If you work in media (or similar industries) and live in New York City or Washington D.C., you’ve likely heard of The Wing, an invite-only social club and co-working space for women. Audrey Gelman and Lauren Kassan founded the club together in late 2016, inspired by early-20th-century women’s clubs.
If you want to join The Wing, you’d have to get in a 3,000 person-long line, the size of their waiting list to join. They currently have a 3,500-square-foot penthouse in the Flatiron District, along with new locations in Soho, Dumbo, and Washington D.C. It’s also women-only, which has become a possible point of contention for the NYC Human Rights Commission.
When the Commission heard about The Wing, they launched an investigation to determine if the no-boys-allowed policy violated New York City’s Human Rights Law. The law states that “businesses that furnish public accommodations, including most private clubs (though not all), cannot discriminate against customers based on their gender,” Jezebel reports. Men are not only not allowed to become members of The Wing, they can’t even visit the building.
Jezebel spoke to members of The Wing, who talked about the benefits of working in women-only spaces, as well as law professors and lawyers.
“I think it’s patently absurd for New York’s human rights commission to be focusing on The Wing when we’ve had, over the last six months, numerous complaints about workplaces being absolutely hostile to women in terms of pervasive and endemic sexual harassment,” law professor Melissa Murray said. “Leaving aside the fact that so many workplaces seem to be rife with incidents of sexual harassment, now, after #MeToo, I think there are a lot of men in positions of authority who are going to be really skeptical and afraid to mentor women and that might make a space like this even more necessary.”
Reporter J.K. Trotter also emphasized that the Commission on Human Rights may not ever bring a lawsuit against the club. The meeting will be to see whether The Wing’s practices are in keeping with the law, and there are a lot of steps between the Commission’s inquiry and a lawsuit.
Gelman and Co. also have the mayor on their side. In a statement to The Cut, Gelman, CEO of The Wing, said: Quite surprisingly, the Commission reached out to us on the first day of Women’s History Month. That call has resulted in nothing more than an agreement to meet and have a conversation — in fact, we have been assured that the de Blasio Administration fully supports the mission of The Wing and will work with us to see it prosper. 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 space that give women a positive and safe space to thrive.