In the past few years co-working spaces have become a big hit, especially for small business owners, freelancers and entrepreneurs. Any creative working in the UK will know that hiring private space can be expensive, working from home can be isolating and that planting yourself in an environment where there isn’t room to grow, or at the very least be yourself, can undermine your process and your goals.
Today, co-working spaces are a normal and viable option for many people and are talked up by single workers and business owners all over the world due to the supportive, collaborative and more sustainable nature of each space compared with more traditional rented spaces.
I’ve parked at plenty of co-working pop-ups and areas; from dingy ‘upcycled’ corporate spaces where I’d be expected to take a break from interning to clean the toilet ‘for the greater good’, to inspiring open-plan lofts filled with amazing makers in the heart of London. I currently have the great privilege of working at Google Campus for startups.
Why female-centric spaces?
Today the very idea of these spaces is something run-of-the-mill and now that we mostly know what to expect from them, we’ve begun to see them evolve, shifting to better serve the people using them. One example of this change is a focus by some on exclusively supporting particular groups of creatives and entrepreneurs, for example solo workers, young people or women. I sat down with Lola Hoad, the Founder of One Girl Band and the One Girl Band space in Brighton, to get an idea of how the creative community in the UK can benefit from using these more focused spaces, what they bring to the table and what the One Girl Band space offers.
She says, ‘The main purpose for these sort of spaces is to give women an opportunity to access a safe and comfortable environment; to get away from ‘office banter’, and to be surrounded by like-minded individuals who just get it. It’s definitely not about banning men or making sure that guys never enter the space, it’s about having a space for the magic that only happens when you get together with relatable women. We’re all about community over competition.’
The value of women’s coworking spaces
Lola’s OGB space in Brighton acts as a safe base for female entrepreneurs whose businesses are creatively led. The building essentially acts as a tangible and burgeoning extension of her online support group and mentorship business One Girl Band.
Lola began her career as a designer and soon became a small business owner, creating hand-lettered paper goods and hosting workshops around the UK. Having faced a number of challenges along the way, she decided to share her insights and offer advice to women in similar situations, growing an open network and soon becoming a working mentor. Many of the issues she has faced herself are addressed in the way she runs the OGB space.
‘It’s for women who are tired of working from home and alone, and crave some interaction from someone other than postal workers. It’s for freelancers, designers, writers, developers, start ups, basically anyone who can work remotely.’ Lola says,
‘As well as desk space we have our OGB monthly meet ups and Expertise Sessions there, as well as workshops and events hosted by other female movers and shakers. It’s a lovely creative atmosphere, with a pretty powerful energy running through it.’
What are the benefits of a women-only space?
Many working women, Lola included, agree that social interaction, being able to relate to those around you and feel supported is key to developing confidence and working productively. Women working in the creative industries by no means experience identical challenges each and every day, however, being part of a team that will offer advice without judgement and help or encouragement if you ask for it is deeply valuable.
‘I felt that Brighton needed a dedicated home for female-identifying creatives to feel comfortable, supported and empowered. They needed a chance to move their businesses out of their homes to a place that was reasonably priced, and didn’t take all of their income’ says Lola.
‘They needed the opportunity to meet women just like them, to see that others are in the same boat. Most importantly, I think working women deserve to create the life that they desire, and they deserve to do that in a calm environment with a sense of unity, support, safety and community.’
The best women’s co-working spaces
Of course, London has a few of these spaces to offer, most notably The AllBright, The Hearth and The Wing. The AllBright, of which I’ve enjoyed the pleasure of being an honorary member is the full package – bright, airy townhouses bedecked with artwork by female creatives, event spaces, open plan office space, fitness studios, restaurants, bars and a salon and spa. It’s undoubtedly one of my favourite places to hang out in London, not least because it’s full of cool women and you’re likely to pass your heroes on the stairs at any given time.
In the most simplistic terms, spaces like the One Girl Band co-working space and The AllBright clubs offer an opportunity to feel comfortable, valued and encouraged by people who understand the biases, microagressions, distractions and challenges stacked against working women. Of course, this atmosphere is something that all co-working venues attempt to provide, however, there’s no one size fits all and the female-centric model clearly works for many women.
Different people work differently and we all respond to varied environments. If working with like-minded women each day to create something you’re passionate about works for you and pushes you forward, it’s absolutely worth making use of spots like these and what they offer.