Co-working hub where “men can be men” ruffles more than a few feathers


It’s got the startup community in a spin, but there are still questions to be answered about Nomadic Thinkers, Australia’s first male only co-working space and gym.

The Brisbane-based operation was promoted to media yesterday as an “an innovative way to address male related social issues”.

Membership is only open to males, and while the founders recognised this would likely “ruffle some feathers”, they said they believe in the need for men to have a space in to help “men be men” and “launch men in business and life”.

The co-working space would help address mental health issues among men, they said.

Co-founder Samuel Monaghan spoke with Junkee yesterday and the resulting piece has led to derision on social media.

The conversation went well beyond the Australian business community, with writers, comedians and TV personalities all deriding the proposed project.

In the interview Monaghan said that if women wanted to join the space, the venue would have to refuse.

“We’re really flattered by that, but unfortunately we’d have to decline. But we can refer you to other co-working spaces we’ve partnered with,” he said.

Monaghan had spoken of a potential partnership with fellow Brisbane co-working space Little Tokyo Two (LTT).

However, Isaac J Holmyard, events manager at LTT, told SmartCompany the LTT team receive hundreds of emails from new enterprises and while they were “happy for them to do what they’re doing”, it would not go into a partnership with the group because of Little Tokyo’s belief that single gendered co-working spaces are not in the spirit of collaboration in the startup community.

“We’re actually looking at a female-centric – not “female only” space in 2017,” Holmyard says.

“We’re definitely not assisting [Nomadic Thinkers] in any way, shape or form.”

A number of female focused co-working spaces already exist in Australia, and the Nomadic Thinkers project presented itself as a space in which men’s mental health issues were focused on in the business community.

This morning SmartCompany made a number of requests to speak with the founders about the kinds of business projects they wanted to foster in the co-working space, but an interview request was declined.

In a statement on the reaction to the announcement, the founders said they believe the media attention “has come across that we trivialise the significance of domestic violence and depression”.

“The reality is that our framework was always going to be a source of contention. However, we had hoped for constructive and meaningful conversations,” the team said.

A number of individuals on social media have pointed out the dominance of men in the startup and small business scene in Australia, questioning whether more really needs to be done to create safe spaces for male entrepreneurs.

While there are female-focused incubator and networking projects across the country, several advocate the promotion of women entrepreneurs without enforcing a “women only” rule.

Co-founder and chief executive of One Roof Women Sheree Rubinstein, a shared workspace focused on connecting women, says the team would never turn a male entrepreneur away and that One Roof regularly has men working out of its spaces.

Rubenstein told SmartCompany it’s essential that both men and women are supported in the local business community, and while supporting men is something that should be discussed, she fails to see how a project like Nomadic Thinkers addresses these issues.

“There are already men’s only club, so I don’t know what the difference is really,” she says.

“As the startup ecosystem currently stands, the challenges exist more significantly for women.

“I understand we need to talk about both genders and the unique challenges for each – I don’t understand how a men’s only space can do that.”

While conversations around masculinity and what it means in the workforce are important, Rubinstein says the division of men into one space is not enough to make progress for both genders.

The Nomadic Thinkers Facebook page describes the goal of the operation as “to develop happy men who will be good dads, great husbands and create grand empires!”

The statement quoted above was posted to the Facebook page this morning.

This article was originally published on SmartCompany. 

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Emma Koehn is SmartCompany's senior journalist.
  • Ben

    So a female only gym like fernwood is ok but a male only one isn’t? Opposing this is silliness. There are many many gyms out there, what’s the problem with one opening that has a different focus? I think this just goes to show that there are many people out there that continue to deny that men go through issues too. The suicide rates in Australia will testify to that. Whilst I agree that it’s better in general for both genders to co-exist in most environments, it’s also good to create alternative environments dedicated to men’s or women’s health. Anyone making fun of this should hang their heads in shame. Poor form.

  • Daniel Mumby

    I agree with Ben below also.

    Imagine replacing the work ‘gender’ with ‘role’. Imagine a space specifically designed for hard engineering incubation. It’s designed to attract supporters, advisors & collaborators of that segment. Now imagine that a UXdesign hipster with a food delivery app complains about discrimination because their application got rejected.

    We would all lambast that designer (no offense to other UX designers) about applying for an inappropriate space, not the space unashamedly catering to a specific audience.

    You can’t have bias one way with other the other. Forget gender equality, recognize that genders are equal but different. And then, as entrepreneurs, stop being distracted by someone else’s agenda & get on with the business of being a entrepreneur.

    • Gabriel

      Well said. As the French say ‘Vive la difference’.

    • Gabriel

      Just came across an article on a trend within US universities that blames masculinity as the root of all problems:

  • Daniel Mumby

    I did find it interesting that the announcement of another space on the same day for a space that supports “Indigenous Australians, migrants, refugees and people with disabilities” didn’t seem to generate the same level of critique.

    • davideedle

      This is different Daniel. D:HIVE is suggesting they want to focus on encouraging participation from various segments. Nomadic is saying you cannot walk in the door if you don’t have a penis. It is illegal to discriminate. Here’s some reading from a few years ago: Or take a look at how our society considers elite male-only clubs.

