The six millennial pink billboards popped up overnight.
Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Williamsburg, London, and Toronto were officially the chosen ones — the cities that would be next to receive their own chapter of The Wing, an enormously popular women’s social and networking club that started in Manhattan. But the billboards did more than just announce the newest locations to beloved fans of the member’s only club. They made a powerful feminist statement.
“The Wing Is Coming,” they read. The strong font and the succinct copy is a bit reminiscent of the entire Time’s Up campaign. It says strongly and resolutely, “Things are changing. And you can either help us, or get out of the way.”
Closed, women-only clubs like The Wing are gaining traction in places like New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
Meant to be a safe space for women to be themselves, mingle, talk, and work, these co-working places are really the first of their kind. And somehow, they offer this sort of invisible bond of magical sisterhood amongst members that professional women truly crave.
“There is absolutely a level of safety, comfort, and freedom that comes with a women’s only space. From little things like being able to do your makeup or change to sitting cross-legged on the floor, being in a safe space where women don’t have to worry about how they’re coming across, being judged, or presenting themselves to the world is exciting,” explains Victoria Young, who works at Facebook and travels often between New York, Los Angeles, and her home base of San Francisco for work.
In New York, many of the women you’ll find hacking away at their laptops while perched on the plush pink couches or at the mid-century modern desks at The Wing’s Soho or Flatiron locations are freelancers or founders of their own companies. In lieu of renting regular office space, or buying an expensive desk at a co-working space like WeWork, they’ve come to call The Wing, “work.” There are a fair number of members like Young, who travel for their careers and desire a landing place in each city to call home. But there are significantly fewer women working ‘regular’ 9-to-5 gigs — if they are members, they typically belong to the space to get access to it’s high-quality programming and events. (The New York location recently hosted an intimate chat with Hillary Clinton, nbd.)
While yes, being your own boss does have its perks — you’re never late to the office! You can work whenever you feel like it! Pajamas are technically office attire! — it can also be a lonely and isolating road to walk. These clubs and organizations offer something even more important to women who work for themselves: community.
Prospective Wing members are excited to expand their circles and learn more from other female entrepreneurs. “We are all seeking support, connection, and encouragement. We are all looking for a safe, sacred space,” says Erica Kmiec, a growth and marketing consultant based out of Manhattan Beach. “I believe that there is something so unbelievably powerful when a group of women come together — our work is magnified to the Universe and our support for one another is amplified to women everywhere promoting a contagious, ripple effect.”
“I feel like the value that comes out of a women-only space is unexpected for me,” reports London O’Donnell, a successful fiber artist who was looking for a studio and workspace in LA before she found out The Wing had plans to open a location in West Hollywood. “I have considered joining other co-working spaces before, but I always hesitate because I feel like what I am doing is so different from the other members,” notes O’Donnell.
“With The Wing I get a completely different feeling, you are not just joining a space but a community of like-minded women. Every event and conversation at The Wing will add value to my life. I never expected that simply the shift of it being women-only would be make me feel so welcomed and accepted.”
Overwhelmingly, women are excited about what The Wing has to offer: a gorgeous, Insta-worthy place for women to run their companies, strengthen their professional contacts, and have fun with each other. But some dissenters argue that exclusionary tactics (absolutely zero men are allowed inside) aren’t a good look.
Katherine DePaolo, a creative director and creative consultant, loves the vision and branding of The Wing, but is hesitant to join an expensive club (memberships run between $215 to $250 a month) that’s so exclusionary: “I feel like an all female co-working space limits a lot. There are many studies that reinforce the benefit of diversity for business success. That includes racial diversity, ethnic diversity, cultural diversity, and gender diversity. I think isolation or separation hinders progress and creativity.”
DePaolo’s qualms are warranted. The topic of allowing men in is admittedly a gray area for the women’s club. Recently, the New York City Commission on Human Rights had a closed-door meeting with The Wing’s founders, during which some outlets reported that the location was being investigated for “possible discrimination violations.”
But in the meantime, The Wing is ushering in a new era of the female leader, one feminist-themed phone booth at a time. By connecting women to each other and offering them a safe space to explore and build something, these communities are changing the way that we work together simply by inviting conversation in a different framework.
Essentially, The Wing acts like a physical version of a tech incubator program — but for all women. It’s a safe, enclosed space to explore ideas with endless support and inspiration. It will be stunning to see the entrepreneurial growth that happens in these six new cities. And I wonder, in five years will we measure time as B.T.W. or A.T.W. (Before The Wing and After The Wing)?
Michelle Pellizzon is an LA-based creative consultant, writer, and founder of @holisticism. Find her at @betterbymichelle to explore the weirdness of LA’s healthy living scene, stalk puppers, and find the best matcha latte on the east side of the 405.