By IVANNE POUSSIER
Ivanne Poussier (she/her) is CEO & Co-Founder of Ada Coworking (in progress in Poissy, France), author of Sisters in arms, women in search of inclusive coworking spaces (Nov. 2020).
In Europe, the grassroots movement of women-focused coworking spaces is relatively young and my recent investigation across Europe depicts this phenomenon on the eve of the Covid-19 pandemic, with a snapshot of the landscape as of March 2020.
Resulting from 6 months of field research in the heart of 30 coworking spaces created by and for women across 22 cities and 13 countries, my book sheds light on the new places and ways of working that respond to the specific challenges of entrepreneurship and freelancing for women. I also base my analysis on academic papers that I have read during countless hours spent in trains, buses, planes and backpackers hostels.
To give you a sense of what it is about, here are some of the facts and ideas that you can glean from Sisters in arms, women in search of inclusive coworking spaces.
Landscape. The sudden rise of women-focused coworking spaces coincided with the #MeToo movement of 2017 which massively denounced sexual and sexist violence against women. We estimate that there are about 50 women-focused coworking spaces across the continent, whether they are shared offices or workshops, coworking spaces with babycare or childcare, feminist coworking spaces, women-only social clubs. The variety of concepts makes it possible to identify at least 6 different models. In spite of the impact of Covid-19, we believe that women-focused coworking spaces will remain a fundamental trend for the decade 2020, the most recent one having opened last summer in Brussels.
Map. The epicenter of this phenomenon is located between London, Berlin, Zurich and Paris. The smallest women-focused coworking space in Europe is French and is just 30sqm (the biggest 600sqm) and even if the majority are located in metropolises, you can find a rural example in the city of Totnes in the South-West of England (10.000 inhabitants). A coworking community can also thrive without walls, as in the case of Women Co in Dublin, organizing itinerant meetings at (mixed) partner coworking spaces, alternating with virtual coworking sessions.
Colors. When members are asked what color they would like to see on the wall,
pink is far from a consensual choice. And when you discuss with founders and owners of such coworking spaces, some reclaim pink only to convey a message of empowerment, asserting their own definition of feminism.
Frustrations. Women are on average less satisfied than men with both their usual workplace and alternative third places. The proportion of women is 40% among coworkers and 38% among leaders of coworking spaces (owners or founders). The main reproaches formulated against male coworkers point to rather trivial habits and incivilities. You know what I am talking about, right? If not, read the book or come and let’s discuss it on Linkedin 😉
Motherhood, parenthood and “mannies”. Rehabilitating women on their return to the labor market after maternity leave: this is the mission of the sisters Panni and Kata Klementz in Budapest with Loffice and its foundation Coworkid. Through its recruitment, the London coworking with babycare Cuckooznest also advocates for the revaluation of the nanny profession, through three levers: qualification, remuneration and masculinization. Indeed, “mannies” offer children male role models associated with care.
Diversity. In 30% of the spaces of our sample, the CEO, or at least one member of the management team is of foreign nationality. They come from a variety of backgrounds and bring versatile talents: none of them used to work in the same profession before.
Sustainability. In our view, the quest for a sustainable women-focused coworking model will be played out on two main fronts. First, the community front, which will be about creating, developing and maintaining customer loyalty over the long term. Second, the financial front, which is based on an effective diversification of activities and ultra rigorous management.
Pioneer academic research. It was in Milan that a pioneering academic team, the Research group on Workplace Management and Gender at Politecnico di Milano, addressed for the first time the issue of gender in the workplace with an interdisciplinary approach. It took me months before discovering their work and becoming familiar with projects such as the Research Group Collaborative Spaces (RGCS, in which this very team is very active) and of course the Coworking Library. After having talked to several women researchers, whether they be from Italy, France or from Belgium, I think it is now time to shed more light on academic research led by women as well. This is why I joined the team of the Coworking Library to contribute to the Challenge scheduled for mid-December. I’ll be happy to e-meet you there.
Will you dare to join the movement?
Find Ivanne’s book in the Coworking Library here:
English: Sister in arms: Women in search of inclusive coworking spaces
French: Soeurs d’armes: Des femmes en quête d’espaces de coworking d’un genre nouveau
We will soon share more information about the Coworking Library Challenge. If you are interested in our crowdsourced online event alongside the RGCS Symposium, join our discord server now and find some more info here in the meantime.