At the first Women Who Cowork retreat last year in Austin, I was struck by the power of the circle.
Participants sat or stood in a circle several times, but, beyond that, I found a circle-mindedness at the gathering and in the Women Who Cowork community as a whole.
In a world built on hierarchies and power structures, this circle-mindedness was a revelation.
Throughout the retreat, women stepped forward to share their expertise, perspective and energy. Then they stepped back into their place in the circle.
Some of the women at the retreat were new space operators being introduced to the global coworking movement for the first time, and some of them were the women who helped envision and launch the movement.
Industry leaders, such as Felena Hanson from Hera Hub, Liz Elam from GCUC, Ashley Proctor from GCUC Canada and CoHip, and Women Who Cowork founders Laura Shook Guzman and Iris Kavanagh, shared insights and knowledge from their many years of experience.
Then, they sat back and listened to the other women.
One minute, they’d be teaching or presenting, the next they’d be sharing a challenge or getting a new idea from a coworking newcomer.
There was no hierarchy in our circle.
The Women Who Cowork Circle-mindedness
In this circle-mindedness, everyone is a leader and everyone is a student. The vision for Women Who Cowork, as I understand it, is to support all coworking women and femme-identified people in being leaders in their spaces, their local communities, and the global coworking movement.
This world, and the workspace industry, need more women to step forward as leaders.
We need to lead with our words and with our actions.
The global coworking movement has been led, in large part, by women. But, rather than seeking acknowledgement in this now-booming industry, many of the movement’s visionaries just quietly go about their work.
I get it. The work should always be the priority. When self-promotion is prioritized over doing the actual work of creating spaces where community can grow, this whole coworking thing falls apart.
But, women are often reluctant to claim ownership or leadership. We tend to credit the team and deflect praise, which is not bad in and of itself, but it’s being done in a way that disempowers us as individuals, as well as the women around us.
As Kavanagh explains, “Sometimes we need to claim ownership because we need to make sure we are taking and given credit for an idea, rather than relinquishing that credit elsewhere.”
She adds, “Using your voice to establish yourself as a leader can be a softer way to do so, and yet powerful in its impact.”
Your Leadership Voice
So how do we use our voices to support our communities and establish ourselves as leaders?
One way is to reclaim your story. Your authentic voice is your superpower. Not your watered-down, softened-edges story, but your real deal, messy, beautiful, magnificently imperfect story.
It’s only when you’re being real, with yourself and your community, that you can step forward as a leader.
Breaking the Sisterhood Ceiling
Women Who Cowork is designed to help women space operators and industry pros support each other in becoming our best selves—in reclaiming our stories and stepping into our leadership.
There are no sisterhood ceilings, where women strategically hold other women back as a way to further their own careers, in Women Who Cowork. This is a sisterhood of support.
As Shook Guzman told the Huffington Post, “What I have seen personally and within the coworking movement is that, in coming together, we are finally starting to dispel the myth of the one ‘token female’ at the top. We are breaking the glass ceiling with collective action, not by the outdated individualism commonly glorified in American culture.”
Strong and Unbroken
We have a lot of work to do, in coworking and in our world, at large. The worst thing we could do is to hold each other back. It’s go time, on many levels, as we envision and work to build a world that is equitable, inclusive and diverse.
The time for playing small is over.
The time for deflecting credit is over.
The time for giving away our leadership is over.
Our circle is strong and unbroken.
If you’re ready to get to work creating the future together, join us.