About 10 years ago, coworking spaces were considered a strange solution for freelancers. But now, they're almost ubiquitous within the work-from-home community. Most major cities have at least one coworking space available for entrepreneurs, freelancers, or just anyone who wants an office away from home.
Recently, specially-themed coworking spaces have been popping up in metropolitan areas the world over. Some are geared toward engineers or creatives, and others are focus on offering space for women exclusively. If you're looking for a pleasant work environment where your fellow women can lift you up, these work spaces might be your best bet. But what are the benefits of a women-only working space? Are there any downsides? Here's a few pros and cons to consider.
Pro: Female-focused career support and panel discussions
Networking and finding support in career development is key to survival for a freelancer,. Specifically addressing the hurdles women face in the workplace is also a great idea. It's women who often have difficulty negotiating for a higher salary or struggle with childcare. Or maybe have to navigate a boy's club environment in their chosen career path. Many of these spaces will host panel discussions of these issues with experienced speakers. Some have one-on-one mentorship programs. Others have dedicated career centers to help spruce up your résumé, practice your interview skills, and even train you in salary negotiation. A few even offer childcare for working mothers. No matter what it is, it can be nice to have a network to fall back on if you're running into challenges in your career.
Con: Most female-centric spaces are incredibly focused on single women
It's great to have networking and support for your career, but the majority of women's co-working spaces are specifically geared toward the young working professional. There aren't many workshops on balancing home and work life with a family. And for many working moms, visiting a co-working space might not be an option with their young children. There are a few spaces that do offer childcare on site, including Play, Work, or Dash in Virginia. But this is definitely not widespread and, given the tight regulations surrounding childcare, it's unclear whether this kind of service will catch on elsewhere. For working mothers, maybe a co-working membership just isn't worth the price.
Pro: Work around like-minded women and have the space to speak
When you're in the coworking space, you'll be around a lot of women who have the same goals and dreams as you. Maybe not in specifics, but at least in how much time they want to spend cultivating their career. You know when you walk in the building, you'll be surrounded by women who are working just as hard as you are. That can be motivating and comforting. Another plus for an all-women space is that you won't have to work to make yourself heard. Several studies have found that men dominate conversations in the workplace. This can be because men interrupt women or women just chose not to speak up. But in a female-focused space, there will be no men to take over the conversation. You'll be able to speak your mind freely and be heard.
Con: Women-centric clubs have been the center of controversy
These spaces have offered many resources to working women, but they don't come without controversy. Some critics argue that limiting membership to females only is discriminatory. The New York Human Rights Commission was reportedly investigating The Wing (a coworking space in NYC) for discrimination. Legal experts even say that preventing men from joining could be seen as a violation of the same anti-sex discrimination laws that were meant to protect women. But an attorney representing The Wing has said that the space follows the history of the laws' purpose empower women and level the playing field. So therefore, it is not violating any laws. No one is suing just yet and so far no complaints have been reported, but this new brand of coworking could be sitting in dicey legal territory. The debate could eventually end up in court.