The Wing in New York City--whose founder made our Female Founders 100 list--and the Coven in Minneapolis: Women-only co-working spaces are spreading. They're intended to give opportunities to network and build businesses, without fear of gender-based discrimination, distraction, or harassment. We hashed out the issues such spaces raise with two founders who know them well.
What are the benefits of these women-only spaces?
Katya Libin: Peace of mind. You don't have to think about discrimination, so you can focus on your company.
J Mase III: That's true. But often, women's spaces don't include others: trans-masculine and gender nonbinary founders, for example.
Many of these spaces charge hundreds of dollars per month. Is that exclusionary?
Libin: Some of these clubs are unreasonable for most people. We have made the choice to charge only $35 per month. Our funds are tight, but it's worth it.
Mase: Many entrepreneurs would find $35 per month inaccessible too. Women-only groups could support lower-income populations--one idea is to have wealthier members sponsor other groups.
Do women-only spaces help businesses' bottom lines?
Libin: Not necessarily. But through groups like Heymama, we're hoping to give more women access to funding and mentorship so we can get to that point.
Mase: Networks matter. I know many people who are making drastically different numbers because they have access to mentorship from peers.
Is an all-female workplace like the Wing discriminatory?
Libin: It's hard to say. But if they let it slide and let one man in, then it could be five people, and all of a sudden it changes the nature of what they promised.
Mase: As a transmasculine entrepreneur, I know that the Wing and Heymama aren't spaces I would venture into.
The drawbacks to such women-only spaces extend to the legal realm. The New York City Commission on Human Rights has launched an investigation into the Wing over whether it violates a local law prohibiting gender-based discrimination against potential customers.