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It is no secret that the corporate world has made notable progress in tipping the gender imbalance that exists in leadership positions. Despite this improvement, to this day, some women continue to face hindrances when attempting to step into leadership positions and the coworking industry is no exception.

We had a chat with Iris Kavanagh and Laura Shook Guzman from Women Who Cowork, some of the women who are working tirelessly to ensure gender parity in the coworking field and this is what they had to share:

Tell us about Women Who Cowork

Iris describes Women Who Cowork as a membership, community, and platform that focuses on providing support, resources, tools, education, mentorship, and most importantly, pure community to the female and non-binary founders, operators and thought leaders in the coworking movement.

In addition to that, Laura says that even though they are physically based in the US, they perceive themselves as a global platform and they wish to reach women and non-binary folks around the world to amplify the work that they’re doing in the coworking movement. 

The ladies believe that there’s so much more that can be done if women and non-binary peoples came together. Women are often underrepresented in the coworking movement, and the (Women Who Cowork) have been working to get that visibility, to participate in conferences, to share the stories of their members, their successes, and their growth.

Women Who Cowork is a need, and here’s why…

The ladies felt the call to share their voice and bring to life a platform for women and non-binary people in the coworking industry, as they were often, in Laura’s words, “doing great work behind the scenes, and maybe not connecting enough to each other.” The initiative was aimed at bringing people together in a shared space that allows them to share available resources and best practices, and to also remind each other that they are part of a community, and they are not alone.

The platform also wishes to open up important discussions around how the future of work can be influenced by people’s various contributions. Over the years, the ladies have come together around certain platforms expressing that they want to move the needle on gender equity and also wish to educate coworking spaces about how to address and be preventative with sexual assault and harassment, to be more inclusive of different racial or differently abled abilities. 

Iris felt it was worth mentioning that the majority of people running coworking spaces tend to be female or non-binary people and the majority of people in ownership positions tend to be male. There’s nothing wrong with men owning coworking spaces, but the duo would love to increase ownership for the people who are also running the spaces, the female and non-binary people. Coworking is one of the agents that can really bring about equity in the business world.

Elements of the existing system working against gender equality in coworking

According to Laura, much of what they’re working with is unconscious bias. She explains that they are biased towards the male dominated version of business and for a long time, even as women started coming into business, they were expected to behave like men. A number of her peers have expressed how they’ve not only had to change their race to be more like white males, but also had to behave like white males. Much of that is very unconscious to those that haven’t done the work to look at how that is the dominant story. 

Although accessibility into coworking spaces and other professional spaces for women and people of colour has improved over the years, people are still expected to behave like the white males in these spaces.

Going forward

Women, non-binary people, and people of colour don’t only want to be in the room and at the table, but they want to show up fully as themselves. Women want to bring their identities and lived experiences as women to the table, and that is why organizations like Women Who Cowork are so important because they form part of the organizations that are trying to help people become more conscious of that.  In the coworking industry, it’s easier to nurture and create expectations from the beginning instead of going back and correcting it later. It is therefore the responsibility of every member in the industry to, in the true spirit of coworking, enforce, implement, and live by the values of coworking which are inclusivity, diversity, equality and accessibility. There remains a lot of work to be done in order to get there, but it is 100% possible.

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