How are you, folks? We’re back with another episode of Coworking Values Podcast where we all learn more about the coworking world.
We’re bringing you French Entrepreneur and Digital Nomad — Ivanne Poussier as our guest for this episode. Ivanne is the CEO and Founder of Learning Animal, a Digital Learning Consulting company. And she is also the author of the recently published book — Sisters in Arms: Women in search of inclusive coworking spaces.
We will be deep-diving in the roles of Women in the various fields that Men has been dominating for so long. And of course, we’ll also be talking about Learning Animal, Ivanne’s book: Sisters in Arms and Ada Coworking.
Why did you choose Ada Lovelace as the namesake of your Coworking Space?
We chose Ada Lovelace because she’s not very well known in France. And she’s the first computer programmer in history or herstory — and what we’d like with my associate, is to build a concept which addresses the diversity of generations.
So we don’t have the same age as my partner. And she has two teenage daughters, who learn how to code already who might one day work within the tech industry, or at least study STEM or broader professional opportunities later.
And what struck me the most in Ada Lovelace story is that it is her mother, who decided that she could have lessons in mathematics, instead of becoming a poet like her father. And I think it’s the opposite today. Many, many girls are oriented to study humanities and literature or social sciences like myself. And, still many, many boys are oriented toward STEMs.
And I think Ada Lovelace proves the opposite is possible and can set an example. If only women were given the same opportunities, as young as teenage girls, and later, when you are in the professional transition to change completely, to orientate yourself something maybe towards the tech sector, it’s also a great source of inspiration.
So we wanted to make a strong case that women were empowered in the tech industry, and also in entrepreneurship in a broader sense.
Bernie J Mitchel 0:03
Hello ladies and gentlemen and welcome to this week’s edition of the Coworking Values podcast. And just before we get to our guest, a little word from my friend, colleague, and my main inspiration, Zeljko talking from our sponsor.
Zeljko Crnjaković 0:21
This episode is brought to you by Cobot, our leading management software for coworking spaces, office hubs and flexible workspaces around the world. You know, one of the best things about Cobot is that it is produced by people who manage a coworking space and know the ins and outs of the main problems and issues, bugging coworking managers. So, if you want more time for your co-workers and community, check out Cobot at cobot.me and take your coworking management to the next level.
Bernie J Mitchel 0:56
And unfortunately, my dear friend, Zel can’t be here today. He’s doing another parachute jump. And so, it’s just me, and Ivanne, our guest, which will be great. And so, I’m really, really excited about this. This is another project that I’ve seen kind of pop up and then develop. And so Ivanne, what are you known for? And what would you like to be known for?
Thank you, Bernie. I would like to be known as a learning animal because every single day I learn something, or I try to. And I would like to be known in the future for building Ada Coworking as the first women focused space in France in a suburban area, where we think there are many female talents. Women, and non-binary people broadly. And I really want to innovate in this field and build a smarter and more inclusive cities.
Bernie J Mitchel 2:04
Is that all?
No, because I have big ambitions.
Bernie J Mitchel 2:12
How did you get started in coworking? Because there are a lot of people on this podcast who didn’t just open a space to rent or don’t just want to open a space to rent desks. There is a whole driving force behind it. So, as we were talking before, I came on, I just always see Ada Coworking popping up around and I thought you had a space but actually, in the last few seconds have worked out even that you wrote a book to help you open a space. Is that correct?
Yes, exactly. The first step of the project after brainstorming with my associate was really to take a journey across Europe. And because the idea was okay, so we are two women, we want to open a coworking space in the suburbs, in the outskirts of Paris, where you don’t have so many coworking spaces yet. And if we want to convince all the stakeholders that it’s relevant to create a women-focused coworking space, and of course, a community driven coworking space. We have to make a strong case for it and demonstrate that we are part of a bigger movement. And this is when I discovered that not only you had this movement coming from the US and Canada with the wings, the Riveter making more dead hero hub, but also that we had many his or two unknown coworking spaces, which were grassroots projects from all over Europe, from Germany, from Sweden, around Poland, etc. etc. And the idea behind undertaking this journey was to bid our business plan on best practices and actual practices we could spot on the field. So, this was the first step. And we think this will enable us to accelerate in the operational phase of building our actual coworking space.
