When co-working spaces offer alternatives, women are empowered

By Zubedah Robinson

© Estelle Claire Ebitty-Doro/World Bank

No woman should have to choose between starting a family and having a job.

Why is it then highly trained professional women who have children, leave the workforce at some stage of their career? In addition to the lack of adequate childcare, I am starting to think that lack of enough conducive working spaces around the world may be partly the reason too.
But a new booming industry is changing the way women think of realizing their potential and achieving their dreams.

What are co-working spaces?

Co-working is a style of work that involves a shared workplace, often an office, and independent activity. Unlike in a typical office, those co-working are usually not employed by the same organization. Typically, it is attractive to work-at-home professionals, independent contractors, independent scientists or people who travel frequently who end up working in relative isolation.
Today, the booming co-working industry is now tailoring itself for women by offering workspaces with female-focused networking and career seminars, according to the Washington Post. Increasingly, these workspaces, as well as those that cater to all working parents, are also offering child care, a service still lacking in many workplaces.
Spa-Like environment
Take for example Hera Hub DC, a co-working space in Washington DC, where entrepreneurial women meet to create and collaborate in a professional, productive, spa-like (that’s right, spa-like!) environment.

© Estelle Claire Ebitty-Doro/World Bank

It is there where women business owners launch, grow and scale their businesses. They also support each other through “GURU” programs, business booster series and other member events.

“Women frequently find that working alongside other professional women not only helps them be more productive, but the expanded network and resources available also help them grow their businesses at a much faster rate than if they were not part of a supportive community,” said Julia Westfall, CEO of Hera Hub.
One such community member I met is Deborah Owens, a wealth ‘Guru’ who works with women to help them understand their own strength and skills and align them with their values.

“A woman is the Chief Finance Officer of a household,” Owens told me in full confidence.

Pushing the breaks no more

Children entertained by Play Work Dash staff. Parents use this co-working space to do some work while having their children play at the space’s children area. © Play Work Dash

Because women are more likely than men to bear childcare responsibilities, lack of childcare is a major barrier to women’s full and equal participation in paid work, according to a recent report published by the International Finance Corporation (IFC).
“Working and motherhood are not mutually exclusive,” said Nicole Dash, owner of Play Work Dash. Her Washington DC-based co-working space offers a professional space for parents to work with a flexible part-time child care solution conveniently located onsite.

“Mothers of young children do not have to push the brakes on their careers or withdraw completely from their field because of their choice to have and care for their children,” Dash said.

Based on that idea, she founded an environment where there is a balance between caring for children and continuing to work and create income for women and their families.
A great example, she referred to, is Rachel Kraft who started off using the space as a way to get a break from being home with her child. As she worked here among other mothers, she felt inspired to start her own virtual assistant business. Today, Kraft has a much larger membership, and is growing her business and is making money for her family.
Time is now
I am a working mother and I add my voice to the voice of millions who say the time is now to empower women everywhere around the globe, and celebrate those who are working hard to claim women’s rights and realize their full potential.