The Wing refocuses its coworking approach under Sheila Lirio Marcelo – Business Observer
Sheila Lirio Marcelo joined The Wing after a long year for the female-focused coworking space.
The Wing spent part of 2020 battling bankruptcy, responding to allegations of racism and discrimination in the workplace, and losing its co-founder and CEO Audrey Gelman (who resigned after these aforementioned allegations).
Marcelo, the new Executive President of The Wing, joins the company after a long career as an entrepreneur and business leader. She founded the childcare and elderly care website Care.com in 2006, after struggling to care for her own child while attending Harvard Business School (at one point , his father suffered a heart attack while babysitting Marcelo’s child). Media and Internet holding company IAC acquired the company for $ 500 million in 2019.
Marcelo was chosen to lead The Wing after IWG – which owns the Regus and Spaces coworking brands – threw a lifeline to the operator and acquired a controlling stake.
Now, a few months into his new role, Marcelo says the company could expand its scope to include sites nationwide and even globally. Marcello described his plans for The Wing and his expectations for the coworking industry as the United States recovers from the pandemic.
Commercial Observer: What attracted you to this position?
Sheila Marcelo: Some things. Granted, I tend to look at mission-driven companies that really serve women – that’s, I think, my calling in life.
And… I want to pay it to the next one. I want to pay it forward where I can make an impact not only in coaching founders, but also given the number of women who will be coming to The Wing, actually building their businesses means we can build. [a] have a greater impact on people’s lives – and they, in turn, serve other people. So, I felt it was the right next step for me.
What do you see for the future of The Wing, as we collectively recover from the pandemic? Do you expect coworking to bounce back with other industries?
I think coworking arouses a lot of enthusiasm. When we polled our member base, 86% said they were eager to see us reopen… I think there is this growing demand for what we call hybrid.
What is beautiful about what The Wing offers is really this sense of geographic flexibility. Our intention at The Wing is actually to grow in many different areas, both in metropolitan areas and in the suburbs, and to really help meet the global… needs of women in terms of flexible workspace.
Then of course there are the individual female founders who want a space where they can go safely, that has their peer group… When I was in West Hollywood and when we reopened, there were… five or six female entrepreneurs who had all met in The Wing about a year ago. The first day it opened, they kind of got together… They were all discussing how they supported each other and they missed it.
What markets are you thinking of for expansion?
It is national and global that we are targeting. We are therefore excited about our expansion plans and will be announcing it soon.
Coworking has faced many challenges over the past two years. Is The Wing doing anything to its leases to deal with these sudden changes or challenges, like early exit clauses or force majeure clauses?
I think that in general every coworking company, or even any company for that matter, revises their leases in a way … All I can say is that we have absolutely approached our owners, considering of the situation, of everything that was going on, of the pandemic.
What makes a good market now to develop for a coworking place?
There is a feeling of aggregate demand that we are still evaluating. If you are opening any type of retail outlet … make sure there is a mix of corporate clients as well as an ecosystem that supports the founding women.
We’re also starting to really assess and learn a lot from the IWG about how you meet the needs of where it’s going to change, where people don’t want to commute far anymore… So this suburban city really is. something that we ‘you seriously study and learn from the IWG.
Last year, allegations of racism and discrimination forced the former CEO of The Wing to resign. Are you planning to change the culture at The Wing? What efforts are you making with The Wing right now to resolve these issues?
I wasn’t there last year when all of these things happened, so I can’t really comment on that. But what I can say is that when I joined and [when] I started informally counseling this summer, Lauren [Kassan, Wing co-founder and current CEO] had a lot of plans in place already. She had actually traveled in late 2019, running focus groups across the country and, like, really listening to the needs of members – then started developing a comprehensive cultural code, which means improving training and improving the sense of care towards employees. Needs.
Since I got involved, and not just as far as I’m concerned, obviously, as a diverse candidate to be chairman of the board, but also we invited [partner and managing director at Boston Consulting Group] Robbin Mitchell to join the board of directors.
We have also added an advisory board that helps. It’s quite varied: [author and digital strategist] Luvvie Ajayi Jones, [CEO of Roshan Pharmaceuticals] Hitha Palepu, as well as [founder and CEO of digital startup BlueButterfly] Donna Byrd, and they have such a great sense of perspective.
I had just interviewed another candidate and she is of transgender background, and her comments are, “How do we think about space design? How do you make sure there is a feeling of inclusiveness? “… We are investing really seriously to really develop The Wing in a way that really resonates with me and my set of values.
The New York Times reported that Wing members were predominantly white, while hourly workers were predominantly people of color. I wonder if you have considered efforts to change the racial gap between wing members and employees, or adjustments in terms of dues and participation fees?
I cannot comment on the statistics because I was not there during this period; whether factual or [not], I do not know. But I know The Wing is open to everyone. We also have scholarships available for… applications. We want it to be accessible, and I think it’s important. I am a big supporter of diversity [and] inclusion, and again in an authentic way both in my journey and at Care.
You mentioned being competitive in terms of salary and benefits. Do you see this as crucial to The Wing’s mission? And how competitive are you trying to be?
Absolutely crucial for the mission… Part of my role on the board is also a sense of oversight around policies and procedures… We have not authorized any job offers on Care below minimum wage. And that was very important to me.
That’s another reason … why I thought I was so good at it, if you think about who we serve. Care.com’s dual market was families as well as caregivers, and caregivers are hourly workers. For me, this feeling of building a business for longevity on both sides is really important.
So members have access on their subscription side, just like Care.com, and then make sure that our hourly employees are respected and that we think about how policies can actually help us grow. The only way to grow is to have authenticity when it comes to respecting employees.