now start companies at fve times the rate of the national
average, but female-founded companies receive just
2. 7 percent of all venture capital funding—and less if the
founders are women of color.
When Gelman and her co-founder Lauren Kassan frst
conceived of the Wing, the idea was to create a place for women
to stop of between meetings or take a break to charge their
phones. But it wasn’t long before the two found themselves
carting members to Washington, D.C., on chartered buses for
the Women’s March after the election of Donald Trump.
Nelson, of the Riveter, had been thinking about a women-
friendly co-working space for a while; the election fnally
pushed her to leave her day job as a corporate litigator.
“I think what is unique to this moment is that women are
galvanized,” Nelson explains. “What we’re doing is taking that
feeling and creating a physical space where women can come
together and pursue their careers, but do it within a network.
The ‘old boys’ club’ has existed and worked for hundreds of
years. We’re creating a female equivalent.”
HE IDEA OF WOMEN gathering with-
out men is nothing new. It was
a women’s gathering that led to
the frst American women’s rights
convention, in Seneca Falls, New
As Alexis Coe, the Wing’s historian-
in-residence (yes, that’s a thing),
explains it, women’s social clubs
have existed since the 1800s, with one of the frst started by
a group of female journalists who were denied entry into the
New York Press Club to hear Charles Dickens speak in 1868.
But it was rare that women had careers back then, and so
the focus of those early clubs was largely on social reform—the
creation of parks and libraries and other public services.
This new iteration of club is decidedly business-focused:
to make proftable operations of both the companies of the
women who join them and the networks powering them.
Much like joining a gym, women can pay around $375 a month
to work out of the Riveter, or $215 to be part of the Wing.
Heymama’s “exclusive, curated network” makes money by
charging that annual membership, along with “infuencer”
brand sponsorships and ticket sales from events. Since
Krawcheck purchased women’s membership group 85 Broads
in 2013 and rebranded it the Ellevate Network—charging as
much as $1,200 a year for a membership—revenue has grown
in the “strong double digits.” In fve years, Spalding’s WIE has
grown from a 400-person one-of event to a network of 50,000
women, without any outside capital.
“What we’re seeing with regard to women’s networks
is similar to what we saw in the early days of beauty and
fashion—a potentially billion-dollar industry that is only just
beginning to take of,” says Whitney Wolfe, the founder and
CEO of Bumble, the female-centric dating app that recently
“We’ve all had that
moment where your
kid is screaming
and you’re hiding in
the closet to take
a conference call.
As a working mom,
you need your tribe.
This is that tribe.”
KAT YA LIBIN, co-founder of Heymama, a network for
entrepreneur-moms whose members include the founders
of Gilt and Drybar. For $350 a year, members get access
to, among many other things, events like the one shown
here, which took place last spring at fellow member
Rebecca Minkof’s Manhattan store.