While the march towards gender parity in the business world slowly progresses, a new trend has taken hold in cities across the country: a rise in women-only workspaces.
Though there have been a few call-outs from men claiming gender discrimination, advocates say that traditional co-working spaces are inherently biased towards men’s needs, offer a skewed membership base, and may not provide the amenities and environment that will help women in business succeed.
Martine Resnick, a 15-year corporate executive and mother of two, had experienced the lack of women-specific resources herself.
Meanwhile, her friend Eileen Lee was encountering the same in the startup world — the entrepreneur was part of the founding team at Venture for America and “worked myself to the ground starting my last company and put starting a family on hold.”
“This combined with the political climate… triggered a desire to create a network of inspiring women plus the tools to better support and empower us,” Resnick tells Hypepotamus.
Resnick and Lee, both Atlanta residents, set out to find out what businesswomen in their city needed to feel supported in their career. Beginning last summer, the duo has hosted over 50 events as “The Lola”, a community of women engaged in sharing resources, attending skill-building and wellness workshops, networking, and even organizing for political activity.
Their convening spot has been the Clermont Hotel, the recently-renovated hotel above the iconic Clermont Lounge. The nouveau classic space reflected the spirit of what Resnick and Lee sought to create — an “old boys’ club for women.”
After almost a year of hosting at the Clermont, The Lola team has acquired their own space, 3,500+ square feet in the Southern Dairies development in Old Fourth Ward.
Resnick and Lee have now begun to simultaneously build out the space as well as open a ‘Founding Members’ drive to solidify the base of the club, set to open this summer.
Several of the national women-only co-working spaces are also seeing opportunity in the Atlanta market. The Riveter, based in Seattle, and Hera Hub, founded in California, are both “coming soon” to Atlanta.
But The Lola ladies say they set themselves apart with their determination to shape the venture and space with direct input from their community. They have approached that with deep intentionality — meeting with and interviewing over 1,000 women while hosting events.
They’ve already signed up 75 Founding Members, a designation that will be open to 200 women (the O4W club will eventually host 800-1000 general members). Women must apply for membership and be approved by the team.
“We are looking for connectors, supporters and collaborators, those who want to be part of a strong community of women who help raise each other up,” Resnick says. The average member is 35-55 years old and many are entrepreneurs, freelancers, consultants, or in mid-career gaps.
The space itself is designed to reflect the needs of members. It will contain shared work spaces, rooms that can be reserved for private meetings, phone booths, quiet zones, a lactation room, and a coffee bar and lounge. Mail and laundry services are available to members.
Though programming will be flexible based on members’ asks, Resnick and Lee have some specifics in mind. Professional development programming will focus on soft skills development — leadership, emotional intelligence, building confidence — as well as coaching, mentoring, and group accountability workshops.
The Lola will also offer health and wellness-focused programming, such as the rooftop yoga and meditation classes the team has been hosting at The Clermont Hotel’s rooftop over the past months. Inspirational speakers, social events, and topic-specific groups will round out the mix.
Lastly, the team has crafted an amenities list to ensure members have everything they need for their day: the club will offer healthy light breakfast, lunch and snack food, coffee, and cocktails.
“We also aim to take some of the pain out of everyday life. We know our members are busy and stretched for time,” says Resnick.
While The Lola team bootstrapped operations for the first year, they have since raised equity-based funding. Once they get the first club opened, they intend to raise additional funding for expansion, planning two more locations in Atlanta and then to reach across the Southeast.
Interested women can find out more and apply for The Lola’s Founding Membership here.