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Why women are building communities to work (and practice wellness) together


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Photo: Facebook/The Wing

This week on The Plus Factor, we’re looking at the buzzy new workspaces built by and for women—with personal and professional support that goes way beyond your typical 9-to-5 setup.

The event calendar at New Women Space can seem eclectic: Healing Trauma with Tarot on Sunday, 10 Practical Legal Tips for Protecting Your Business on Monday, Indigo & Shibori Dyeing a week later. Really, the sessions have just one thing in common: they’re all created and taught by women.

The cozy space in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is just one example of the ways in which women are increasingly creating communities to support each other—both personally and professionally—via physical and online spaces. And wellness is playing more than a supporting role.

There’s The Wing and the Center for Social Innovation’s The Women’s Lab in New York City, Paper Dolls and One Roof Women in Los Angeles, and Hera Hub, with locations in San Diego and D.C. In December, LMHQ in Manhattan hosted a panel called “The Rise of Women’s Clubs,” based on the observation that “women are banding together to build empowered spaces where they can collectively grow in their professional lives.”

“What would it look like if women were to reimagine workspace?”

If “votes for women” was the rallying cry of the early 20th century, “spaces for women” may be its 21st century counterpart. (Except that we could also choose “equal pay for women” or “reproductive rights for women” or…you know what? Forget about that whole rallying cry thing.)

New Women Space co-founder Melissa Wong says the hope is that the impact of women’s spaces will extend beyond the walls. “If we serve as a central hub for women interested in supporting women, and they get something out of their experience here, they can bring that back out to their other communities,” she says. “There’s this domino, trickle effect.”

New Women Space
Photo: New Women Space

Why work spaces for women are on the rise

At the heart of most of these groups’ missions is simply bringing women together in safe spaces to share their experiences and pass on tools and lessons for living well. “There’s something special when women gather together,” Wong says. “There’s a different kind of energy, a kind of camaraderie and support.”

To that end, New Women Space embraces the variety of programming it provides, since it’s truly a representation of the many things women in their local community are itching to share with each other. (Men are welcome to attend events, by the way, but everything is created and taught by women.)

“The space exists based on the belief that women have not had the same access to resources as men.”

But many also are looking to level historic inequalities by helping female businesswomen and entrepreneurs get ahead. “The space exists based on the belief that women have not had the same access to resources as men,” Wong says, which is why they’re hosting Co:Lab, a professional development series, and recently introduced drop-in co-working.

Many other women’s spaces, like The Wing, put work at the forefront of what they do. One Roof Women co-founder Gianna Wurzl says she felt inspired to create spaces for women after a long career of working in corporate America, in spaces designed by men. “I thought, ‘I don’t feel safe, I don’t feel supported, I don’t feel like this is a creative space,'” she explains. “What would it look like if women were to reimagine workspace?”

women's spaces
Photo: One Roof Women

One Roof did that, originally, by building women’s co-working and social clubs in houses in LA—where the living room became the conference room, the kitchen the cafeteria. “You have to think about how women want to connect,” Wurzl says. “We’re more collaborative than we are competitive. The environments do matter and impact the ability to connect in an authentic way, because we feel comfortable and safe.”

Women, expected to be moms, homemakers, breadwinners, and social planners all at once, understand that prioritizing wellness and self-care is essential to success.

One Roof is now working to turn the concept into a bigger, global effort that will help women create these kinds of spaces on their own, via an app that allows freelancers and entrepreneurs to host co-working sessions at home and pays them to do so. (Wurzl anticipates a June 2017 launch.)

Building wellness into the work equation

Another commonality among these communities is an emphasis on wellness. New Women hosts donation-based yoga classes three times a week, One Roof offered meditation and yoga, and The Wing has showers that most women use to help them get workouts in during the day and asks members to commit to volunteering for a cause a set number of days per year.

It makes sense since women, expected to be moms, homemakers, breadwinners, and social planners all at once, understand that prioritizing wellness and self-care is essential to success. And they’re more likely to achieve all of that if they stay well, and, at the end of the day, are in it together.

Proof that balance is being being practiced and not just preached: The day I was scrolling through the New Women’s quirky event calendar, only one upcoming session was marked SOLD OUT: “Envisioning Your 2017: Wine, Vision Boarding, and Making That Shit Happen.”

Wear this to women’s co-working: 7 feminist apparel picks that also give back.