Bernie J Mitchel 4:22
So, the other thing I’m going to ask is why did you choose Ada Lovelace as the namesake of the space like Ada Coworking over everyone else?
We chose the Ada Lovelace because she’s not very well known in France, and she’s the first computer programmer in history or herstory if you’re a strong feminist, and what we like is with Eva, my associate, we want to build a concept which addresses the diversity of generations. So, we don’t have the same age with my partner. And she has two teenage daughters who have learned how to code already and may one day work in the tech industry, or at least in study stems, to have broader professional opportunities later. And what struck me the most in the Ada Lovelace story is that it is her mother who decided that she could have the lessons in mathematics, instead of becoming a poet like her father, and I think it’s the opposite today. Many girls are oriented to do humanities and literature or the social science studies like myself. And still many boys are oriented towards stems. And I think Ada Lovelace proves the opposite is possible and can set an example. And if only women were given the same opportunities as teenage girls, and later, when you are in a professional transition to change completely, to orientate yourself maybe towards the tech sector. It’s also a great source of inspiration. So, we wanted to make a strong case for how women who are empowered in the tech industry, and also in entrepreneurship in a broader sense.
Bernie J Mitchel 6:45
Ace, I was hoping you’d say something like that. So, you can have like all the men writing poetry in the corner, like our father, Lord Byron, and all the women building spaceships.
The idea is to be able to join whatever your qualification is. That you don’t have this social censorship about what you should or could as a man or a woman. So, I think it’s more on the idea of broadening your opportunities.
Bernie J Mitchel 8:10
What themes came up as you met female space owners? What did you expect to find? And what did you actually find?
I think female founders were in the same dynamic as me and my partner. Which is to create a space of your own because of all the frustrations you’ve experienced before in other workplaces. So, whether as an employee or after trying other coworking spaces. In mixed environments, the idea is to create a space which reflects more your aspirations, which caters more to your needs as a woman and also building a community where you feel more empowered by being surrounded by other women. I think if there is one common trait, one common point, among younger and older founders, is this idea that you’ll never be better served by yourself. I observed things I didn’t expect and the most striking one was that they are not hardcore feminists. Not all of them express feminism in the industry. Same way as someone like me because I present myself as a feminist entrepreneur. But in fact, it’s not something pragmatic. They create a coworking space which is mostly dedicated to women. Some, women only and others are open to all, but they really have the sense of detail to create a comfortable setting and at the right atmosphere to focus on most of the day, and also to connect with others.
They really know how to create a close-knit community, which is supportive and benevolent, and they recreated it the way they would have expected it to thrive. For example, if they had previously launched a first business, so they really draw from their own frustrations, and then they totally innovate in the way they convey this atmosphere and the way they offer services, or the way they manage the community. So, it takes many shapes, and I would say, luckily, because women are so diverse themselves, that even if I thought maybe there would be some kind of European model with this grassroot movement, in fact, I was totally wrong because almost every concept is a concept of its kind.
Bernie J Mitchel 11:53
Can you say a bit about how going to work in a coworking space occurs differently from for a woman to a man? In the UK, I’ve read a lot around how society just assumed that all the women would stay at home and homeschool, and all the men would go to work, like we’re still in a kind of, men go, and hunt and women stay at home. And I actually couldn’t believe I was reading that in year in 2020. How does the workday in a coworking space occur differently between the genders?
I think that the first two differences in terms of context, because the women are like myself, they become entrepreneurs a little later in life. So, around the 30s, whereas in the older, geeky start-up, quirky spaces, you find many men who are younger, and us women are a little older. I would say on average many have previous experience as employees and their expectations are set higher because they have known the corporate office. And for example, you have ergonomic chairs, you will never accept chairs that are not comfortable for your back. For example, you have very higher expectations on this matter. But also, they launch, roughly on average later in their career and they launch solo. When you are a founder, it’s so different because you will start home. And for majority working from home or having a home office, because they are always home is not truly sustainable in the long term. It’s painful. It’s hard to focus. It is either you procrastinate most of the time and you have many duties, many things to do at home as well or you burn yourself because you don’t set boundaries and it becomes difficult, and you take all due decisions on your own. Which is also a mental load which can be really heavy. I’ve said that the context is different.
