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A new coworking space in Boston hopes to offer up more than the plush lounge chairs, free-flowing beer and fruit-infused water often found in these trendy shared offices — a space that caters to women.
It's called The Wing, and it's set to open Monday on Boylston Street in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood. It's the first women-focused coworking space in the city.
There's a distinct color scheme that greets you at The Wing.
"People see pink and assume that we're choosing pink because, you know, girls are supposed to like pink, but there are actually studies that prove that the color pink is calming," spokeswoman Yasmin Shahida said.
The 10,500-square-foot coworking space is designed specifically for women. There's a beauty room and a mothers' room. Even the temperature is different.
"If you were to look at our temperature gauge, it's typically set anywhere between 72 and 74 degrees because our members like it a little bit warmer," Shahida said. "It's designed for the average temperature of a woman's body."
And there's research to support this approach. A recent study found that colder temperatures hurt women's productivity in the workplace.
The Wing wants to create a more comfortable environment for women, Shahida said. That's also reflected in the furniture, which is designed for women's bodies.
"Understanding what the average height of a woman is and catering a chair to table height distance to a woman is different than that of a man," Shahida said. "So we decided to sort of take it upon ourselves to design these furniture items ourselves."
Additionally, dishes at the in-house cafe and artwork in the space are all made by local women. There's also a library in the space with books by women.
But there's more than just aesthetics at The Wing. The coworking space offers workshops for women on everything from financial planning and intellectual property law to sexual health. You might also find discussions with politicians or celebrities.
This is all meant to create a place for women to connect, find mentors, and gain tools to excel in their careers.
"I think everybody needs to focus on helping women grow and advance themselves because traditionally that has not been the focus," Shahida said. "It's been about helping men advance in their careers that's why we see so many CEOs who are white men and you don't see a lot of representation in sort of the C-suite and what we're trying to do is change that."
A space like The Wing could help women navigate the challenges they face in the workplace, according to Susan Duffy, the executive director of the center for women's entrepreneurial leadership at Babson College.
"It really matters to be in a group where people just understand you, have similar experiences, get what you're trying to do, and give you that kind of role modeling, championing, helping you see that you're in this with other people and not alone," Duffy said in a phone interview.
That's exactly how local entrepreneur Melissa James felt when she did a tech accelerator called Smarter In The City in Roxbury — a program geared towards minority entrepreneurs, like her.
"I certainly felt a lot of imposter syndrome when I was getting my business off the ground," said James, who helps tech companies recruit diverse talent through her company, The Tech Connection. "I wasn't sure if I was truly the expert or the thought leader but over time by just my friends kind of pushing me that were in the coworking space to go for new opportunities, it certainly helped me feel more confident."
James said she would use a space like The Wing if she were just starting out, but other coworking spaces are a better fit as her business has grown. She operates her company out of a WeWork near South Station. (It's worth noting that WeWork is an investor in The Wing.)
"When we looked at coworking spaces it was just really important that we had like a private space," James said. (In addition to shared offices, WeWork allows members to rent private offices). "I have a gender-balanced team so that was really important to me that not just myself but my co-workers also felt comfortable too."
Duffy, of Babson College, said more choices give entrepreneurs more opportunities to tap into whatever resources they need. She sees spaces like The Wing as a complement to other coworking spaces — not a replacement. And Duffy said the trend of catered spaces will likely continue.
"There are coworking spaces for veterans. There are coworking spaces for tech. There are coworking spaces now for women. I think we'll probably see coworking space for seniors," Duffy said. "And that's all a good thing as long as we can continue to be fed with all the really interesting diverse perspectives that lead to continued innovation."
The Wing, which first launched in New York in 2016, has faced scrutiny for excluding men. This led the New York City Commission on Human Rights to open an investigation last year. The Wing then tweaked its membership policy to include all gender identities. The company says it’s still women-focused and its application asks potential members how they’re aligned with The Wing’s mission of advancing women.
The company also had two of its ads rejected by the MBTA ahead of its arrival in Boston. The transit agency deemed the ads “demeaning or disparaging.” An MBTA spokesperson did not respond to a request to explain how the ads were deemed as violating the agency’s advertising guidelines. One ad included the phrases “Want to mute the mansplainers and start your own conversation?” and “The world was built for men, The Wing was built for you,” according to company co-founder Audrey Gelman.
The new shared office and community space in Boston is the company's eighth location in the country.
This segment aired on June 17, 2019.
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