The Wing: Emotional Tax and Illusionary Feminism


This case is about the emotional tax—i.e., the feeling of having to protect against bias or unfair treatment and to be continually on guard (Sharma & Workneh, 2020; Tugend, 2018)—that employees faced at The Wing, a female-only coworking space and social club headquartered in New York. (A coworking space is an arrangement where several workers, including self-employed, freelancers, or employees of different organizations, share a common office space.) The Wing hired employees by pitching them feminism (i.e., advocating equal rights of women; Delmar, 1986) and growth opportunities, but later expanded their job profile to include menial tasks such as cleaning and washing dishes. The Wing employees were not adequately paid for the emotional tax they incurred at the workplace. Most of these employees were women of color. The Wing members also indulged in uncivil behavior including the use of abusive language. Employees accused cofounders Audrey Gelman and Lauren Kassan—who painted a utopian picture of The Wing to the outside world—of ignoring their complaints. In April 2020, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, The Wing was forced to lay off employees. The Wing was also sued over customer discrimination practices and had to open up its coworking space services to male customers. In June 2020—in the wake of the global “Black Lives Matter” racial discrimination protest—Gelman resigned. Her position as CEO was replaced by three women who collectively comprised the “Office of the CEO.” This new role had several challenges for its holders. How can they ensure that workers are happy at The Wing? By making The Wing a women-only club, did the company indulge in discrimination against men?

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