So, I think that when you come to Florida to these kinds of coworking spaces, what you expect is a quiet place where you can focus, where you will not be disturbed by the low voices, too much noise. And you really want to feel respected when you work. And also, you want to be able to connect in a formal or informal way, at the right moment of the day. So, you will need pre-feasibility. You want to know that you’re coming on a given day of the week, because mostly these women have part-time memberships. And you want to be sure that something would happen, whether it be a breakfast, or lunch, or lunch and learn or troubleshooting mindmeister and where you know you can talk with your fellows, you can exchange tips, you can find answers quickly. And during the day you will have part of the time on your own really being focused and knowing that if you have a question, an issue, an idea, you can talk to someone about that and share very quickly in an efficient way. And otherwise, if there is an event, a workshop or training, you will derive value from this moment and learn something new and be more knowledgeable about something which is helpful for your business.
Bernie J Mitchel 16:27
That’s great. I’m going to quickly move on because the next questions are going to explain a bit more of where you’re going. There’s the whole book, have you published it yet?
It’s published, and you can already read the E-book on Amazon or Kindle, either in French or in English.
Bernie J Mitchel 16:50
I will definitely link to that in the show notes as the whole book. And then you’re taking part in the Coworking Library hackathon, which is a big part of the research group for collaborative spaces. Ashley Proctor and Tash are running the Global Inclusion, Equality and Diversity project. And you’re going to open a coworking space. So, can you say a bit about your future because you a lot of people who are listening to this are rooting for what you’ve done, and what you’ve put together. Say what you hope to happen. Where do you want all this work that you’ve done to go as well as opening your coworking space? But what else do you want to have? How do you want the landscape to change as you go on this journey?
I definitely do want the landscape to change, especially in France, which is the market on the country I’m from. And it’s the same idea as choosing the name of Ada Coworking. It is really to open the conversation about the fact that women are not treated equally as men in the workplace in general, and in entrepreneurship, and financing as well. What I really want to change is the idea that even if we gather with other women, as women we can really bring something to diversity and inclusion in in the future of work. And especially in an intersectional approach, including other diversities also. Not only promoting women in entrepreneurship, but also raising the bar very high. But we want to include any women, older women, whatever their social, cultural, ethnic background, and women with disabilities, women with all those stories and the other profiles. And I think this is the common point between all I do at the moment and all I will undertake later. And also, I think you have to pay even more attention to this if you launch a coworking space in the suburbs. And I have to tell you something which is quite shocking, but here in Boise, where my project is, we live like 10 kilometers away from the last terror attack which happened in France with the killing of a teacher by fundamentalists, and you have to know that of course. Diversity is a matter everywhere, but when you are in the suburbs of the Paris region, you have all these communities who do not talk to each other very often. And we also know that there are many women, there are many teenage girls who are a year under and do not have the same opportunities as me, like Ava. And Ava has daughters, for example, they don’t go to the same schools, they will not have the same former sociological point of view, the opportunities they get are really different. So, my point is that we really to pay attention to diversity, inclusion, equality, and reflect on new ways of addressing these challenges. And coworking can be crucible for innovation in this matter.
Bernie J Mitchel 21:02
So, where is the best place to go online and keep track about everything you’re doing?
If you want to keep track, you can connect with me on my LinkedIn account in English. And my website, adaworking.com is also in both languages, French, and English. Or you can subscribe to my medium blog which is called the Sistopia. It is the opposite of Brotopia. So, I hope to be this sisterhood eutopia. And for me to become concrete. And I hope to interest and involve as many people as I can.
Bernie J Mitchel 22:04
Can you say a bit about Ashley’s University project because you’ve been taken?
