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Women-only community space The Wing could be forced to accept male members

By WITW Staff on March 28, 2018

The Wing, a private co-working and community space for women, is under investigation by the New York City Commission on Human Rights on the basis that the private social club may violate anti-discrimination laws by creating a women-only space. More than 1,500 women are members at The Wing, which was originally founded by Audrey Gelman and Lauren Kassan to serve as both a pit-stop for busy women who were tired of changing outfits in coffee shop bathrooms and as a “hub for community and connection between women.” In the wake of Donald Trump’s presidential victory and the #MeToo movement, The Wing has also begun offering increased programming and events focused on women’s rights and politics. Speaking to Adweek earlier this month, Gelman noted that large women-based communities of women had proved themselves to be “powerful forces in culture and politics,” and noted that the need for spaces for women to cultivate connections and friendships with each other was becoming increasingly evident.

In an interview with J.K. Trotter of Jezebel, The Wing member Atima Lui, the proprietor of tech startup Nudest, said that the club allowed for conversations with other women about important topics that she “wouldn’t have felt comfortable having if men were present,” as well as providing a rare bastion in the city where she could work without fear of sexual harassment.

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But since men are not allowed to be members, or even visit as guests, at The Wing, the women-only space may technically violate laws that prohibit businesses from discriminating against customers based on gender. Ironically, noted Melissa Murray, a professor of law at U.C. Berkeley, these laws were originally passed to allow women and minorities to gain access to all-male social clubs that were seen as centers of power and influence in the business world.

“The idea that a law that was meant to provide access to women would prevent them from having access to each other and the capital that they’ve built as women seems ludicrous,” said Murray.

Whether the Commission on Human Rights plans on filing a grievance against The Wing remains to be seen. But a former chief counsel for the law enforcement bureau at the Commission described The Wing to Jezebel as “exactly the opposite of what we should be doing,” and put forth an argument for why the social club should be forced to accept male membership.

Read the full story at Jezebel.


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