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Why Wing Awakened A Failed Female Co-Work Space: ‘Very Toxic’

When Danielle Alvarez returned to the SoHo wing last summer, she saw writing on a chic, perfectly lit mint green wall.

“I walked into the space and was shocked at how dead it was…it was always very busy. I couldn’t get a seat,” the 33-year-old told Wing in 2018. I eagerly paid an entrance fee of about $3,000 to attend.

Alvarez, founder and CEO of media agency Bonita Project, said, “From the expansion, it was shocking to see that there was no one in the space during working hours that afternoon.

It became a phenomenon when it opened in Flatiron in 2016 as a pioneering women-only coworking space. Founders Audrey Gelman and Lauren Kassan have raised over $100 million for her from investors like WeWork and Airbnb. At its peak, there were 11 of her stores in New York, Los Angeles, Boston, and Chicago, with a waiting list of 9,000 plus stars like Jennifer Lopez and Meryl Streep in her power. Scott Stringer’s media-savvy former press secretary, Gelman is also known as a childhood best friend with ‘Girls’ creator Lena Dunham and ex-girlfriend of fashion photographer Terry Richardson. She became a celebrity in her own right. In 2019, at the tender age of 31, she graced the cover of her Inc., making her the first woman to appear pregnant on the cover of a magazine.

Danielle Alvarez was a member of The Wing from 2018-2020.
Danielle Alvarez was a former member of The Wing from 2018-2020.
Courtesy of Alvarez
Wing members gather for an event with Jennifer Lawrence in the company's Soho.
Wing members gather for an event with Jennifer Lawrence in the company’s Soho.
Getty Images for Tsubasa

But the following year, things took a turn for the worse. In June 2020, Gelman resigned after her employees protested her leadership and claimed she abused black and brown staff. It was the beginning of the end. Earlier this week, Wing members received an email announcing that the club’s six remaining locations would be closed due to “increasing global economic challenges” and “background of the Covid pandemic”. The news didn’t come as a surprise to former members of

“It was a gossipy and very toxic environment for my team,” said Kanessa Tixe, Wing member and founder of marketing and PR entertainment firm TS Collective in 2018. “It was all a PR machine.” You can hire black, Spanish, and white women as you please, but if you don’t build the culture properly, it will fall apart.

The club’s strict rules of $185 to $200 per month didn’t always facilitate #GirlBoss’ success, especially for those who use it daily as a coworking space.

In 2019, at the young age of 31, Gelman graced the cover of INC Magazine, becoming the first woman to appear pregnant on the cover of a business magazine.
In 2019, at the young age of 31, Gelman graced the cover of INC Magazine, becoming the first woman to appear pregnant on the cover of a business magazine.
Magazine Co., Ltd.

“I was frustrated because I wasn’t allowed to take food outside. I couldn’t even bring my own lunch when I was working eight hours a day. It was ridiculous.

“As one of my managers, I remember saying things like, ‘Why are you making me buy food every day?’ Of course, men were not allowed for a long time. It was a bit awkward because one of our clients was a man and we couldn’t even host a meeting there,” she continued, adding that the community felt “elitist.”

Tixe said he felt nervous from employees who were frequently told to keep their voices down during phone calls and meetings in office spaces. She eventually said she had offended one of her employees for using the term “home girl” in a lighthearted and friendly context, after a staff member said she I was asked to give up my membership.

Gelman and former Secretary of State and former First Lady Hillary Clinton in Soho at The Wing.
Gelman and Hillary Clinton at The Wing’s Soho store.
Angela Pham/BFA.com

Additionally, some believe Wing never recovered from the 2020 scandal that led to Gelman’s downfall.

“After everything went down in 2020, I wasn’t in the mood to renew,” said Alvarez, now based in Bushwick.

Stacey Stewart, 33, a Gramercy software engineer, fondly recalls her experience at the Wings, noting that she’s never seen cheating at the Flatiron location. Still, her report unnerved her.

Inside the Wing.
Earlier this week, members received an email announcing that the club’s remaining six locations would be closed due to “increasing global economic challenges” and “background of the Covid pandemic”.
HOTOS by BILYANA DIMITROVA.

“I think the allegations were terrible, especially for a place that really preached things like inclusivity and workplace progress,” she said.

But she adds that Gelman may have been unfairly targeted. “In general, women-led companies are more under the microscope, especially where they preach inclusivity,” she explained.

Another recent turnoff was a lackluster event roster that fell short of Wing’s pre-pandemic standards.

“For me, it’s always been a networking organization, not a co-working organization,” said Stewart, who joined in 2018 looking to meet other women in a male-dominated industry. From “summer camps” in the Adirondack to Instagram-frequented talks featuring famous authors like Lori Gottlieb talking about one of her favorite books, “Maybe You Should Talk to someone,” the organization I enjoyed the rich lineup of extracurricular activities. ”

A Gramercy-based software engineer, 33-year-old Stacey Stewart quit her Wing membership in 2020 when she felt event rosters and networking opportunities weren't as good as they were before the pandemic.
Gramercy-based software engineer Stacey Stewart, 33, canceled her Wing membership in 2020 because she felt the event roster and networking opportunities weren’t as good as they were pre-pandemic.
Courtesy of Stewart

However, Stewart did not renew his membership after seeing the 2021 Wings roster not looking as exciting as it once did.

With the Wing’s closure announced, many are realizing that what they’ll be missing out on is neither an educational story nor perhaps a supportive community.From an armchair designed by Hans Wegner The carefully curated furnishings, down to the green velvet conversation pit, are something people lament and even contact the company about buying parts. I set up a shop.

“With all the glamour, the glitz, the gorgeous furnishings, that was the real perk,” Alvarez said. I hadn’t done that.”

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