Strange stares in the break room. Uncomfortable small talk by the printer. A boss who insists on hugging you. For far too long, women have grown accustomed to awkward and distracting interactions at work, especially in a city such as Miami, which can at times seem like the unofficial capital of catcalling, leering, and sexual innuendo. “At Starbucks, older men are constantly hitting on you,” sighs Aileen Lavin, a Miami mom who works in real estate. “I was tired of going to networking events and feeling uncomfortable.”
So Lavin’s idea to create an all-woman co-working space in Hallandale Beach was born out of necessity. The other networking events she attended fell flat, and likeminded ladies she spoke with were equally frustrated. They wanted to collaborate, not fend off unwanted advances by men who didn’t take them seriously.
Last October, Lavin posted on a women entrepreneurs’ Facebook group that she planned to throw an event at her house for women looking to connect. Forty women showed up. “And suddenly, we didn’t feel so alone,” Lavin says. “Everyone went around the table sharing how they were embarrassed to work or be a stay-at-home mom — we built a network very quickly.”
Opening this fall, the Emery will be the first all-woman co-working space in South Florida. With a capacity of 200, it is intended to be an estrogen-fueled incubator of ideas, projects, and products. Each member will have her own space to work, but the open floor plan was designed to foster conversation among them.
“Women might be intimidated to go up to someone at a networking event,” Lavin explains, “but we want our space to be comfortable, where women can have more awareness about the projects other women are working on and to feel comfortable to talk to someone over coffee.”
This is not a stuffy office with humming fluorescent lights and a vending machine. Lavin chose a millennial-pink and emerald-green palette to exude femininity and sophistication. Large windows will bring in natural light and views of the skyline. Its café will be stocked with delicacies from local, women-owned businesses. Events will include seminars, speakers, and business and social gatherings. Another unique amenity: a “glam room” stocked with hair irons, blow dryers, and beauty products. That might sound like a silly luxury, but in a world in which women are judged on their looks even in business meetings and job interviews, it’s just common sense.
Located on the second floor of a shopping plaza, the space is surrounded by eateries, shops, and, conveniently, even an indoor playground for women with children. Unlike other co-working spaces, the parking is free. “I just wanted to make everything convenient,” Lavin says.
There are two large conference rooms for meetings with clients. But because Emery is strictly for women, members with male clients must meet elsewhere. “That created a little controversy, but there’s a coffee shop downstairs,” Lavin points out. “This is a safe space.”