Coworking Dynamos: Women Who Cowork

We chat with the two inspiring women behind this global empowerment movement.

Welcome to our brand new #CoworkingDynamos series, in which we uncover and highlight the unsung efforts being made by individuals or organisations to empower, enhance or enrich the coworking ecosystem.

Even though we all know we shouldn’t only appreciate women (and their profound contributions, inspirations and impact) on just one particular day of the year; we couldn’t miss the opportunity of launching the series with a Q&A with the duo behind Women Who Cowork, on International Women’s Day.

As supporters of their cause, their members and the impact they have on entrepreneurial ecosystems around the world; we’re excited to share their stories and plans with the world.

Without any further rambling, here’s what they had to say during our chat earlier this week:


Let’s start at the beginning, what’s each of your ‘coworking stories’?

includedco included.co@includedco

I started in the coworking world as the business and accounts manager for a boutique design firm located in my city. The coworking space was my client and we developed the branding prior to launch. In addition, my design firm was part of a handful of companies that were located in my city and working in “tech”.

There was a renaissance happening in my city with this handful of companies being the standouts, and while we had a community (loosely titled the Santa Cruz Geeks) and met regularly, we had no home. NextSpace was born out of this need and became the home while most of those companies became the founding members.

I left the design firm and became a member because I wanted to be a part of NextSpace, as I could tell it was something special, but I had no idea there were people around the world creating this concept at the same time. Once I realized exactly what we were up to, I quickly likened it to the hippie values I had been raised with, which brought consensus-based business collectives, cooperatives and community fairs and community centers to the American economy.

I was invited to build the founding team running the space and from there discovered that I had found my place, so to speak. From then to now I have celebrated the awesome power coworking has to unite communities, develop sustainable economies and provide alternative solutions to complex problems, such as the effects of commuting long distances on climate change and the loneliness epidemic.

iriskavanagh Iris Kavanagh@iriskavanagh


Coworking found me. In 2008, I was a single mom, working full time as a trauma therapist at a local non-profit in Austin, TX, dreaming of creating a space that provided affordable professional office space for my therapy practice, large studio spaces for yoga and wellness classes (for an easy commute to self-care), spacious community areas for connection and events, and onsite childcare.

I thought it was a wild and almost impossible dream, but then I read about this emerging movement, called “coworking”, in the New York Times, and it provided the final drop of inspiration to start building my “work life balance center”. I integrated business principles from the traditional wellness center and co-op models and pulled it all together with the structure and values of the coworking movement.

And, in building a model to meet my own needs for work life integration, I built a community of belonging for the health and wellness entrepreneurs in my local city. I had no idea where coworking would lead me, but it has pulled me into the current of a powerful movement, sweeping the world, creating a future of work centered on health and well-being, connected community and innovative solutions for changing the world.

LShookGuzman Laura Shook@LShookGuzman


In 2017, you partnered up to launch Women Who Cowork. Why then? Why coworking? Why you?

includedco included.co@includedco


The inspiration for WWCO came in 2016, just prior to International Coworking Day on August 9th. I began to look around to find other women who were launching and operating coworking spaces as I often didn’t see their faces or hear their stories in the press and media outlets, yet, I knew that most of the major milestones, within the coworking movement, where being made by women. I put a call out to the Coworking Google group, that I was writing a blog about women in the movement and putting together a list of women-owned spaces and the responses starting flooding in.

At that time, Iris reached out to me to interview me on her podcast, Coworking with Iris, about this project and my vision for the future of women in our industry. We immediately recognized that we both shared a strong desire to support and amplify the work women were doing to revolutionize the way we work through the coworking platform. The rest is herstory.

LShookGuzman Laura Shook@LShookGuzman


We partnered in 2017 because, as Laura mentioned, when we met during my 2016 interview with Laura about her idea of Women Who Cowork, we realized how parallel our life paths had been and that we had similar goals and values. We decided during that interview that we wanted to work together and those goals and values became the foundation of the way we work, gather and lead Women Who Cowork.

Why coworking? Well, we were both passionate about coworking, Laura was running her space- She’s the first person to open a coworking space in the state of Texas and opened the very first wellness based coworking space on the planet. And I was consulting and very interested in how coworking could be used as a way to bring equality to underserved communities.

Why you? – I think because we hit it off so well with respect to our values and life experiences. And, as females ourselves, we both knew that the women of the movement need to feel welcomed and acknowledged for the work they have put into the coworking movement and no one else was doing so. In fact, when you looked through all of the timelines and history of coworking, there were almost no women mentioned! We knew what the unique needs women have when starting and running a business are, and while there is a myriad of women’s entrepreneurship resources and groups, none of them are focused on, or frankly understand the complex coworking business model.

iriskavanagh Iris Kavanagh@iriskavanagh


Right now, what are the main activities of Women Who Cowork? Who can join in? And who can’t?

includedco included.co@includedco


The main activities are currently a series of events which include multi-day retreats focused on well being and business skills for female coworking entrepreneurs as well as regional meetups.

We also currently have a Facebook group with about 650 femme-identified coworking owners, operators and professionals who share ideas and best practices, along with lifting each other up through our supportive ethos.

We are currently able to support femme-identified coworking owners, operators and professionals. We are not currently able to support individual coworking space members, though we plan to have an offering for them in the future. We also do not support a co-ed model at present, as this does not align with the needs of our members.

womenwhocowork Women Who Cowork@womenwhocowork


But you have big plans don’t you? What’s next for WWCO?

includedco included.co@includedco


We do! We believe that coworking is the first business segment that has the opportunity to support gender parity at the leadership level from inception. Women tend to reinvest 90% of their earnings back into their local economy, while men invest around 40% back. We want to amplify the women who are doing important economic development in their communities in every way we can.

We are thrilled to be working with the Included team to build a platform for our women to connect, share resources and support each other. In addition, the platform will provide listings of female-owned coworking spaces and will provide founder profiles so that we can highlight the women behind the movement who are doing big work in their respective communities.

Our long term goal is to be a conduit for financial resources, allowing femme-identified people to access the kind of capital needed when they are starting their businesses.

womenwhocowork Women Who Cowork@womenwhocowork


Where can people find you to get more information about the impactful work you’re doing?

includedco included.co@includedco


We can be found at womenwhocowork.com, sign up there for our newsletter. You can email us at welcome -at- womenwhocowork.com and you can find us by name on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook!

womenwhocowork Women Who Cowork@womenwhocowork

Editor’s Note: You an also find Laura, Iris and WomenWhoCowork quickly on twitter by clicking on their twitter name below their answers.
About the Author

Hector

Hector

Passionate about connecting entrepreneurial communities, so that amazing people can take their businesses from anywhere to everywhere.