In a world so androcentric, The Wing exists as a feminist utopia and organization whose mission is to connect “a growing community of women across the country and globe, gathering together to work, connect, and thrive.” It provides a range of services, like child care, temperatures set for women’s bodies, a women-focused lending library, conference rooms, showers, a calendar of events ranging from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to feminst icon Gloria Steinem to actress Kerry Washington, pump rooms, chairs ergonomically designed for a range of women’s bodies, podcast studios and a café.
And the female-oriented work and community space just got better.
The Wing recently announced an online networking platform for members. One of the most important aspects of the platform is a LinkedIn-like job board where members can post and hire for jobs, as well as post their own resumes and availability for freelance projects. Members can also message each other and connect online.
With their online expansion, The Wing is broadening their feminist work into online spaces beyond their physical spaces in cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Washington, D.C. and London.
In a time when fourth-wave feminist ideals finally started to hit mainstream America in the #MeToo Movement but ultimately ended in the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was credibly accused of sexual assault, the work The Wing is doing is critically important.
Audrey Gelman, one of the co-founders of The Wing, recently told Kara Swisher of the “Recode Decode” podcast, “(The company is) about building a community … (Our members) use it as a place, as a community, as a network, as a place to meet people.”
Gelman also noted how The Wing was developed in the fashion of women’s clubs in the early 20th century. “We were very inspired to create something that was obviously more modern and progressive and diverse, but that had some of the spirit of those clubs,” she said. While some have pushed back on the company for centering women, The Wing’s website states, “The Wing is a diverse community open to all.” And if men were to enter the premises, in Gelman’s words, “No, we don’t taze them or anything.”
Additionally, Gelman discussed how their new online jobs network eliminates some of the bias that hinders women on broader platforms like LinkedIn. “Women are less likely to apply for jobs if they don’t have exactly the number of years of experience, so we coach people about the right way to post jobs to discourage that and to encourage people who may have untraditional backgrounds, etc., to apply,” she said. “And just, obviously, making sure that we’re building in safety and moderation from the very beginning, rather than having to add it after a scandal.” Gelman went on to tell Swisher the company does not receive profit from their new online platform as it is just another tool to improve women’s lives.
The title page of The Wing’s website brands itself as “advancing women by gathering them together.” In many ways this is true, but The Wing is doing so much more. It is giving their members the tools to hire from — and be hired by — an incredible community of women for jobs that may have fallen victim to gender bias on other job-posting sites.
In doing so, The Wing is engaging in the actual work of feminism. They are helping women promote each other in the workplace in order to disrupt the “old boys club” that has allowed men to maintain their systematic dominance for so long.
This work continues to be desperately needed. In early September, Forbes released their list of the 100 most innovative leaders. It included just one woman, Ross Stores CEO Barbara Rentler, whose picture they did not even bother to include. In fact, there were more men named Stanley (and Michael and Mark and John and David and Jeffrey and Robert and Brian separately) than women on this list. And while Forbes could have included innovators like Susan Wojcicki, Indra Nooyi, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Hyman or The Wing co-founder Audrey Gelman herself, it is true that women lead just 5.4 percent of S&P 500 companies — just 0.4 percent of which are women of color. The Wing’s platform enables women to uplift and amplify other women, which is a step in the right direction for improving these disparities.
In the past, I have been critical of sorority-like feminism found in Instagram posts and T-shirts emblazoned with feminist mantras like “The Future is Female.” Too often, this type of feminism does not include any work, as poet bell hooks says, to “end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression.” It stops short of work and settles for individual feel-good actions that do nothing to actually dismantle funadmentally white supremacist and patriarchal systems of oppression.
But I applaud The Wing for its efforts to create spaces for women to thrive and uplift each other by taking, as Gelman says, “iterative steps forward to make life easier for women.” The word “empowerment” is tossed around so much that is has almost lost all meaning, but in this case, The Wing is truly empowering women in significant, structural ways.
Marisa Wright can be reached at email@example.com.