We’re Not Giggling and Braiding Each Other’s Hair, We’re Building an Industry.
A friend of mine tries to ask three questions before speaking their mind:
- Does it need to be said?
- Does it need to be said by me?
- Does it need to be said by me, right now?
After reading the article “Come on Over to My Place, Sister Girlfriend and We’ll Co-Work,” I asked myself those questions and answered yes to all three. As executive producer of GCUC, the largest coworking conference series in the world, and owner-operator of a coworking space in Austin, Texas, it’s my business to know the coworking industry inside and out. The article misses the mark completely.
The title alone makes me cringe. It makes it sound like women in coworking spaces are going to braid each other’s hair, gossip about boys and giggle. This sentiment is dated, offensive and untrue. The coworking industry has always had a strong contingency of women leaders.
At GCUC Canada in Vancouver last fall, Laura Shook and Iris Kavanaugh, founders of Women Who Cowork, pointed out that this industry has been pioneered and shaped, in large part, by women, including Felena Hanson of Hera Hub, who launched the first coworking franchise; Ashley Proctor, who created COHIP, the first coworking health insurance plan and launched Xpace, one of the first coworking brands; Jenny Poon of CO+HOOTS, who started the first coworking foundation; Susan Dorsch of Office Nomads who co-founded the first coworking VISA program; Campbell McKellar, who started Loosecubes, the first coworking listing software; and myself, who has brought GCUC to Australia, China, Singapore, Dubai, Brazil and more.
I’m glad to see a new generation of women embracing coworking and community-building, and it’s great that they raised money. But as coworking grows into a global industry, we need to tell the stories of women like Proctor who at one point was homeless and went on to open spaces in the U.S. and Canada. In addition to her work with COHIP, she runs GCUC Canada and is in the process of launching the largest coworking space in Canada in a neighborhood that is ground zero for Vancouver’s opioid crisis.
These things need to be said, and the reason they need to be said by me is that I don’t believe in just being negative. If something offends you and you think it needs to change, you should do something about it.
I’ve studied coworking since 2008, before most people had even heard the term. I’ve spoken about coworking at SXSW three times. When I opened my first space in Austin, there were less than 500 spaces in the world. Today, there are almost 15,000.
I partner with researchers and conduct studies. I travel the world making sure I know what is coming next in this industry and who should be onstage at our conferences. I read article after article on our industry and pore over coworking topics on social media. I pride myself on being an expert on the topic of coworking. I’m not making excuses, I’m not justifying, I’m making things happen. That is why it needs to be said by me.
The reason it needs to be said right now is that women have it hard enough. It’s time the playing field was leveled. We don’t need to hear about women crying or what you’re wearing. We as women have moved beyond that, and part of the problem is fluffy articles written by a woman. Can you imagine the backlash if a man had written that article title?
We aren’t asking for favors, we’re asking for respect. I expect more from the New York Times and you should too.
If you haven’t read the original article yet, we encourage you to do so.