The Wing Starts Comeback, Reopens NYC Coworking Locations
The Wing — a female-oriented, coworking space that was previously on the brink of bankruptcy — has fully reopened its New York City locations Wednesday, nearly a year after they shuttered, as the startup attempts a comeback after a rocky 2020, the company announced.
The reopening comes after pandemic layoffs and allegations of racism and discrimination in the workplace forced the organization’s co-founder and CEO, Audrey Gelman, to step down last year. Gelman was replaced by co-founder Lauren Kassan.
Robbin Mitchell, a partner and managing director at Boston Consulting Group, will join the company’s board of directors alongside the recently hired executive chairwoman Sheila Lirio Marcelo, former CEO of Care.com. Marcelo was hired after IWG — which owns coworking brands Regus and Spaces — threw a lifeline and acquired a majority stake in the startup, according to Fast Company.
“I couldn’t be more excited to join The Wing’s board of directors with a focus on retail and operations, where I will be providing support to The Wing on scaling operations and regrowing its retail and partnerships in the spaces for members to take advantage of,” Mitchell said in a statement. “It has been a very challenging time for women — especially women in the workforce — so the need to think creatively and thoughtfully about work and workspaces is more critical than ever.”
The Wing has fully opened its SoHo, Bryant Park and Flatiron locations in Manhattan, and plans to begin programming and reopening ones nationwide in the coming weeks.
The Wing’s business was hampered by the pandemic, and the company laid off the majority of its hourly workers in April 2020, along with half of its corporate workforce. It let go of another 56 workers in July, as Commercial Observer previously reported.
The company is working with the hiring platform Jopwell to help find candidates from “diverse backgrounds and identities,” according to a spokesperson.
It’s also facing battles in court over missed rent, with landlord Thor Equities suing The Wing in July over claims that it missed nearly $270,000 in rent for its 25 West 39th Street location. Thor also hit the startup with $10,370.28 in late fees for the missed payments, CO reported.
With its plans to reopen after a rocky year, The Wing launched a new advisory board to guide the board of directors and management team on operations and diversity as the company reopens its spaces. The advisory board will, “provide objective opinions, feedback and ideas related to the company’s policies, programs and events,” according to a press release from The Wing.
The advisory board’s members include author Luvvie Ajayi Jones; Hitha Palepu, CEO of Rhoshan Pharmaceuticals; and Donna Byrd, founder and CEO of digital startup BlueButterfly.
The Wing — which brands itself as a network of coworking spaces designed for women — came under fire last year for its treatment of its staff, including mistreatment of people of color, low pay and long hours, The New York Times reported.
When the company announced its reopening three weeks ago on Instagram, comments accusing the company of a toxic work environment began to pile up, according to an article from Boss Betty.
The majority of Wing members were white and able to pay dues upwards of $200 a month, while hourly wage-workers running the coworking spaces were mostly people of color, the Times reported. It also faced criticism after it promised to donate $200,000 to causes associated with the Black Lives Matter movement after a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd last summer, while saying it could not provide emergency coronavirus relief grants to some employees who applied for funds.
The Wing is now offering a $150 priced membership for all access to any Wing location, because of amenities being closed due to the pandemic, said a spokesperson.
The Wing also says it did pay out $200,000 allocated to its employee grant fund to 479 former employees that applied to the fund. It also donated $200,000 to Black Lives Matter-related causes, a spokesperson said.
Update: The story has been updated to include statements from The Wing.