When the Wing was founded in 2016, the female-focused social club’s brand of bubblegum pink, bite-sized feminism was a novelty for women across the globe. It had famous members, exclusive networking events, and A-List slumber parties and promised to bring together change makers who embodied the start-up’s mission: to be a warm, welcoming utopia for real women—all women—who redefined what it means to be powerful.
But by 2020, the picture-perfect feminist oasis was called into question after the company was accused of creating an environment that mistreated Black women and other women of color, per the New York Times. Now, newly-appointed CEO Jennifer Cho is here to lead the Wing’s next chapter.
“I think the conversation around inclusivity is all about continuing to learn,” says Cho, who was brought in as the company’s Chief Marketing Officer in 2021. “I make sure I am intentionally asking questions with people that I’m meeting that are different than me. You need to be intentional about that curiosity and continue to learn, and I thought I could do that with the team here at the Wing.”
The Wing’s co-working spaces—six currently in operation—are known for their feminist hero-titled conference booths, color-coded books, and pressed green juice. These amenities felt revolutionary when the company first opened its shiny, Instagram-friendly doors, but the idea of work has radically shifted since then. Cho’s vision for the company is not only to empower a woman-led workforce, but to also redefine what it means to come into an office in a post-COVID world.
“What I was so inspired by when I first walked into a Wing space was the feeling that I can walk in and be my most productive self,” she tells Glamour. “I was finding a spot to sit, looking around, and thinking, ‘Hey, I can actually have a relationship or some type of connection with everyone that I see in this space.’ I was craving that social connection and working somewhere that wasn’t my guest room. I was craving having a coffee with someone who wasn’t my husband or my dog.”
While the future of a formal “return to office” in lieu of Zoom meetings in dresses over sweatpants (something Cho jokingly admits is still her WFH uniform) is still up in the air, the idea of pushing a female-led company forward has long been a driving point for women imagining a better world.
Below, we talked to Jennifer Cho for Doing the Work about the beginnings of her career working as an intern alongside Eminem, her experience growing up as the child of Korean immigrants, and more.
One piece of advice I would pass down
As I get older, I remember all of the things my parents told me about raising the bar and advocating for myself, and those are all things I want to transfer. As I get older, I also become more appreciative. I mean, I’m a first-generation immigrant and the first to go to college here. So I think authenticity is all about how comfortable you feel with the decisions you make, like, can you go to sleep at night? Do you feel good about those decisions? A lot of that really comes back to my upbringing. My dad always told me to never be the smartest fish in the pond. Once you feel like you are, go find a new pond and make sure you’re uncomfortable. Continue that learning journey. I think that is one of the pillars across my entire career.
On navigating different career fields
One thing I see as a consistent theme is that women just figure things out. We’re problem solvers by nature. So if there’s a task at hand, we apply the knowledge we have, whether it’s traditionally earned or learned or whatever that is, and then we leverage tools around us in order to find the right solution.
The thing I’ve been most proud of during my time at The Wing
I’m so proud of the education we’ve done around what our spaces can bring and how they can support our members and our guests, things like our physical spaces, especially in this post-pandemic world that we’re living in now where the future of work has completely changed. Whether it’s finding a workspace or meeting someone at a professional development event or learning about crypto somewhere other than at a high-price NFT conference with a bunch of men. I’m also really proud of the culture we’ve built internally—everything from establishing our culture code, in addition to our house rules, and making sure that we’re enforcing those not only in our spaces but also internally as a corporate team.
Growing up and choosing a career in an immigrant household
In my family there were only two options explored: being a doctor or a lawyer. I went to a magnet program in high school that focused on medical sciences. In lieu of knowing what I exactly wanted to do, I did what would get me the best education. I went into the medical sciences program, only to learn after four years of advanced classes in biology and science, including 700 hours of volunteer work at different hospitals, medicine wasn’t what I wanted to do. My parents were supportive at that stage of my journey, and they said, “Okay, that’s cool, but now that you’re going to college, now you’re going to be a lawyer, because that’s really the only other option. So now you’ve decided your fate.” I was a political theory major, which was the broadest form of law, and my career started because I got an internship my junior year of college at Columbia, where I was interning for an entertainment law firm. So this was me, again, thinking of how can I check the box on a legal internship, but also make it fun for me. It was a legal entertainment firm and they managed this guy named Eminem who had a rap label coming out. Then, obviously, the Marshall Mathers LP blew up.
