Creating an inclusive space for women doesn’t mean you have to exclude anyone else, including men.
New York City-based Luminary founder and CEO Cate Luzio left her two-decade finance career at the end of 2018 to start Luminary, which differentiates itself from other female-first co-working spaces by emphasizing that membership is open to everyone (no applications; you can be an intern or a CEO), and that men are warmly welcomed in the space. “I had many male mentors,” Luzio says, “and if we're ever going to change all of the statistics we hear about [workplace inequality], we need men as part of the journey.” Since opening in a 15,000-square-foot space this January, Luminary has hosted 150 events and has grown to over 500 members, with 37 percent of members being women of color. --Anna Meyer
Motherhood spurred her to create an inclusive co-working company.
Amy Nelson, founder of the Riveter, turned to entrepreneurship when she realized that her corporate law career and young children just didn’t mix. “I was perceived very differently when I became pregnant,” she says. “I know women with kids are less likely to be promoted. Why was I buying into a system that was not buying into me?” When Nelson started attending startup events, the attendees were overwhelmingly male. She started looking for a community of women who were building startups, but she didn’t find a physical location that was hosting them. So she created one. Now, about 70 percent of the Riveter’s 2,000 members are women. The company has 10 locations, which have hosted events with speakers including Kamala Harris and Jane Fonda. Nelson says her first co-working spaces have already turned a profit, and she’s raised around $20 million in funding. --Kimberly Weisul
Lesbians Who Tech
She started the most diverse networking community in tech—and built a tool to help companies hire from that network.
“The tech industry doesn’t have a pipeline problem--it has an access problem,” says Leanne Pittsford, the founder of Lesbians Who Tech, a community of 40,000 mostly LGBTQ techies with a mission to promote diversity in hiring. Her seven-year-old organization runs an annual tech conference (past speakers include Hillary Clinton, Stacey Abrams, and Laurene Powell Jobs), and this year it has branched out into building a digital recruiting and mentoring service, Include.io, that companies can use to find diverse talent from its network and track their diversity-and-inclusion efforts. Currently in beta, the product is being tested by 100 companies. “We have to shift the white-male-centric culture that Silicon Valley has built,” Pittsford says. --Christine Lagorio-Chafkin
Alex West Steinman
Because co-working members in the middle of the country need diversity and inclusion just as much as those on the coasts.
In 2017, Alex West Steinman teamed up with three other Minneapolis-area PR and advertising professionals to create a femme-forward co-working space with the mission to “economically empower women by providing safe, accessible space for personal and professional transformation.” After crowdfunding its first location, the Coven grew to 500 members within a year. A second location opens in December. For every five memberships purchased, the Coven gives one to a member of the community who couldn’t afford it, “prioritizing people of color, folks from the LGBTQ community, those who are differently abled, immigrants, and veterans,” it says. The broad goal for West Steinman and her team is to corner the middle of the country (“underdog cities,” as the Coven calls them). It wants to open more than 20 locations in the next five years. --Christine Lagorio-Chafkin
She carved out a niche in sports marketing, a business few women have broken into.
At age 34, Ishveen Anand already has a decade of experience working in the world of professional sports, but investors still doubt her when she pitches her sports marketing startup, OpenSponsorship. “I’m of Indian origin, I’m British, I’m female, I’m young,” she says. “When I walk in and I’m like, ‘Hey, we’re changing how brands work with NFL players,’ they’re like, ‘Really? Are you?’” Five years in, Anand is proving that her concept—a two-way marketplace that lets brands and athletes find each other for endorsement opportunities—can work. She’s also proving that she’s the right woman for the job: OpenSponsorship has been profitable since 2017, with revenue of $1.1 million last year, and recently inked its highest-profile client yet, alcohol giant Anheuser-Busch—all off $1.3 million in seed funding. Anand aimed to show profits as quickly as possible because, as a woman operating in a male-dominated industry, she knew that investors and clients alike wanted to see more from her than the potential for success. “Any room I get into, they’re always going to ask for another data point,” she says. “And I know I’m going to have to give it.” --Cameron Albert-Deitch