It’s got the startup community in a spin, but there are still questions to be answered about Nomadic Thinkers, Australia’s first male only co-working space and gym.
The Brisbane-based operation was promoted to media yesterday as an “an innovative way to address male related social issues”. Membership is only open to males, and while the founders recognised this would likely “ruffle some feathers”, they said they believe in the need for men to have a space in to help “men be men” and “launch men in business and life”. The co-working space would help address mental health issues among men, they said.
Co-founder Samuel Monaghan spoke with Junkee yesterday and the resulting piece has led to derision on social media.
The conversation went well beyond the Australian business community, with writers, comedians and TV personalities all deriding the proposed project.
— Felicity Ward (@felicityward) November 1, 2016
In the interview Monaghan said that if women wanted to join the space, the venue would have to refuse.
“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 said.
Monaghan had spoken of a potential partnership with fellow Brisbane co-working space Little Tokyo Two (LTT). However, Isaac J Holmyard, events manager at LTT, told SmartCompany the LTT team receive hundreds of emails from new enterprises and while they were “happy for them to do what they’re doing”, it would not go into a partnership with the group because of Little Tokyo’s belief that single gendered co-working spaces are not in the spirit of collaboration in the startup community.
“We’re actually looking at a female-centric – not “female only” space in 2017,” Holmyard says. “We’re definitely not assisting [Nomadic Thinkers] in any way, shape or form.”
A number of female focused co-working spaces already exist in Australia, and the Nomadic Thinkers project presented itself as a space in which men’s mental health issues were focused on in the business community.
This morning SmartCompany made a number of requests to speak with the founders about the kinds of business projects they wanted to foster in the co-working space, but an interview request was declined.
In a statement on the reaction to the announcement, the founders said they believe the media attention “has come across that we trivialise the significance of domestic violence and depression”.
“The reality is that our framework was always going to be a source of contention. However, we had hoped for constructive and meaningful conversations,” the team said.
A number of individuals on social media have pointed out the dominance of men in the startup and small business scene in Australia, questioning whether more really needs to be done to create safe spaces for male entrepreneurs.
While there are female-focused incubator and networking projects across the country, several advocate the promotion of women entrepreneurs without enforcing a “women only” rule.
Co-founder and chief executive of One Roof Women Sheree Rubinstein, a shared workspace focused on connecting women, says the team would never turn a male entrepreneur away and that One Roof regularly has men working out of its spaces.
Rubenstein told SmartCompany it’s essential that both men and women are supported in the local business community, and while supporting men is something that should be discussed, she fails to see how a project like Nomadic Thinkers addresses these issues.
“There are already men’s only club, so I don’t know what the difference is really,” she says.
“As the startup ecosystem currently stands, the challenges exist more significantly for women.
“I understand we need to talk about both genders and the unique challenges for each – I don’t understand how a men’s only space can do that.”
While conversations around masculinity and what it means in the workforce are important, Rubinstein says the division of men into one space is not enough to make progress for both genders.
The Nomadic Thinkers Facebook page describes the goal of the operation as “to develop happy men who will be good dads, great husbands and create grand empires!”
The statement quoted above was posted to the Facebook page this morning.