      • Daniel Mumby

        Hi David, I certainly get the distinction between the two offerings (which I highlighted in another comment on this thread).
        But this isn’t an issue about denying women access to equality -they can get the same support from a number of other services.
        What these guys are saying is that they have a desire & a willingness to support a specific audience whose needs that they understand, within the frame of a business model.
        Which is virtually no different to any other business operating today.
        A shoe store specialising in women’s shoes isn’t guilty of discriminating against me by not selling me men’s shoes that they don’t cater for (though it is if won’t sell me women’s shoes). As business owners, we are entitled to package our offering up to appeal to any section of the market that we feel that we can better understand & help. Granted that theses guys could’ve got their messaging a little better.

        But remember that this story is a reprint of a story published elsewhere, from a journalist whose agenda we do not know. And for anyone who’s ever done an interview, most of what is said doesn’t get printed. Boring doesn’t sell papers, but sensational does-so take the article with a grain of salt. Try to look beyond the headlines to their intent, and I think you’d agree that there’s a need for what there are attempting to do.

        • davideedle

          Sorry but you are missing the point and your analogies are not valid. I can walk into a womens shoe shop, I can buy a pair of their shoes, even though I don’t wear high heels (well….only in private 🙂 ). I don’t like Macdonalds but I can still walk into one and buy a burger. My wife cannot walk into their incubator.

          If they *really* want to tackle ‘men’ issues they are going about it the wrong way. They should talk to Mens Shed, Beyond Blue and the like.

          However, I concur with you that this is third hand, and I notice the writers seem unable to obtain direct interview with the guys. I also suspect they’ve read some rubbish growth hacker manual that told them to be controversial to attract attention.

      • Benjamin Perrin

        Sorry David but you are wrong. It is not discrimination otherwise you’d have to call female only gyms like fernwood discrimination and shebah discrimination. What you have here is an alternative service. A male only club is not preventing women from joining other clubs which provide similar services just like fernwood is not preventing men from joining fitness first or whatever gym they would like to join. The fact that people are actually opposing a place dedicated to promote mental health and discourage domestic violence really surprises me.

        • davideedle

          Female only gyms do officially ‘discriminate’ – and have to apply for a waiver under the Sex Discrimination Act, and it cannot be retrospective if I recall correctly. EG You cannot discriminate based on gender THEN ask for forgiveness from the law. So these guys would need to apply for a waiver as well, if they proceed in the way it is being reported.

          However, it was not my intent to get sucked into a Sex Discrimination discussing 🙂

          My point is I do not see how a male only startup business incubator is the most appropriate mechanism to tackle some pretty serious and important issues, especially when we are dealing with a very male-dominated tech arena that a whole bunch of other people are working really hard to break down by promoting opportunities for women in tech.

          IF they had said something like “we are partnering with Beyond Blue to explore how an environment such as this can assist male mental issues” then I would give credence and kudos.

          • Benjamin Perrin

            The problem with your notion of a male dominated tech industry is the assumption that men and women want to do the same things. Statistical parity should never be the goal. What we should look at is making sure that if someone wants a job, they can get it regardless of their gender/race etc. All they should need is the right qualifications for the demands of the job. Assuming that men and women want the same thing is part of the problem here. I know when I studied tech it there were more males than females in attendance. Should we just deny men work because we want to create a 50/50 ratio. NO! Same in other industries as well. We should not deny women employment to provide a 50/50 ratio either. We don’t need to encourage women in tech we need to encourage people to pursue the careers they want to pursue whatever that may be.

            As for not partnering with Beyond Blue, I couldn’t care less. There is no one size fits all fix to these issues in society. If there was they’d be easy to fix. I’d rather acknowledge that different people can benefit from different forms of treatment than pigeon hole everyone to receive one solution. Diversity is a good thing here.

          • Daniel Mumby

            David, agreed on your last paragraph in each post. (and nice to see you got the vein of the shoe joke too)

            I used the analogy of a business incubator, whereas in this
            we are talking about a co-working space, which is a different animal.

            lead a group developing an accelerator model (different again) that is
            focussing on ‘experienced professionals’, which by it’s nature would exclude people roughly under 30 yo.. Technically, we are ‘age-ist’,
            but no more (or less) so than those groups that focus on 18-30 yo. I have no desire to approach any government or quasi- panel for approval to do the work we do; it’s simply a case of our value proposition wont be of value for younger aspiring entrepreneurs, in exactly the same way that most other models wont work for our audience (or tribe).

            I’d love to see these guys work with Adam Garone at Movember, as i think they are highly aligned.

            And having done 4000+ hours of volunteering in men’s mental heath, there are topics that many organisations cant (or won’t) address. They are right about the challenges of ‘rights of passage’ of young men- though they could’ve approached the challenge better.

            But hey, I think shining a light on these topics is never a bad thing, and if it leads to a more robust startup ecosystem for more audiences, &/or encourages others to create new & diverse audience-specific value propositions, we’ll all be all the better for it.