Less than two years after opening its first location, the pink-hued women’s social club and coworking space, The Wing, is converting the majority of its hourly workers to full-time employees. Those who choose to remain part-time employees–which comprises anyone who works under 30 hours–will still be awarded medical benefits, stock options, and higher wages.
“We do have some employees that like part time because of the flexibility it affords them,” says Audrey Gelman, cofounder and CEO of The Wing, who notes that these policy changes weren’t prompted by retention issues. “But we believe that working part time doesn’t mean you should have to sacrifice access to things like healthcare or even an ownership stake in the company.” Some full-time employees will remain hourly rather than salaried workers, but wages for both full-time and part-time hourly employees have been bumped to $16.50; all employees will receive benefits like a 401(k) and health insurance. As for parental leave, full-time workers get three months of paid leave, and Gelman says The Wing hopes to match that for part-timers.
Since 2016, The Wing has grown to employ nearly 300 people in four locations across New York City and Washington, D.C., and last fall, WeWork led a $32 million investment in the company. By year-end, The Wing will make its way to San Francisco and Los Angeles; an additional seven openings are slated for next year, including far-flung outposts in Paris and London.
With this rapid expansion comes an increased responsibility to a growing roster of employees–and that’s especially true for The Wing, which boasts beauty stations and lactation rooms in its Instagram-ready spaces and prides itself on being a supportive, empowering community for women from all walks of life. For all its inclusive messaging, The Wing has its detractors, who argue a social club with a waiting list and $215 monthly rate is inherently exclusive. (The Wing’s own hourly employees surely couldn’t afford the price of entry.) Perhaps that’s why this move is doubly important for the company.
“We want our mission to not only be expressed through our brand but through our internal policies,” Gelman says. “And if we’re creating jobs, we want to create long-term, well-paying job opportunities with benefits–not more temporary job opportunities. There are enough of those.”
Gelman points to Rent the Runway as another example of women-run companies leading the charge with respect to quashing–or at least mitigating–tiered labor at companies. As Rent the Runway CEO Jennifer Hyman wrote recently in the New York Times, companies competing for top talent reward corporate employees with handsome benefits, but those perks rarely trickle down to hourly employees. (There are few exceptions to this model, with notable ones being Starbucks and Costco.) In April, Hyman finally equalized benefits, extending the same bereavement, parental leave, family sick leave, and sabbatical packages to all Rent the Runway employees.
Of course, companies like The Wing and Rent the Runway are fortunate to have the resources to make these kinds of changes. “I definitely don’t think this is something every company is capable of doing,” Gelman says. “We’ve been lucky and really privileged to be able to raise a significant amount of investment for the company. And yes, we’re focused on building a sustainable business model, but I think that when you bake these kinds of things in from the beginning, it’s possible. We want to create a culture where employees stay with us for a really long time.”