There are countless women’s groups in Virginia, one even dating back to the 1890’s. Now a new space in Richmond is aiming to revive the tradition with a twist. The Broad is part work space, part event venue, part social club. But it’s all, just for women.
When Ali Greenberg moved to Richmond from New York City just over a year ago she explored the city. She went to after work meetups, tried co-working spaces. But she couldn’t find just what she was looking for
“I didn’t need 24/7 office space, I just needed some people to talk to and I needed a new community,” said Greenberg.
So she set out to create one. The result is The Broad, a 2,500 square foot loft space in downtown Richmond.
Well decorated, full of amenities. The space features lots of soft seating in soft pink, a kitchen constantly stocked with four flavors of sparkling water, organic tampons and locally-made lotion in the plush bathroom.
And on a Tuesday afternoon sprinkled throughout the space are women -- reading, typing on laptops, bent together over work.
“So we have our main salon area which features our communal work table. Our library with all books by and about women,” Greenberg gestures as she walks around the space. “Yoga props for our weekly class that we hold right in here.”
In addition to yoga classes the Broad hosts evening events. In April, the panels include ‘Fresh Women of the General Assembly’, ‘Women & Firearms’, and ‘Real Talk with a Realtor.’
“We also have weekly office hours with a lawyer, monthly office hours with an accountant all for that same purpose of making space to ask those questions and have that conversation in a really low risk environment,” says Greenberg.
In the early 1900’s women’s clubs reached a heyday. Now, almost a century later, and they’re having a bit of a revival.
One club in New York raised $10 million from investors and recently announced branches in six new cities, including San Francisco and London.
The Broad in Richmond has seen its own, more modest, success. They had a goal of 100 members before they opened. Instead they reached 140. Now, three months in, Greenberg says they’re up to 160.
“We’ve certainly seen incredible desire,” Greenberg says. “We get people all the time that say ‘Oh I’ve been watching these other cities and I’ve always wanted something here I’m so glad that I found y’all and that we actually have it in Richmond,’.”
Nia Bentall is one of the Broad’s first members. In addition to going to social events, she also works out of the building a few days a week. She thinks there’s value in all female-space. One big reason is that she’s less self critical.
“I mean the men I work with are great, but I just don’t second guess (myself) as much,” Bentall explains. “Like even saying something like that, am I speaking the wrong way, did I just end on a high note in a question?”
Those are the kinds of things Bentall says she doesn’t worry about when it’s just women around.
Rebecca Thomas is another of the Broad’s first members. A 47-year old writer and restaurant owner, she says for her generation women’s equality had always been about inclusion.
“This seemed to be in a different direction and I was really curious about it,” Thomas says. “I worked hard to be in men’s spaces. This is another iteration that I hadn’t really thought of.”
An iteration that Thomas calls the next wave of feminism.