Jenny Poon, Founder CO+HOOTS
Jenny Poon, Founder of CO+HOOTS in Phoenix, Arizona

Jenny Poon is a leader.

She’s a leader in the coworking movement, in her state, in her local community, in her coworking space and more.

Founder and CEO of CO+HOOTS in Phoenix, Arizona, Poon is also a powerful voice for women entrepreneurs and business owners. In a recent op-ed to AZCentral, Poon questioned Arizona governor Doug Ducey’s lack of women at a recent entrepreneurship roundtable.

As we celebrate women leaders in coworking and work to bridge the leadership gap, we connected with Poon about her perspective on women in leadership, the power of using your voice, and our collective power to change communities.

Women Who Cowork: Let’s start with the big picture. As a leader in your community, in the global coworking movement, and in the entrepreneurial world, what are you seeing when it comes to women in positions of leadership?

Jenny Poon: I see what studies have proven for a while now: women in leadership positions raise a company’s value and impact. It’s not just being diverse that makes a company more successful, it’s being inclusive that sets them apart.

Putting a woman in the position for optics doesn’t do anyone any good. When you realize that women bring unique perspectives that can really accelerate a business and you create an environment that is welcoming of her ideas, then the contribution will be huge.

I’m also seeing a lot of men who are not awake to the disparity of women. Amazing men are stepping up and calling foul and demanding this change as well, which is such a great thing to see.

In your recent op-ed, you pointed out Arizona governor Doug Ducey’s lack of women at a recent entrepreneurship roundtable. You also pushed back against common excuses people and companies have for excluding women from leadership and decision making roles. What has the response to your post been? What would you like to come out of it?

I hope they admit the error, which they did. And I hope they put real processes in place to rectify the error. Put requirements in place for advisory boards. Actually reach out and host a roundtable where women are present. Do it again, but do it right. That being said, the first step is admitting error. Being able to see the mistake and owning up to it is a positive step forward.

You created a leadership position for yourself at CO+HOOTS, which positioned you as a leader in the startup and economic development efforts in both Phoenix and the state of Arizona. Now your leadership extends far into these communities and beyond. How would you advise other women entrepreneurs who are working to make change in their lives and communities?

You have a voice. For the longest time I was taught to avoid government, that they are too far from reach. What I didn’t realize, but is obvious, is that they work for us. We voted them in, we should hold them accountable.

Don’t be scared to rustle some feathers. My only suggestion is to make sure you investigate issues, be knowledgeable and have an opinion. Speaking up is not easy, but it is much easier when you are informed.

As shown through your lived experience, coworking has the potential to empower and support women in becoming leaders in their communities and industries. What would you like to see from space operators on a local level and the coworking movement, in general?

We are at a point in history where business leaders can no longer stay silent. Our country is polarized and we need to use our power to bring people together and make forward progress. I would like to see more business speak out on social justice issues, on the inequities we see, and lead by example.

We have an amazing power as leaders of coworking spaces, we have the power of numbers. Where in the past, we were isolated, we are now together. In the past we were invisible, now we are seen.

Use this power to make change in your communities, to build up and support the most marginalized, create a business ecosystem that works for everyone, not just the elite. We have the power to do this.

What else is on your mind when it comes to women, leadership, and specifically, women in coworking making a change in this world?

Well behaved women rarely make history. And for those of you who are in the thick of things, beat up, defeated and ready to give up, I say make your list. There is nothing more motivating than achieving greatness when everyone cheered for your failure. I am cheering for you.

Join us at the Women Who Cowork Retreat Oct. 28-29 in Toronto. We’ll dive deep into stepping into our leadership as women in the coworking movement, and taking care of ourselves along the way.

Leave a Reply

  1. Avatar
    Christy Alexander

    Hi WWCO,
    Thanks for sharing Jenny Poon with us!
    Would you be willing to share this question with Jenny?

    Hi Jenny,

    Your bio on the CO+HOOTS website notes you work “to bring visibility to coworking as an economic development tool for building vibrant and equitable cities.” This is exciting to me as I am working to do the same thing in the small community where I live.
    A year ago I opened the doors of my 2,140 sq.ft coworking space in a combined community of 15,000 people, who have largely never heard of coworking before.
    Would you be willing to offer general tips or processes you found to be effective when approaching city officials? There’s a bit of the “good ole boys club” mentality in my upstate New York community and more often than not I am met with complete disinterest.

    I feel it’s important to note I have grown up in this region and raised my family here. I am careful to approach city officials and groups with a desire to support current initiatives and/or groups.

    Thanks for your time and consideration!
    ~Christy

    1. Iris Kavanagh
      Iris Kavanagh

      Hi Christy- I made an introduction to you and Jenny. I also suggest you connect with us on our FB group and that you connect with the resources at coworking.org. Both places have people with extensive experience in working with local economic development initiatives.

      Best of luck- Iris