Senssei Cat Johnson is an enthusiastic supporter of ”Women Who Cowork”, a new “alliance” that is “a growing network of supporters and allies and a beautiful vision to transform the way we work.”
As I document in my 2018 book, one of the key features of contemporary coworking is that it is whatever the workers want it to be. And it surely can be what female workers want it to be. A woman who is her own boss has a woman for a boss!
So what, specifically is this “beautiful vision” which Sensei Cat eloquently invokes?
First of all, this is clearly coming from the perspective of women who lead and operate coworking spaces. Individual workers may benefit and enjoy participation, but WWCO invites you to “Join the professional community of women who create, inspire and lead coworking businesses.”
There is nothing wrong with that, and, of course, community leadership is the make or break element of any successful coworking community, so this is certainly at the heart of things.
These women are also founders of the GCUC conferences, and are deeply involved in the evolution of the “industry”. In fact, their manifesto has the telling sentence, “We believe coworking is the industry best positioned to achieve the goal of 100% gender parity in leadership and funding accessibility.”
There is lots of talk of gender equity everywhere, but it is interesting to see what the WWCO think are the crucial facets: leadership and funding accessibility. Power and money. Yup. I can’t disagree with that.
Of course, WWCO is going to be about more than that, but, hey, give me money and power and I can make stuff happen!
Inevitably, part of the mission of WWCO will be advocating for women coworkers, recognizing success, busting myths, and generally promoting the “beautiful mission” of “Yes, We Can.”
As I have written many times, coworking is all about community, and community all about being “us, together”—for pretty much any value of “us”. We see coworking communities that serve geographical neighborhoods, vocational categories, and of course all kinds of social and lifestyle groupings.
But I must be quick to say that across all demographic, geographic, and identity slices, coworkers share a broad base of common needs, goals, and working life. Everyone is using the same technological base, navigating similar career paths, and struggling with the same life-work challenges. Truly, we’re all in this together, even though we may “clump” into relatively homogeneous “us” groups sometimes.
Women have always had a strong role in coworking, even if some of the “clumps” are pretty masculine. Since freelance workers are free to choose their workspace and coworkers, many women and men (and whatever other gender self-identifications) are happy to find a community with women leaders, and will choose to join.
While it may be a stereotype to think that women are “better” at community than men, it is certainly true that women can create and sustain community very well. There have always been successful female leaders, and there certainly should continue to be so.
From this perspective, WWCO is basically playing a game that has already been won.
But I’m sure that for those who a playing the “shared workspace industry” game, WWCO could have an important role, demanding “100% gender parity in leadership and funding accessibility.” I personally am not interested in that game, but I want to make sure that “girls get to play, too”.
How will “femme-identified coworking entrepreneurs and community managers” do things different? I don’t know. Let’s see what happens.