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How "The Wing", a women-focused, co-working space collective and club is now reeling from allegations of racism, exclusivity and abuses of power

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  1. intuxikated

    One former London staffer, who wishes to remain anonymous, says that tensions emerged with management early on. “I was completely unsupported and had zero contact with line managers or bosses before opening,” she says. “I was bullied by my boss, despite never having had a warning in my career. The professionalism and procedures just were not there. It feels like I’ve been chewed up and spat out after working there. And there was a shroud of secrecy around the allegations that were coming out of the US.”

    You could definitely sense that there was a hierarchy,” says another former member, a Croatian brand strategist, remembering how management staff “ignored” and spoke down to non-English-speaking cleaners. “It felt like you had these tier-A women trying to make the world a different place, and then you still had your staff who are people like my auntie, Croatian, cleaning your toilets. Those two worlds don’t match fully.”

    Founding member Yassmin Abdel-Magied, a social justice advocate, says the US allegations were “unsurprising to anyone who paid attention to the class and racial dynamics at the club”, while an American member of the London club says The Wing’s “predominantly white management managing people of colour” made her feel uncomfortable. The club’s management was restructured six months ago, with five white women put in charge.


    The American member says: “In the States it’s really common to have a white front-of-house and a back-of-house that’s people of colour, mostly Hispanic, and it’s absolutely unacceptable. One of the reasons I like living [in London] is that you rarely see that, but at The Wing it felt like I was going back home in a bad way.” She recalls staff being “berated” in public.

    It’s sad, the Croatian member adds, because The Wing was ultimately a great idea. “Women need spaces where they can meet and build connections and grow. The problem is this was built on a completely f***ed up premise of profit and hierarchy and classism. The feminist branding that it tapped into, that all of us are equal, you can’t fulfil that if you don’t live that. In the end they hurt a lot of people.”

    She’ll be surprised if the club doesn’t close. Covid-aside, “there’s too much damage.” None of the London members she’s spoken to have had emails since the doors closed in March. “Everything was just about the US. I think that’s extremely f***ed up, especially if you’re building a brand based on membership and this plug of ‘we’re in it together’. At the end of the day it was a tier one, white American experience that they tried to cash in on. I took the bite, but I’m out of it.”

    Though staff and members hope that The Wing’s overriding mission continues. “Audrey Gelman is not excused but what she was trying to do was still admirable,” says one. “The execution failed. I hope they find a way to make it up to the staff they have wronged.”

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