I’ve attended the two first video calls. So, the first virtual meetings organized by Ashley Proctor from Canada with an international scope about inclusion, diversity, and equality in the coworking and now starting from the ninth of December, and then in 2021, there will be a monthly challenge, or a monthly massage offered to coworking space managers and owners to reflect on a given topic on how to improve diversity and inclusion in your coworking space. What I like in this project is that, of course, we work on a variety of time zones, and there will also be local initiatives possible. So, now the first attendees have been asked if they wanted to commit as volunteers or what they could bring as skills and what we could do in our own region. So, whether you’re in your continent or in your country, on your area, and I think it would be good that more French speaking people could attend, whether from France, whether from Belgium, French-speaking Sweden. I think could develop and crowdsource tools, methods, new ways of managing diversity and inclusion and I think it’s a good example of a virtual collaborative community. And I think it’s worth the time and it can be really, really powerful to innovate everywhere, all of us at the same time.
Bernie J Mitchel 24:23
I’ve got very high hopes for that because it’s long overdue. And Cobot who sponsor this podcast have been pushing and encouraging people to talk about this for years and years and years. And in the assembly as a lot of us who have helped, I find people like you to help push it forward.
There is something I want to add. If you read my book, you’ll see that the women focused coworking spaces in Europe blossomed just in the aftermath of the Me Too movement in 2017. And this also means that coworking will be needed more than ever, but in different ways, new ways, in more ambitious ways, and in not inclusive ways. And I think this is really the perfect moment to face these challenges with very much humility, and also ask the right questions, and also connect to each other, to face challenges, but we know now, thanks to the ID project, and other initiatives like that, that we are not alone in spite of the distance, we can also progress together.
Bernie J Mitchel 26:11
That is the sentiment shared by a lot of people we’ve been talking to over the last few weeks. This is a golden moment for coworking to become more than just a place to sit down and do your work. And we all need to stand up and pay attention. There’s a lot of events coming up in the next few months in coworking and a lot of those event panels. And, over the last few years have been very male orientated real estate, which is a big part of the coworking industry is a very, very male orientated past time. And over the last few years, coworking spaces have got better at having more imagery on their spaces. But while the major coworking conferences still have mainly white people and mainly males talking on their panels, is sending a really, really poor signal to the industry.
And I’m going to link to Tash Thomas, who runs our inclusion and diversity. I’m going to link to a blog post that she did about Dice, which is an inclusion and diversity movement based in the UK about event panels being equal and representing races, genders, and sexual orientations. My friend, Sonia Thompson runs a thing about inclusive marketing. And she’s part of a big US based event, which I can’t remember, but I’ll link to in the show notes. And they make the point of in a day, in the era of online events, there is absolutely no excuse to having the same people show up because even people without the budget to travel can still get to the event because they can do it online. And I’ve been part of coworking events where we’ve had to find speakers and I’ve brought up that there’s too many white men on this panel. And people have said to me things like, well, women just don’t email back, or we can’t find enough black people. And they are there, and you have to put in the effort to look for them. So, big shout out to all you people listening. Get involved with all this stuff that’s going on and help change the world for the better. Anything you’d like to add to that before we go?
Well, I am really looking forward to discovering new initiatives and meeting people who want to commit on these topics. And you’re right that banners matter. We also as attendees can change the way things go. And we can also look at research work written by different people. And I think it’s also a great source of innovation.
Bernie J Mitchel 29:12
It is. I really appreciate your time and love the effort you’re putting into this and everyone we put you in contact with comes back and raves about you, which is always a lovely warm feeling. So, thank you very much.
Bernie J Mitchel 29:24
Ladies and gentlemen go to coworkingassembly.eu and you can sign up for our weekly email newsletter, which is just a roundup of the events and projects and all the initiatives that are going on in the European Coworking Assembly. And all the blogs and the podcasts will get emailed to you directly, so there’s no cheesy sponsorship thing going on there. It’s just direct information from independent coworking space owners from around Europe who are making a big dent in the universe. Thank you for your time, we’ll see you next week.