If you can tell a lot about a company by the design of its workspace, then what does it mean when a workspace seems like it is designed mostly for men? This is an issue that has been around for years. From women finding workplace temperatures too chilly to an overall lack of adequate breastfeeding areas, too many offices are riddled with both subtle and glaring oversights. Add the lack of pay equity, male-dominated office attitudes, and sexual harassment to the equation, and you can start to see just how difficult it is for women to succeed in these environments.
The Wing, a new set of co-working and community spaces designed by and for women, is meant to be a place where women can soar. With three locations in New York and one in Washington D.C., an increasing number of professional women are becoming members of The Wing to work, relax between meetings, make lasting connections, and support each other in life.
This concept is not as radical as it may seem to some. Hundreds of similar women’s clubs have existed since the late 19th and early 20th centuries. What differentiates the Wing from those other groups is the way it strives to attract women from all backgrounds, cultures, and classes. Each one of the Wing’s locations is considered a “no man’s land,” which is also the name of its magazine, and all of them are in such high demand that there will soon be female-oriented co-working spaces available in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, London, and Toronto.
The original workspace is located in New York’s Flatiron District, in a neighborhood where many women’s social clubs of yesteryear got started. The pale and pink pastel interiors, designed by Chiara de Rege, are comprised of a library, a conference room, comfortable booths for private phone calls, open work areas, rooms for lactation, and bathrooms complete with showers.
As popular as the open plan has become in many workspaces, some women feel uncomfortable in offices where there is no privacy and all of the walls are made of glass. The Wing keeps open plans in some areas, but it also offers smaller, more dignified and intimate spaces for women to change between work and leisure times, or to prepare for the next big meeting.
Each location has a distinct style relative to its context, even as certain elements remain constant. Suede furniture with gold trim, custom wall coverings adorned with the images of famous women, and round-edge objects are common themes. The suffrage-inspired brand identity was created by a team of all-female designers from Pentagram, adding an uplifting and intelligent feel to every one of the Wing’s office spaces.
Without being stereotypical and relying on the tropes that most people associate with “feminine” spaces, the design of each Wing location relies on four key aspects. “Being feminine is not what The Wing is about and it’s not what the design is about either,” said Emily Oberman, one of the brand designers and partners from Pentagram, in a recent interview. “The design is about strength and language and humor and diversity.”
All of these considerate and compassionate comforts may seem insignificant to some men, but to women they make a really big difference. Nevertheless, each one of the Wing’s office spaces is designed with a subtle connection to the history of professional women (both great and small), all the while remaining creative, modern, and no doubt set at just the right temperature.