Walking into The Wing—a women-only members’ club founded by Audrey Gelman and Lauren Kassan—just two days after last November’s presidential election, a sense of mourning hovered. But breaking through the cloud of grief was an inspiring camaraderie. While a small group circled around a teary eyed member to offer comfort, others paired off in deep conversations or were intensely focused on laptops, no doubt planning their next moves. They all felt safe: to be themselves and to get to work.
When the club opened its doors in October, “There was this feeling of ‘Wow, in a world where we have a woman president, we can help women advance their lives and careers,’” says the 29-year-old Gelman, who previously worked in politics as a public relations specialist. “Now that we are living in a different world, I think a lot of women feel isolated and have a greater desire to connect and support each other than ever before. The Internet allows for that in transformative ways, but there is also a need for a physical space. A place to go that offers some sanctuary.”
Perched in a penthouse on East 20th Street—part of Manhattan’s historic Ladies’ Mile—The Wing is exactly that: divine intervention for modern working women’s woes. Punctuated by soothing pastels and a Scandinavian sensibility, the open floor plan offers all the essentials: workspace, wifi, chargers, outlets, lockers, showers, a café, and a bar—even a lactation room. After hours, the space hosts movie nights and facial events, but also topical panel discussions with accomplished female figures such as WNBA champion and Olympic gold medalist Swin Cash Canal or publishing veteran Tina Brown.
“Being here yesterday, you could feel the energy and the support of knowing we’re all in this together,” says Kassan, also 29, a former operations director for the fitness start-up ClassPass, speaking of the post-election atmosphere. “Tina Brown was here the night before the election and she said, ‘If anything, Donald Trump has reignited feminism.’ And I think that is really true. I think spaces like this will be even more important to make sure we stay stronger together.”
While Gelman’s original idea came from a feeling of being unmoored as a freelance consultant, it was Kassan who encouraged her to create a community. “And it’s really starting to happen,” says Gelman. “Recently, I bumped into two Wing women on the subway, and it was so cool to see them start hanging out because the space continued to bring them together.” Seeing their community thrive and inspire leaves Gelman and Kassan smiling. “We’re hopeful,” they say.