Saskatoon

'Better together': Collaborative space for women opens in Saskatoon

Although women’s groups have been around for over a century, the rise of women’s co-working and social spaces has taken on new meaning in the age of the #MeToo movement.

Woman-centric co-working a growing trend

Tammy Zdunich (left), co-founder of The Well in Saskatoon, and member Cara Taylor sit in the co-working space. (Julie Barnes)

Tammy Zdunich and Tamarah Hodgson launched The Well to fill the untapped niche of a shared studio space in Saskatoon, but another factor drove them toward its defining feature.

"Tamarah and I have always felt called to work with women," Zdunich said. 

"We believe strongly that it's important to be part of a community and that it's about belonging to each other and we can't go at it alone."

The Well is a new membership-based collaborative space for women in Saskatoon. With pastel-hued walls and tropical plants, the esthetic is highly Instagrammable. 

The Well features spaces suited to comfortable conversation. (Julie Barnes)

Zdunich said the 20 or so members are mostly "solopreneurs — they work on their own," but that the idea for the business is to make it more collaborative than the usual co-working environment.

"We're more about creating opportunities for women to network and collaborate," she said.

The rise of women's co-working spaces

Woman-centric co-working is a growing trend. The Wing, a U.S.-based network of women's co-working spaces recently announced plans to open a Toronto location in 2019. Toronto is already home to similarly focused spaces Shecosystem and Make Lemonade. 

The spike coincides with the rise of the #MeToo movement, as more women look for an alternative to the male-dominated workplace. But are these women-only workplaces discriminatory? 4:22

Although women's groups have been around for over a century, the rise of women's co-working and social spaces has taken on new meaning in the age of the #MeToo movement. 

Marie Lovrod, chair of the University of Saskatchewan's women and gender studies program, said she understands why some women would seek to collaborate with one another given the issues #MeToo has brought to light. 

"I think women are finding that they're entering into pre-structured spaces that have been really structured in masculinist ways," she said.

"We've heard about the ongoing experience of harassment and bullying in the workplace and that kind of thing, so I can certainly see why women would find value in connecting with one another."

She added that The Well is "starting out at a time when there is a broader recognition that if women aren't actualizing, then society isn't flourishing at its best capacity."

A richness in community

Cara Taylor, a mental health educator, is a new Well member who uses the space to host workshops.

"I love the vision of the space, specifically about empowering women in general," she said. "There's a richness in community and collaboration and inspiration and that drew me in to become more involved."

Tammy Zdunich (right) Cara Taylor sit in the Well. (Julie Barnes)

The diverse expertise of Well members — there are photographers, artists and nutritionists — helps establish mutually beneficial relationships among the members, according to Taylor. 

"Learning from them and collaborating with them to enrich what I do and vice versa is just amazing," she said. "We can support each other in our unique areas and we can all win together." 

She also appreciates the supportive atmosphere. Due to the limited opportunities for women's advancement in the past, there's been a mindset of scarcity, she said. 

But today, she said, women have more opportunities to grow and thrive. She said it's important to have a mindset of abundance and that women can learn from each other rather than viewing one another as competition. 

That collaborative mindset is exactly what Zdunich said she and her co-founder had in mind. She said the focus of The Well is "rising together."

"It's just better together."

About the Author

Julie Barnes is a Saskatoon-based freelance writer.