Audrey Gelman, CEO of The Wing, has announced that the women-focused co-working space is introducing a LinkedIn-like app “where our members can post jobs and hire each other.” During a podcast interview with Recode’s Kara Swisher, she described the as-yet un-launched jobs platform, which she calls “a community-driven hiring marketplace,” as a way to formalize the kind of professional networking that The Wing already allows: both in-person at its many co-working spaces, and virtually through its members-only app.
Gelman told Swisher, “It’s essentially like a LinkedIn product. But the problem is that LinkedIn and some of the other dominant hiring platforms have a ton of bias around women, and some guys think it’s a dating platform and send messages to that effect.” In many ways, it sounds like your standard jobs board, only designed with a focus on “safety and moderation” and centered around a particular community:
There’s jobs at Disney, Facebook, Twitter, the Wall Street Journal, etc. You post the job, you’re able to inquire and contact the person about it, send them your resume and connect. And then, similarly, you can say, ‘I’m a freelance writer and I’m looking for beauty opportunities,’ to write about beauty or something, and sort of amplify, signal boost what you’re looking for professionally, and then people can find you that way.
There is great potential value in creating an alternative to the traditional boys club for women and nonbinary people—it’s just difficult to imagine how to accomplish that without creating a gendered inverse, which rewards privilege with better career opportunities. Although The Wing offers some scholarships to women in “underrepresented fields,” it is largely a community of women and non-binary people who can afford to pay upwards of $2,000 a year for access. (It’s nearly $3,000 a year for an all-access membership.) It’s worth mentioning, too, that following a racist incident at its West Hollywood location, The Wing recently had to acknowledge that “members and staff of color... haven’t felt adequately affirmed in our spaces.”
All of this should, as with so many things in the post-Lean In era, raise questions about both the benefits and limitations of corporate feminism. At one point, Swisher asks Gelman of the app, “Are you expecting money off of this? What’s the plan?” She replies, “Again, it’s really about solving problems for women.” Yet at another point, Gelman makes clear that the app isn’t solving problems just for the sake of it: “So, I think we have permission to productize and create value for women around a lot of different times in their life. This is just the first one we’re focusing on.” That’s an honest word: productize. The Wing might have a stated political aim, it might offer scholarships to some members, but it’s a business, and a highly successful one at that.
It’s nice when products come with some social good, but let’s never forget that they are products.