The Wing opened its doors to entrepreneurial women in New York City in 2016 with the support of about $2.5 million in seed funding, marketing itself as a place for women of diverse backgrounds to meet and do work. Now, as it officially amends its membership policy to allow all genders — yes, men included — it will have to work harder to stay true to its promise and purpose: to create a feminist co-working empire.
In two years, The Wing built a committed social media following and launched an in-house magazine and an online store offering merchandise adorned with third-wave feminist catchphrases. It established additional co-working spaces in New York, Washington, DC and San Francisco and entered into financial agreements with high-profile venture capitalists. Just three weeks ago, The Wing company announced a $75 million Sequoia-led Series C funding that more than doubled the New York-based female-founded startup’s previous valuation to $375 million, according to PitchBook.
While The Wing grew its community of female-identifying, non-binary and gender non-conforming members to more than 6,000, debates surrounding its anti-male doctrine sprang up on and off the internet. Men aren’t allowed in The Wing — is that legal? Many questioned. No, probably not. Why? Because as much as The Wing disguises itself as a social club, it’s technically too large to benefit from laws that actually permit those sorts of groups to practice gender discrimination, according to a Jezebel report. So yes, male-only social clubs were able to thrive for decades because they were lean — small enough to legally discriminate. Still, there’s no reason The Wing needed to bar men from accessing its properties and resources, other than the fact that there have been protected male safe-havens promoting business and entrepreneurship for a very long time, while female-focused rooms of that sort have been few and far between.
Thought pieces were written, Tweets were sent and the New York City Commission on Human Rights opened a “commission-initiated investigation,” which is still ongoing, according to The Wing. Then a man by the name of James Pietrangelo filed a $12 million lawsuit against The Wing alleging its “illegal discrimination against men … was/is 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.”