How I learned to overcome adversity in male-dominated industries at an early age
In hindsight, it’s been interesting to see how winning was against the most visible competitor, which is exactly what battle rap is. If you think about the time period in music history and living in New York City in the ‘90s, it influenced so much in our culture. Being in that space allowed me to see the most extreme versions of misogyny as an Asian woman who certainly wasn’t seen a leader within that space. For nearly a decade, every experience revolved around having to prove myself. I was always saying, “Hey, I’m a young woman, but look at the business that I’m bringing to the table to distribute your projects and make sure you won’t get sued. Without me, you can’t be you.” I had to fight tooth and nail to carve out the justification for my role and payment. It was great preparation for the business world at hand, even though it was the most extreme version of it, in my opinion, at that time. Still nowadays, if you look at the number of female executives in the music industry, it’s not great.
My drink of choice
Coffee all day. If I’m going in somewhere, it’s all about a good, intense nitro cold brew because I do enjoy the flavor of coffee. In order to replicate that at home, my husband brews coffee and grinds his beans. I have recently become obsessed with the canned Starbucks Nitro Cold Brew. I feel like I have like a tap in my house. I usually go through at least two a day, and I do try to switch to tea in the afternoon—hibiscus, to be exact. I drink everything iced all through the winter.
What I wish more people knew about female CEOs
There’s an expectation in our society that everything needs to be perfect and every step you make has to completely make sense and be a part of a master plan. I think what’s lost is that way of thinking doesn’t give people the freedom to explore or make mistakes which is just as important as some wins people have in their careers. When I look at leaders and the decisions they’ve made and the judgments that you see in the court of public opinion, I always try to take a step back and understand what they had to navigate in order to be in that role and try to give a little bit of grace.
What music I listen to in order to get motivated
I do have a lovely playlist that when I have to kind of amp myself up to get into a meeting or fight for myself, I put it on. It’s all of the best kind of beef records from 50 cent, G-Unit, The Game. I grew up in New York, so it’s Biggie Smalls all day—I have all of his albums with a sprinkle of Tupac Shakur. I have a little bit of The Chronic Album and a little West Coast sprinkle, but I am East Coast all day.
My favorite event I’ve attended at The Wing
We’ve tested these night markets and we’re bringing them on the road. I’m Korean-American, so to explain, night markets are a huge thing in Seoul. There’s huge districts that only open at midnight and stay open until six in the morning.It’s everything from impromptu K-pop concerts to food vendors to retail shopping. We did a night market in New York that we promoted for two days and had 350 people RSVP. This month, to round out AAPI Heritage Month, they were Asian vendors. With Pride next month, we’re looking at redefining the scope of a night market and being inclusive to all the different founders and different business owners that are within our network.
Consistent elements in my work-from-home routine
I have been living in Vuori sweatpants. They have the softest joggers. I’ve literally been wearing a dress with those joggers underneath. My husband calls it my mullet. It’s also been good to be able to spend some time in the morning and do readings that I really enjoy and then balance out with a morning workout.
How I unwind after a long day
I’ve actually branded my treat myself time as “sluff” time. I’m allowed to be in my comfortable clothes, have a beverage of choice, alcoholic or not, and watch so many K-Dramas. I’m talking about the original ones that have the dramatic music with the sparkles that are animated. The more dramatic the love triangle, trapezoid, or octagon, the better. If you’re just venturing out into K-Dramas for the first time, I love Itaewon Class. That’s a more like modern take on Korean rom-coms with some edgy stuff in there. I watch it like, “Wow, I can’t believe they did that. They’re kissing on the first date.”