An Australian Company Is About To Open A New Co-Working Space “Exclusive To Men”
"When women are around we have trouble being vulnerable."
A pair of Brisbane entrepreneurs have announced an “innovative way to address male related social issues” through the establishment of Australia’s first co-working space exclusive to men. Because if there’s one thing the startup sector needs it’s a blanket ban on women.
Nomadic Thinkers has the backing of six investors and will operate through a “hybridised co-working model with a gym space.” Membership of the space and the gym is open only to men. The founders have acknowledged that the creation of a gender-restricted co-working space “is bound to ruffle some feathers.”
A number of networking events run specifically for women have operated for a while in Australia’s notoriously male dominated startup scene and this year the first woman only co-working space was established in Perth. This latest offering is the first time a co-working space has been established to cater specifically to men. The lack of investment in male only working spaces could be down to the fact that currently three in four startups in Australia are founded by men.
The Nomadic Thinkers founders are currently in lease negotiations and the plan is to open up the space in January next year. Initially it will feature just a co-working space, cafe and a gym but “down the road we’re hoping to get a barber and a physio,” Monaghan says.
The startup offers a number of membership packages including “The Bear Grylls” and the “The Musk Have”, named after billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk.
Junkee asked Samuel Monaghan, one of Nomadic Thinkers’ founders, how he would respond if, heavens forbid, a woman applied for membership.
“We’re really flattered by that, but unfortunately we’d have to decline. But we can refer you to other co-working spaces we’ve partnered with,” he answered. Monaghan touted a partnership with established Brisbane startup network, Little Tokyo Two (LTT), but a staff member there told Junkee there was no formal arrangement with Nomadic Thinkers.
“It’s all very early stage,” the LTT staffer said. “A proposal came across our desk but there were things we wanted changed.” They described the idea of a men’s only co-working space as “not lining up with the values” of LTT.
“A men’s only space didn’t fly with us,” they said. LTT itself is the process of establishing women’s centric and LGBTI centric spaces in order to improve collaboration and diversity within the startup community.
Why Create An All Male Working Space?
Monaghan told Junkee that there were “a couple of things that got us to this point.”
“We’d been working in coffee shops and at home and it wasn’t that conducive to working,” Monaghan said. “We both had a mate who ended up in a violent situation with his wife. He pushed his wife over.”
According to Monaghan, domestic violence is an issue that “stems from depression in many cases”.
“Depression and suicide result from a lack of social support and community. Having a space where they [men] can be men is more of a preventative measure,” Monaghan said. “Healthy, happy men don’t hit their wives.”
Professor Marian Baird, the Director of the University of Sydney’s Women and Work Research Group told Junkee that Nomadic Thinkers could be the first workplace overtly designed to be exclusive to men. “I’ve never heard of a workplace being designed deliberately to be male only in a physical sense,” Professor Baird said.
Professor Baird wasn’t convinced by Monaghan’s justification for the exclusive nature of the space. “I don’t think there’s any excuse for domestic violence and I think that is a bit of a cop-out,” she said.
A Parliamentary Library research paper assessing “the risk factors associated with perpetrators and victims of domestic violence” did not find any link between men suffering from depression and perpetrating domestic violence. It found that the strongest risk factors related to the perpetrators “drinking habits, levels of aggression and controlling behaviours”. It also found that “domestic violence cuts across social and economic boundaries.”
According to Professor Baird, Nomadic Thinkers risks reinforcing damaging prejudices that could harm women. “I think the outcome of making it a male only workplace, and the disdavatanges and prejudices that could flow from that, outweigh any benefits they think they’re providing.
“I think the issue it raises is that these sorts of new work sites are in the sector that uses new technology. We already know that sector is heavily masculine. This entrenches that masculinity,” she said.
Is It Legal?
It is unlawful in Australia to make hiring decisions or deny services on the basis of gender. However Nomadic Thinkers were adamant that their model was “legally fine.”
Professor Baird suggested that the co-working arrangement could fall into a legal grey area. So should sex discrimination laws stay up to date with changes to how workplaces are organised?
“Absolutely,” she said. “This is the future of many workplaces, especially in the startup sector.”
Monaghan told Junkee that women would be able to access the front section of the space, including the cafe and meeting rooms, but would not be allowed into the actual working space. So far they’ve received forty applications for membership.
“We live in a stoic culture,” he said. “As guys in Australia we’re told to suck it up. When women are around we have trouble being vulnerable. We’re helping men who are professional. It’s a healthy environment for men.
“I’m 25 and I’ve grown up in this culture where we don’t have any rites of passage. In other cultures you go out and hunt in a forest for three days. We just hit 15 and start drinking. There’s a real loss of identity for men. We used to go to war together. Girls do it better naturally, they have tea parties and stuff.”