London's flexible office market is growing. The last 18 months have seen a huge influx of startups and scaleups moving into these spaces, which cater to people who want more than just a part-time desk in order to be productive.
To learn more about the appeal of shared workspaces, we commissioned an Economic Impact Report (EIR), conducted by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, into the effect on people and businesses using WeWork in the capital.
One standout finding was that leadership among this next wave of businesses is encouragingly gender balanced: 54 per cent of female WeWork members hold leadership positions, compared to only 10 per cent across the London workforce. This includes founders, sole proprietors, and senior management roles.
This is a remarkable achievement, considering that gender inequality persists in business – especially at the leadership level. For instance, there are currently only six female chief executives of FTSE 100 companies.
So what is it about shared spaces that helps to create so many female bosses? We asked some of our members for their insight into this question. A
notable response came from Monica Parker, founder of Hatch Analytics, who says that shared offices create an environment where women “feel that they’re a part of a community”.
She also highlights the importance of gaining a support network, and how a shared working environment can encourage practices, like delegation, which are required to take a businesses to the next level.
“Female founders, like myself, have learned the importance of delegating,” she says. “You can’t be a successful entrepreneur, especially when you’re a woman with a family and a life outside of work, without delegation.”
Through providing spaces that enable female professionals to connect with like-minded people, it seems that these environments are empowering women to establish themselves in leadership roles, away from any legacy perceptions of “office” hierarchies.
Stereotypically, female professionals looking for independence and flexibility from their work environment are associated with working from home. While this can have its perks, it certainly doesn’t suit everyone. The firms spearheading change in London are reducing the barriers between personal and professional environments – much to people’s satisfaction.
From speaking to our members, we tend to hear similar stories. Female business leaders have told us how much they value collaborating with like-minded people and learning from their counterparts. They tend to value environments that foster connections, finding that this can increase productivity and encourage conversations that can lead to future collaborations.
Most notably, it is the strong sense of community which underpins these environments that is one of the biggest attractions for women. Finding a flexible workspace which inspires women to pursue their entrepreneurial aspirations and embrace leadership positions, while still providing a strong sense of support, is invaluable to shaping businesses of the future.
The EIR study showed that this new breed of businesses has seen uplifted revenue growth by an average of 34 per cent – more than three times as fast as the average cost growth (11 per cent). Also, 81 per cent say that WeWork has improved their firm’s productivity. These fast-growth businesses are highly valuable to London’s economy and are setting a new standard.
With the shared workspace movement showing no signs of slowing, it is only right to assume that more female leaders and entrepreneurs alike will migrate to a more collaborative and flexible way of working. Perhaps there is a greater need to reassess how we approach our working lives.