, restaurant and if that’s not enough even a hotel. Verity offers insightful programing for members ranging from business topics to fitness and wellness too.
Best for: Established career women
Cost: Offers different membership price categories factoring in: group rates, age range, out-of-town, out-of-province and corporate memberships. Initiation fees start at $4,700 with a yearly annual rate of $2,000
7. Named for the Greek goddess of women Hera Hub’s first spa inspired coworking space opened in San Diego in 2011. Since then, they have grown to 6 international locations providing women with access to professional meeting spaces, networking opportunities with other business owners and educational workshops. Hera Hub prides itself on offering all sorts of business support like “GURUS” who share their specific expertise in one on one sessions, a “Writers’ Lounge” led by a professional writer, as well as an angel investment division to support at female entrepreneurs.
Best for: Entrepreneurs
Cost: From $59 – $359 monthly depending on frequency of use
Where: Carlsbad, Mission Valley, Sorrento Valley, DC, Sweden, Phoenix and coming soon to Irvine, Houston, Seattle and Atlanta
8. One of the newest womens spaces is The Broad in Virginia. Housed in a converted photography studio in a 1920s building in Richmond’s historic Arts District The Broad features a coffee bar, breather room, boardroom, individual work nooks, a library of books by women, and a gallery curating work exclusively by female artists. By day, the space operates as a co-working facility to provide members with a space for a productive workday while at night curated events and programs cater to the diverse interests of a growing community. While The Broad is deliberately designed for women, it’s open to anyone who identifies as feminine, regardless of gender.
Best for: Those looking for a serious work space with a side of networking
Cost: $75 to $250 monthly depending on frequency of usage
We should note that earlier this year, The New York Times reported that The Wing is the subject of an investigation by the New York City Commission on Human Rights for possible discrimination violations. The last public word on the matter was that the two sides were working to develop an acceptable outcome.
So it appears that women-only clubs are here to stay. They may not be for everyone. Perhaps they’re for you. Either way, chances are if there isn’t currently one near where you live, there will be one there soon.
Jillian Tangen is the Head of Research at Dandelion Chandelier and a former Senior Research Analyst at McKinsey & Co and Analyst at Shearman & Sterling. She is an avid fan of Nordic design, having owned an independent lifestyle store and sales agency focused on emerging Scandinavian design. Jillian lives in NYC and is married with three young children and loves cross country skiing, the New York Rangers, reading, travel and discovering new brands.