An insider's look at New Women Space
New Women Space, a workspace in Brooklyn that provides space and resources for women, recently opened in Fall 2016. As their website states: "We believe the needs of women living, working and creating in New York City are constantly changing and so are the many ways in which those needs are being met… New Women Space serves to function as a physical place where women can collectively gather and shape the future together."
Notice that the term “coworking space” is never used here. And that’s because New Women Space isn’t one. I talked to Melissa Wong, one of NWS’ founders, to learn about their new approach to working– Co:Labs.
How do people work at New Women Space?
People that we see coming to us are those who want a sounding board, and don’t want to feel like their work is happening in an echo chamber. They want some structure, and they want to meet people. We’re going to experiment with independent work time and collaborative work throughout the day. You don’t feel like you have to buy coffee every hour to sit there, and it’s a cozy environment. The format is meeting four times, and we’re going to cap the group at 8 people so it stays relatively intimate. And we’re going to have a mix of work and mindfulness.
For example, starting out the day with meditation and breathing, and setting priorities and goals for the workday. There will be a two hour break to do your own work, and then come together for lunch to talk and share our lessons and problems. That way everyone can get feedback. Then we’ll all break again for more independent work, and come together at the end of the day to check in and give notes for the next week’s gathering. And finally, there will be an option to take a yoga class downstairs. So that’s what we’re going to put forth– and we’ll see how people take to it.
The pricing is $300 for four meetings. So that’s $75 for a guided meditation, lunch, yoga, and the talks in between independent work time. And to be clear, the group involves accountability. If someone can’t make it one week, they don’t get a refund– because everyone in the group is signing on for all four weeks. It’s not a drop-in situation.
We’re starting with Tuesday, and then we’ll roll out more depending on the demand.
Why do you think it’s important for women to have a place to gather and do work together?
Well, all of our events are for everyone– unless otherwise specified by the instructor. But we’re really engaging women instructors and hosts, and we want to give them space to do their thing. In addition, we want to uphold and celebrate traditional female values. There’s clearly an uptick in the amount of groups for women. And a lot of them have overlap– people typically are members of more than one. There’s just a type of person who’s into going to events that help you learn and meet new people. And it’s a lot of women.
I actually did a study, just with friends and coworkers, and asked if they’d mind if a man was part of the Co:Lab groups. And resoundingly, I got a yes. He would change the dynamic, even if he was super great and very aware.
Women haven’t been given the same opportunities, in comparison to men. A lot of women are going freelance because they just don’t want to be in the corporate environment anymore. A lot of companies in finance and tech are basing their performance reviews of very traditionally male qualities. And people are tired of it. We’re not a ten on the political activism scale, but we just want to give women more of a space and a voice than they’re afforded. We want to recognize that there’s some sort of imbalance, and make some sort of conscious effort to tip it.
In a year from now, what are your hopes for New Women Space?
In a year, we want a really robust and full calendar of programming. It’d also be great to have an extra employee or intern to help with events, to help us scale. Because our vision is big. We want to make great partnerships, and we eventually want to have a creative arm. So many women who come to us are great at one skill, but need help with marketing themselves.
One way to empower women is to give them space. Another way to think about space is to give them a platform to speak, and to amplify their voice. In a business sense, one way that people can do that is through marketing. It would be awesome to work with clients in terms of logo, brand assets, and event consultation.
We also feel strongly about having community events that are ten dollars or less, and having women showcase their work in the space. But ultimately, we’re not trying to scale too quickly. To really have a feeling of community, you can’t get too big. We’re not here to be a viral startup. We’re here to be a community space. If within a year, I see people start recognizing each other in the space and at events, that would be success to me.
What’s some advice that you have about community building for people who run coworking spaces?
When companies start with their core group of founders, their brand’s culture is organic. But then when they reach a certain point, palpable culture is when a new person comes onto the team and is able to glean pretty quickly what the company is about. So I have a little bit of an issue when companies have a “culture handbook.” Culture is a vibe, and a palpable feeling that you can’t force. It’s very much a product of the people that are in your space. But you shouldn’t try and force people to act a certain way.
Ask your workers what they want in the space. Actually get feedback, and then host some events that are catered towards it. And design the space in a way that responds to that feedback. If you’re really membership focused, you should have your members’ interests at heart.