If you’ve followed CoworkingResources for any length of time you know by now that we’re dedicated to covering all aspects of planning, setting up, and operating a coworking space. We scour social media groups and forums and recently, we stumbled on a topic that we actually haven’t completely exhausted: diversity. We noticed that there are a growing number of coworking managers and leaders looking to increase diversity among their members. Unfortunately, it’s an issue that a lot of companies are trying to reconcile as minority-owned businesses continue to become a powerful economic force. Here are a few concrete steps you can take to increase the diversity in your space:
Host a Diversity Day or Mixer
Since coworking spaces are so enthusiastic about connecting with local businesses, why not seek out minority-owned businesses in the area and invite them to a networking event dedicated to them, even if they aren’t members yet. It would be a great way to advertise your space, obviously good PR (few local newspapers would ignore an event like that if it’s big enough and well-advertised), and it will spread the word among minority communities that your space is progressive and a viable option for their business. In a small or mid-size town word travels fast, which could be a great advantage!
Perhaps one of the main barriers for underrepresented communities is that they won’t risk buying into a new concept unless they know it is…friendly (or at least open-minded). So dedicating a few events per year to celebrating minority-owned businesses and freelancers is a great way to let them know your doors are open.
Get Immersed in Your Target Minority Groups
Unfortunately, gender and color bias is simply part of human nature and it’s reflected in how we interact with others. If you see that your space is predominantly white, it’s probably because you’re located in a predominantly white neighborhood, and you advertise and partner with businesses that have a — you guessed it — predominantly white customer base.
So when we say “immerse yourself” we mean to advertise your space where there is a concentrated diverse community and don’t be afraid to go where your target community is. This is where profiling your target customer might be a good thing! Find minority communities of artists, freelancers, LGBTI-led businesses, etc… (they have their own forums and Facebook groups). So go to their events, do the research on what matters to the people in these minority groups and find ways to understand and empathize with their experiences. Give them your brochure or present your concept in their space first, don’t expect them to come to you. If you come from a place of deeper understanding, it’ll be easier to start conversations and make presentations that are truly relevant to a minority focus group.
Also, it wouldn’t hurt to do a photo shoot to add at least one person of color in your marketing materials. Don’t underestimate this point. It’s been proven that, whether it’s unconsciously or intentionally done, a lack of representation (in any kind of advertising) alienates minority groups from your business. No matter what color your skin is, people naturally gravitate toward ads and media with people that look like them, and by extension the products and services they use. So to be more inclusive, you need to make a conscious effort to represent diversity in your ads, social media posts, and brochures.
Educate Them About Your Membership Plans
Another reason you may not be seeing a lot of leads from minority groups is a lack of understanding about prices. They simply might not know all the benefits of a coworking space or the fact that it can be cheaper and less stressful than a traditional office lease. Perhaps you could host an open forum or design marketing materials that break down the savings they could achieve by moving to your space. But first be very self-aware about your pricing in the first place. If you’ve priced yourself into a narrow demographic already, you might want to revisit that and do more research on what your target community of minority business owners can afford.
We hope these few tips help coworking owners and managers looking to diversify their community of members. Diversity is a major problem in almost every industry, so it’s no surprise that coworking is no different; however, it’s encouraging to see that leaders in the coworking movement are passionate enough about community building to make conscious efforts toward greater diversity in the industry!
If you’ve found more successful ways to diversify your space, we’d love to hear from you! Feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org and share your story.