“Please introduce yourself to your neighbors with your name, your preferred pronouns and what you do,” instructed the community manager of The Wing’s newest location in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood. The new member orientation, affectionately called “Flight School,” stresses inclusivity above everything else. “If you take away anything from today, please remember that we are all Wing family now and that all are welcome in this space.”
This comes just six months after The Wing issued an email to members announcing a shift to using more inclusive language when it comes to discussing members. “Wing women” are now referred to as gender inclusive “winglets” and instances of “she” and “her” have been substituted to “they” or “them” for the most part. There’s also noticeably no question on the member application about gender identity. This gender inclusive focus is just one of many examples of the way, The Wing is impressively “growing up” on the culture front as it grows.
When The Wing launched, the team was putting together a concept that hadn’t really been played out in full just yet and there were kinks to be worked out. There was criticism early on that it was only accessible to those with money due to the price point of the membership dues. In DC, there were some who felt the Georgetown location wasn’t easily accessible due to lack of public transportation to the affluent borough. These factors combined with the noticeably white leadership team at the time led some to wonder if the new antidote to the bro-culture of workspaces was truly equipped to support women of color who might wish to join. Additionally, some eyebrows were raised at the pretty unusual non-disparagement clause in the original member agreement, which has since been updated.
So, yes, The Wing experienced quite a few growing pains in its early days. Today; however, the brand has since made significant strides in addressing each of these concerns and, in many ways, now exists as a model for other companies who hope to put an inclusive culture at the top of their business model. The Wing’s Senior Director of Community, Marianna Martinelli, who also happens to be Wing employee number one, has played a large role in working out the company’s kinks to set the tone for the brand’s culture today. Here’s what’s Martinelli hopes to convey about The Wing’s culture as it exists now.
Come as you are, whoever you are.
“I’d describe the culture of The Wing as a group of extremely smart people—the majority of which happen to be women—that care deeply about creating systems, opportunities, and discussions that allow us to make the world better for women,” explains Martinelli. If supporting the advancement of women is your bag, welcome to the club—a club which now touts 8,000 members.
While The Wing still considers itself female-focused on accommodations and mission, they’re approaching gender more broadly. You’ll also note that the leadership team is now very diverse and strategically includes a Senior Manager of Culture & Diversity positioned in the highest ranks. Additionally, the programming for each location has events specifically geared to and brings in speakers who are people of color on a regular basis.
Financial accessibility is a top priority.
The Wing now offers an application-based scholarship program which covers a one-year membership to The Wing for women and non-binary individuals who are working towards the advancement of women and girls. They also haven’t forgotten that location accessibility criticism.
“As a company, we are obsessed with feedback and hearing from folks who want The Wing in their cities and make decisions on where to open new spaces based on extensive surveys and qualitative research. Our priority is to make sure that each Wing space will answer the needs of women from that local community — this includes access to public transportation or choosing spots that are centrally located. Many teams across our company help shape these decisions, including our diversity and inclusion and new space opening teams,” explains Martinelli.
They’re also walking the walk within their company roster as well. Last year, The Wing announced that it would work towards converting hourly employees to full-time and would offer those under 30 hours medical benefits and stock options.
They’re working hard to read the room when it comes to opening new locations.
The Wing is pretty deftly approaching a pretty delicate balancing act these days when it comes to opening a new location. One one hand, they’re ensuring their core values and expressed in each outpost and, on the other hand, they’re ensuring what they’re offering is what each community is asking for.
Each location has its own events team charged with producing a highly-curated events schedule geared towards what members in that community might be interested in. As events tend to be the best way The Wing builds community and gathers members on a regular basis, a lot of attention goes into getting this piece right.
“In Chicago, we worked with Moms Demand Action and EveryTown to host a discussion about gun safety before we even opened our doors. We also partnered with the Chicago Foundation for Women to raise awareness about the lack of public statues of women throughout Chicago ahead of our opening and then also hosted a fireside chat with Chicago-native Valerie Jarrett on Finding Her Voice in the days leading up to our opening. It is extremely important that we ensure our locations reflect the communities we are in,” says Martinelli. Members may also submit recommendations or schedule meetings with event staff to discuss programming ideas.
Beyond the events, each space is also carefully designed to reflect the community it’s landed it. In the most recently opened location in Back Bay, the overall design, which includes pops of gingham and custom-designed plaid, was inspired by the original women’s colleges that call New England home. The quiet room which includes long tables and little green lamps is meant to nod to the iconic Boston Public Library. The conference rooms are named for local champions of women’s rights. The 2,000 book lending library was carefully curated and stocked in part by locally-owned bookstores. The cafe features a menu created by local female chefs and all of the art of the walls, which is available for sale, was created by local artists. The space is dreamy and every detail is intentionally very, very Boston.