Walk down Thomas Jefferson Street in Georgetown and you'll see something new on your way to the waterfront: the women's coworking space The Wing. The members-only women's social club and networking space is set to open Thursday.
Nestled beside the C&O Canal, the stylish, 10,000-square-foot space is The Wing's first location in D.C., after the company opened locations in the SoHo, Dumbo and Flatiron neighborhoods of New York. Opening a location in D.C. was a natural next step, CEO Audrey Gelman said.
“This is the center of power in the country and where there are so many women on the frontlines of fighting for equality and representation,” she said. “To be able to create a sanctuary and a gathering place for women, not only in politics but in all sorts of professions and industries in the District, was very appealing."
But is operating a women-only business legal? D.C.'s human rights law bars businesses from discrimination on the basis of sex or gender. In New York, the company is the subject of an investigation by the city's Commission on Human Rights, the agency told News4. Jezebel was first to report the news.
Gelman defended her company.
“Because of the history of women in this country – and even more so in this time we live in – it is important to protect and foster the work of The Wing and similar spaces that give women a positive and safe space to thrive," she said in a statement. "Human rights include empowering women not taking more away from them. The law recognizes this too and is consistent with The Wing's values and mission."
A spokeswoman for the D.C. Office of Human Rights declined to comment on whether or not it had a case open related to The Wing, citing confidentiality concerns. If a person or group believes that a business' conduct violates the D.C. Human Rights Act, they can file a complaint, she said.
On a tour of The Wing's Georgetown space on Monday, Gelman, 30, said she hopes to see Wing members in D.C. form alliances, hire each other and start new initiatives. About half a dozen companies have already been formed at the Wing's New York spaces, she said.
“We are starting to see the fruits of what happens when you give women permission to take professional risks and go for it,” she said.
About 18,000 people have applied to be Wing members since it opened its first location in 2016. Members include designer Jenna Lyons, writer and actor Lena Dunham, rapper Remy Ma, model and activist Hari Nef and editor Tina Brown.
The price tag to access the network of professional, creative ladies is just under $2,400 per year or $215 per month. The rates are comparable to D.C.’s other coworking spaces, like Cove, which costs members $209 per month for access to conference rooms, call boxes and unlimited coffee, printing and scanning.
Information was not available immediately on how many people have applied to become Wing members in D.C. Within 24 hours of the Wing announcing its expansion to D.C. last year, 1,000 people applied, Gelman said at the time.
“We always aim for a really wide cross-section of women,” she said.
The space curated by a team of women designers and artists has nooks to hold meetings, long tables for collaboration, showers, a beauty room stocked with Chanel products and a lactation room. The coworking space also has a lending library of books by and about women.
The Wing is not the only coworking space in D.C. that's geared toward women. Hera Hub offers a "professional, productive, spa-like environment" in Northwest D.C., its website says.
At The Wing, speakers set to appear soon include political analyst Amy Walter, NPR host Michele Norris, poet Cleo Wade and authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman. A dinner and a pajama party also are on the agenda.
Andrea Swalec contributed reporting.