Feminism

Women's Co-Working Spaces Out to "De-Bro" Denver's Work Culture

The Riveter's co-working space will open July 15 in RiNo.
The Riveter's co-working space will open July 15 in RiNo. Courtesy of The Riveter
Just weeks after Denver’s first women-centric co-working space, Women in Kind, announced that it was closing, two new ones are popping up. The founders of Charley Co. and The Riveter envision offering an alternative to the “bro culture” that they say is rampant in both Denver and co-working in general.

“I think that women are different when they're just around each other,” says Bryn Carter, the founder of one of the new co-working spaces. She hopes her startup, Charley Co., which opened July 1 at the Source Hotel + Market Hall in RiNo, will enable women to “let down [their] walls. You can ask for help and no one here is going to judge you because of that.”

Many of the features of Charley Co. will look familiar to those who know the often swanky world of co-working: ergonomic chairs, open desk space and a modern kitchen stocked with healthy snacks. But Charley Co. has thrown out such male-centric co-working amenities as a keg room and pool tables in favor of things like a mother’s nursing room, an in-house nail and hair salon, and pop-up fitness classes. The space was designed by female architects and is peppered with women-centric, women-created art.

click to enlarge Lindee Zimmer mural at Charley Co. - COURTESY OF CHARLEY CO.
Lindee Zimmer mural at Charley Co.
Courtesy of Charley Co.
The Riveter, a Seattle-based company focusing on the advancement of women in the workplace, will launch its Denver co-working space on July 15 at 2734 Walnut Street, also in RiNo. While the space "centers women," it will be open to all genders, according to a statement from founder and CEO Amy Nelson.

Nelson started the Riveter after visiting various co-working spaces while trying to found her own company. "I discovered that, like corporate America, the co-working spaces I visited felt overly masculine and didn’t exactly provide the tools and connections that I, as a woman, needed to be a successful entrepreneur," she says.

Since she started the Riveter two years ago, it's expanded from one to ten locations. "At the core, the Riveter exists for all of us to thrive. That will only happen if everyone has a seat at the table," she notes.

Both new spaces will host social events, including women's speaker series, panels and networking opportunities.

click to enlarge Charley Co. founder Bryn Carter outside the entrance to her new women's co-working space. - COURTESY OF CHARLEY CO.
Charley Co. founder Bryn Carter outside the entrance to her new women's co-working space.
Courtesy of Charley Co.
According to a 2018 survey by Deskmag, co-working is a rapidly expanding industry with even more room to grow. The idea of shared work space that encourages collaboration and networking between people in different industries and points in their career caught on strong with small startup companies and freelancers, but ironically, the demand has spurred a rise in national and global co-working brands. WeWork, the largest in the industry, pulled in $2.3 billion in revenue last year, manages more than 500 locations worldwide, and is the largest office-space occupier in both London and New York. It has five offices in Denver, with five more opening soon.

The founders of Denver's Women in Kind cited the saturation of this market as one of the reasons they were closing, according to BusinessDen.

Yet women’s co-working is on the rise, and the spaces have become a flashpoint of debate regarding the inclusivity of feminism. Some critics have said that women’s co-working advances only “corporate feminism” by catering to upper-class women with entrepreneurial ambitions, as well as targeting women in their marketing at the exclusion of trans and non-binary people. (The Riveter is open to any gender. Carter says that Charley Co. will welcome “anyone who identifies as female.”)

While the spaces may technically be open to any woman, membership isn't cheap. Charley Co.'s most affordable option, a social membership, is $60 per month, while open seating goes for $300 and a private reserved desk is $520. The Riveter's pricing is similar, also offering a social membership for $60 per month, $300 a month for a full-time floating desk space, and $400 a month for a dedicated space. 
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Sara Fleming is a freelance writer and formal editorial fellow at Westword. She covers a wide variety of stories about local politics and communities. A born-and-raised Coloradan, when she's not exploring Denver, she's on a mission to visit every mountain town in the state.
Contact: Sara Fleming