I have been a paying business member of The Perlene, the all-women social club and feminist coworking space in Portland, Oregon, since last summer. This post was not paid, sponsored or solicited. I wrote it entirely on my own because I think it’s crucial to support women and mothers to find your people wherever they may be.
Last summer, I found myself in a great place in my career as a freelance writer: I was working consistently. I was writing inspiring stories about nonprofits doing great things and kids changing the world through technology. I was publishing stories in magazines and web sites like Cosmo, Real Simple, Scary Mommy and Travel Portland. The problem: I was lonely.
I worked by myself at my home office, and it wasn’t uncommon that I’d get to bedtime and realize I didn’t step outside that day. I talked to folks over the phone but rarely had face-to-face conversations with people outside my family. And I found my productivity dwindling.
I remembered the good feeling I had getting a ton done while working with a colleague at WeWork in Portland. But the community—or lack thereof—was a turnoff. I didn’t feel like I’d find my people among all the tech bros working on four giant monitors.
A little googling led me to a new space that sounded more my speed: The Perlene, Portland’s feminist social club and coworking space. I had the feeling I would find my people here.
A feminist coworking space
I’ve been a member of The Perlene since last summer, and I typically work there three days a week. So what is a feminist coworking space?
On its face, it’s not that different from other coworking setups: The Perlene has communal tables, rooms you can reserve for meetings, wifi, coffee and tea, classes and workshops.
What sets this feminist coworking space apart is two things. Firstly, it looks different. Everything is cut crystal and sequins, twinkle lights and cozy corners, flowers and faux fur, glam and beauty. I’m not typically a sparkly kind of gal (besides embracing glitter during my girls art projects), but it feels amazing to spend my workday in a place that feels inviting and feminine instead of sterile and industrial.
Beyond that, though, is something much bigger. The Perlene’s ethos is all about lifting up, empowering and recognizing all of its female members (even its pint-sized ones!).
Embracing ambition and becoming “ambitchious”
The Perlene is a space where I can fully become a more complete expression of myself, especially my professional self. Within this glittery, kick-a community, I feel supported to be the badass boss bitch I know I can be.
I don’t have to apologize for taking up space, downplay my achievements or aim for lower than what I want. For example, after one discussion about how women tend to undervalue our work (and the reluctance to negotiate pay leads to an average $2 million in lost revenue over a lifetime), I began a new policy: Always ask for more. Over the last 6 months I have become much better about negotiating and asking for pay that represents the strength of my work. And you know what? I usually get more—which leads me to believe I’ve been undercharging for years.
What’s more, I don’t feel like I have to hide the fact that I negotiate for better pay, now that I’ve found my people. In fact, I posted about it loud and clear in our Slack #winning channel, and I was celebrated for being ambitious. I didn’t get any side eye, and I didn’t fear being judged for rocking the boat. In fact, The Perlene has cultivated a community that encourages rocking the boat.
I have found my people in my colleagues at The Perlene, who work in a diverse set of professions from marketing to massage and real estate to resume writing. I have grown so much, both professionally and personally, since I joined The Perlene, and for that I will always treasure this one-of-a-kind sanctuary.
Rock on, sisters.