I’m an advocate, an activist, a proud woman, a working parent, and I’m the founder of a coworking community in Lancaster, PA called The Candy Factory. I work hard each day to empower those around me. Both women and men. Yes, men.

Now this is my humble opinion, and I know some might not agree, but this new trend we see in the coworking community is unfortunate and concerning. Yes, big corporate offices like WeWork hijacked the term coworking but now to add insult to injury women-only / exclusive spaces are popping up left and right. Do we think that spaces that exclude others are cool? What are we becoming? Coworking to me has always meant community working together (co meaning community, and please no hyphen). That takes on many forms, and true community means diversity and inclusion.


Anne Speaking to the House Small Business Committee on the gig economy and coworking.

Yes, women have unique challenges and are at a disadvantage in the business world but how does removing yourself and your work from real life get you anywhere? How does locking yourself up with only like-minded people of the same gender improve your ability to grow, create and learn?

As a teenage mom, the cards were stacked against me. Lucky for me I was supported by a community for moms and dads that taught me the value of a network, community, volunteering, and mentorship. I learned from group sessions that listening to each other’s experiences and sharing our knowledge allowed for better awareness, respect, and understanding. Single moms learned from the single dads, and the single dads learned from us.

I’ve taken what I learned over those years and applied them to my passion for building community. Building relationships, outreach, volunteering, creative gatherings, inspiring events, and workshops, as well as Coworking, have been my tools. I deeply understand the needs of women both in my coworking space and in my community and making an impact in their lives is part of our mission. Excluding men to reach those goals is not.

Coworking spaces are not the place for division or exclusion. In fact, It’s where diversity, equality, and inclusion should thrive. We’re working to disrupt the good ol’ boys club mentality; why create the same thing for women? Can we evolve beyond that by working together?

I’ve been running a coworking space for almost ten years, and I couldn’t imagine not being surrounded by my wonderful members…all of them. We are equal, and we have so much to learn from each other. How can we expect men to understand the need for respect and equality if we subtract them from our daily work lives? How can the important conversation be had when we are not all at the table? In our coworking community, we are family, and that means all of us.


The above photo was taken during the 2018 PA Coworking conference in the unisex bathroom at Zoetropolis Cinema Stillhouse


The Candy Factory Main Hall

To be clear, we are not ignoring the challenges women face. As a woman, I live it each day. That is why it is essential that spaces offer opportunities for women to connect with each other. I host a regular happy hour in my home for the women of our coworking community, and I started a group called Kick-Ass Female Entrepreneurs offering free events for all women. We are working to open Jelly Bellies, an on-site childcare facility because as a mom of two and running my businesses, I know how hard it can be to juggle it all. It’s crucial to make sure our spaces cater to the needs of women and moms trying to work and grow their businesses. This can be done in a space where men also work, and The Candy Factory is living proof of it.


Free KickAss Event for women in Central PA.


Advantage Lancaster Summer Program where we pair high school students with members.

Personally, it’s been incredibly rewarding networking, sharing knowledge, collaborating, and building friendships with my male peers as I have worked alongside them these past nine years. As I’ve witnessed before in my younger years, I’m a better person for being around them and they around me. I wouldn’t change that for the world.

So while some feel this is a positive step for women, I think it’s a step backward. The more inclusive we are as a whole from gender to race, age, sexual orientation, industry, and so on the more we learn, the stronger our communities, and that’s what coworking is all about.

So ladies, consider opening up those wonderful spaces and let everyone in so we can connect and educate in the process. Love to you all!  ~ Anne


Learn more about the coworking movement on the coworking wiki here.

“This is what the coworking movement is. We are extremely inclusive and love innovation. What makes us special is this: the member spaces of Open Coworking have all committed to some values which we all share.  Openness, Community, Accessibility, Sustainability, Collaboration.”

For more insight on this topic this article on FORBES written by Erin Spencer is worth a read – Is There A Case For Women-Centric, Co-Ed Coworking Spaces?

Anne Kirby founded The Candy Factory in 2010 after growing a community called The Creative House of Lancaster for three years. Her background is in Design and Marketing, but her passion is building communities while making an impact in the lives of her members and the Lancaster Community as a whole. Supporting women in business is an important part of The Candy Factory mission and she started KickAss in 2015.


Member Lunch & Learn at The Candy Factory


The Candy Factory branding reflects openness and community.