The Wing, a private co-working and community space for women that now boasts more than 6,000 members across the U.S., has officially opened itself up to all genders in a move that the organization characterized as a push to be more inclusive of trans and non-binary members. Since opening their first co-working center in New York City in 2016, the pioneering women’s club has enjoyed remarkable success — leading to the establishment of additional co-working spaces in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, and a recent $75 million fundraising effort that buoyed the startup’s valuation to $375 million.
The Wing’s success has also met with detractors — in particular, men’s rights activists who insist that it is illegal for the club to exclude men. In March 2018, it was announced that the New York City Commission on Human Rights was investigating The Wing on the basis that such a women-only space might violate anti-discrimination laws. The investigation prompted derision from many, including legal experts who noted that the law being used to justify the investigation had been intended to allow women and minorities to gain access to all-male social clubs that served as bastions of power and influence within the business world. A man, James Pietrangelo, also targeted the club with a $12 million lawsuit accusing their membership policy of being “egregious: brazen, flagrant, intentional, willful, wanton, actually malicious, motivated by evil and ill-will, deliberately oppressive, outrageous, and willfully and callus disregardful of the rights of men.”
Morning @NYCCHR while you’re wasting time investigating the women’s club @the_wing maybe also launch some investigations into boys clubs such as the tech industry, the restaurant and food industry, The film industry, https://t.co/qEJ0QAtG5O
— Amber Tamblyn (@ambertamblyn) March 28, 2018
While The Wing’s move to open their doors to male members should assuage some of their legal concerns, co-founder and chief executive Audrey Gelman has insisted that the change to their membership policies was initiated before the lawsuit and should not be interpreted as a reaction to it.
“Gender identity and gender presentation are two distinct concepts and do not always align,” wrote Gelman in a letter to members explaining the change. “To that end, we’ve made some internal updates and adopted written membership policies to ensure that our staff is trained not to make assumptions about someone’s identity based on how they present, or to ask prospective members or guests to self-identify. We initiated these trainings and policies so that we can continue to build a community that reflects our values and pushes us all to be more inclusive.”
Read the full story at TechCrunch.