As we sit in our heartbreak, anger and grief over the murders of Tony McDade, Philando Castille, Sandra Bland, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many Black lives taken by police brutality, racial injustice and systemic oppression, we acknowledge that, as White women, who benefit from our leadership and racial privilege every day, we are experiencing only a fraction of the pain and anguish of the Black community.
For Women Who Cowork this has been a time of reckoning with our failures and recommitting to our original mission. Since Memorial Day, we have been processing while doing a lot of listening, learning, having individual conversations with Black women, examining our own actions and lack of actions, reckoning with and questioning our own fragility and, discovering, that while we don’t have the answers we are compelled to show up and begin the conversation.
When we came together to create WWCO in 2016, we knew that women needed representation in coworking and we knew that women of color and Black women were in need of specific representation. We launched this community with a strong desire to create a platform in which all women feel welcome, seen, and supported.
It has been our mission at WWCO to create a platform in which Black, Brown, Indigenous, Asian and White women, who own and operate shared workspaces, would have equal visibility, peer mentorship and access to the tools and resources necessary to better build our businesses and meet the needs of our communities.
Yet, early in our formation, we knew that as founders who are heterosexual, White, cis-gendered women, we were missing the contributions of diverse voices within our leadership and came up with ideas of how we could build an advisory board that would allow us to create the platform we truly desired: one based on true equity and inclusion with diversity in thought and life experience.
And, we made a dire mistake. We failed to act.
We should have been actively approaching and inviting Black women into the community, instead, we waited for them to approach us. We allowed the racial divide to keep us separate and hesitated because of our fear of being misunderstood as tokenizing. But, isn’t that what Black women face everyday? The fear of being misunderstood, having to code switch on a daily basis, attempting to fit into white-centered spaces?
In 2017 we stood on the stage in Vancouver at GCUC Canada and declared that we were adding Inclusivity to the 5 core coworking values. We said the same thing in 2018 at GCUC NYC. However, we did not move forward with reaching out to the Black female founders of coworking spaces to share our privilege of leadership, Whiteness and the platform these offer.
We hid behind our White Fragility, hesitating because of our discomfort.
And, we are not going to let the discomfort hold us back again. We will no longer let White Supremacy divide us.
Today, we are taking a stand to move forward in Shared Sisterhood in a way that acknowledges our White privilege. While we certainly experience systemic discrimination as women, our skin color makes us less threatening to the group which holds systemic power. Therefore, we are committed to examining the patterns of White Supremacy that uphold our privilege and to dismantling these systems of racism and oppression, that continue to limit the advancement of Black women, especially in the entrepreneurial space.
The racial division between women is preventing us from obtaining gender equity and forging deeper partnerships and friendships.
THIS IS NOT OKAY.
Black and White women cannot truly collaborate as long as we allow White Supremacy to be the constant wedge between us, therefore, we are acknowledging this racial divide in sisterhood and taking action to dissolve it and close the relational gap between us.
We agree with professor, Dr. Tina Opie, who asserts “you can’t build meaningful connections between women of different races and ethnicities, let alone ask them to advocate for their collective advancement, if Black and Hispanic women report being excluded from the relationships required to make an organization run.”
And, at the core, isn’t that what coworking is all about? The collective advancement of a community?
So, we are urgently recommitting to building bridges and “meaningful connections between women of different races and ethnicities.”
This is difficult and challenging work but we are committed to taking action, knowing we will make missteps along the way. And, then we will learn, and keep going.
From this day forward, we pledge to hold ourselves accountable to being uncomfortable in our unknowing, to reach out and begin a conversation, to listen, to learn and unlearn. To use our privilege and our platform to lift and amplify the voices and contributions of Black women and Black transwomen within the coworking community and without.
Will you join us? On July 1st at 10 am PST, we will move this conversation from an intention into an action. We welcome ALL voices and perspectives so please join us as we start the process in healing the Racial Divide in Sisterhood, in coworking and beyond.
In love, courage and solidarity,
Laura & Iris