Most built spaces in our world are designed for the average man. Corporate office temperatures are often based on a standard from the 1960s that used a 154-pound, 40-year-old man in a suit as the standard occupant–forcing women to wear layers and cover themselves in blankets to stay warm. Even Le Corbusier wanted to design buildings based on a “human scale” determined by a six-foot-tall man.
But The Wing, a women-led coworking space and social club, prides itself on designing spaces for women first. Since the company was founded in 2016, its designers have worked with outside manufacturers to adjust seat heights and depths to fit the average woman rather than the average man. Now, the company is scaling up an internal design team that has outfitted 80% of The Wing’s two newest locations in Los Angeles and Chicago with custom furniture. “Ergonomics are very important because women are using our spaces for working for hours per day,” says Laetitia Gorra, senior designer at The Wing.
The Wing’s design ambitions are greater than custom furniture, though. It is also branching into designing entire rooms for other companies, bringing its female-focused design sensibility–and its brand–into the greater corporate world.
The design team is led by Gorra and includes two other designers, but the company plans to scale up as they continue to expand The Wing’s coworking spaces across the country and tackle external projects.
As for the team’s design process, Gorra points to an Italian-style serpentine couch at the company’s new L.A. location that can seat up to six women, which was designed with ideal seat depth and height for women’s bodies. To go with the couch, her team designed a table that can be pulled over to the couch so women can work there comfortably. The furniture, which the team designs in-house and then sends to a manufacturing partner to produce overseas, has symbolic value, too: “We use octagonal-shaped tables in a lot of our spaces,” Gorra says. “The thought there is community and being all equal at the table, all looking at each other and being able to converse while working.”
Perhaps the best and most common example of how most office spaces are not designed with women in mind is the sorry state of the corporate lactation room. The Affordable Care Act requires that many companies to provide a pumping room for new moms that has a door and that’s not a bathroom stall, but often that means a dirty, dimly lit supply closet or worse. When companies do have nicer facilities, they’re often commandeered by men for their own purposes: Famously, former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick would meditate in his company’s lactation rooms.