Biologically, women are wired differently than men. Those that speak on the subject portray women as nurturing, more emotionally inclined, and more able to multi task. There are still women who take on traditional female roles; secretaries, receptionists, nurses, or stay at home moms. The female CEO’s or any other higher up positions tend to be labeled as “alpha females.” In the coworking world especially, we’d like to think that there is gender equality, but is that really the case?
Traditionally in society, what’s embedded in women is the idea that they need to be approached and taken care of. This is seen in dating, in family life, and at times even in the workplace. Therefore, it’s no surprise that there would be less female entrepreneurs than male. In an interview with Melissa Kim, founder of Haus of Maven in Hawaii, she explains that while working at the few coworking spaces Hawaii had to offer, she felt a masculine presence. She previously worked for a PR agency, which consisted of predominantly women, and she describes them as nice, supportive, and inspiring. Her motive behind creating Haus of Maven was to close the gap and barrier for women.
Interestingly enough, while researching this topic, nothing came up when searching why coworking consists of predominantly males. When searching for women in coworking, only the “all women” or “female focused” coworking spaces came about. In Iris Kavanagh‘s interview with Felena Hanson, she points out that coworking spaces tend to have very few women. I can certainly attest to that, as a community manager for a coworking space, I am one of three females in our office. Felena, founder of Hera Hub, created a female-focused coworking space. It is not exclusive, and she does have a few male members. She is providing a community that is pro-women, and an opportunity for members to be open and vulnerable, and not feel like you should know something that you are not knowledgeable on. In an article from Twin Cities Business from 2014, they list how CoCo Coworking were attempting to boost female membership from 35% to 50%, but they do not provide reasons why. Perhaps because the article was written by a male (half kidding).
Are exclusively female spaces and female-focused spaces necessary? Absolutely. Unfortunately, sexism does still exist. There was a worldwide march in January to prove it. Sallie Krawcheck expresses her frustration in a November 2016 article for the Business Insider. She provides an example of a meeting with a board of a non-profit she was a part of. She brought up a topic and it was brushed off, but when a male brought up the same topic, only then was it acknowledged. She also explains it is more affordable today to create your own business. Not only are female-focused coworking spaces empowering and inspiring women, but they also give women the comfort of being in their element. Men can be less collaborative than women, and a bit messier. I have trained myself to not get upset nor surprised when I find myself washing dishes, kicking down the toilet seat, or replacing our restroom key because someone pocketed it and took it home.
This all has nothing to do with being against men or women. We are simply made this way! In Psychology Today, male brains are described as having more “gray matter” for activity, and females utilize more “white matter.” Gray matter areas are localized, and it is seen when men go into tunnel vision while working on something. White matter is the connector between gray matter and other processing centers, which is why women may be described as too emotional or illogical, but are great at multitasking. Women also tend to have verbal centers on both sides of the brain, whereas men tend to have verbal centers only on the left hemisphere. This explains why women use more words when describing something or telling a story. These combined explain why women tend to enjoy collaborating and sharing ideas more than men do.
Female-focused coworking spaces are a great way to build up women who are less open, and need the support to move forth. I do however, think it is important for those same women to go out into a co-ed coworking space for growth. Nothing ever grows from a comfort zone! Both genders need to be more understanding and aware of our differences, and use them to learn from each other. Although society has taught us otherwise, women, do not be afraid to dominate, and men, don’t be afraid to learn from women. Balance is definitely key.
By Dani Carrillo