Audrey Gelman is the CEO and, with Lauren Kassan, the co-founder of women’s co-working space The Wing. The company has locations in New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco, with plans to open soon in L.A. and Boston (and London, West Hollywood, Toronto, Seattle, and Paris to follow). Gelman has raised a total of $117.5 million in funding in two years and formerly worked as a press aide for Hillary Clinton and, later, Scott Stringer. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Genius co-founder Ilan Zechory, and is nearly five months pregnant. Here’s how she gets it all done.
On mornings: I usually wake up around 6:45. My husband and I go to a diner in Cobble Hill a lot of mornings — it’s a way for us to wake up and not immediately look at our phones. We have coffee together and then go our separate ways. I usually take a Juno to the office; some of them have started knowing who I am, which is embarrassing. Usually on the way, I catch up on news, digest emails, and things like that. I listen to The Daily, I listen to Trump Inc, I listen to a lot of political podcasts. I listen to different business podcasts, too, and then I have sort of the true-crime cult podcasts that I’m into, specifically the podcast on NXIVM, that weird cult upstate.
On how she organizes her working hours: I’m usually at the office by anywhere between 8 and 9. I try to divide up my days depending on how much effort I have to put into what I wear or how I look. Some days are internal days where I do meetings with my team and one-on-ones and things like that. And then I have days that are more external-facing, where I’m having outside meetings or coffees or going to The Wing. I try to group activities together, so that days don’t become super-schizophrenic.
On working with women: Collaboration with women is really what I do for a living. I think I’m earning an M.B.A. in it or a Ph.D. in it. I collaborate with my co-founder, Lauren; with our executive team; with our product and technology team; all the way down to junior designers at the company. It’s a lot of hands-on and creative work with women whose brains I respect.
Our executive meetings look different than executive meetings at other companies. Diversity is obviously contextual, but it’s an extremely diverse group of women who come from lots of different backgrounds and industries. It’s not unusual to see an executive at our company pumping breast milk while we’re having a senior staff meeting. We’re definitely building a different kind of culture here.
On sharing responsibilities with her co-founder: We bring very different skill sets and areas of expertise to the business. She’s a systematic thinker. I call myself the expediter — I’m always pushing for whatever project to get done and go faster. Our styles and approaches are different but compliment one another. We trust each other’s instincts in different areas of focus, but also make the big decisions together.
On where she finds inspiration: We do a lot of work and concepting on Pinterest. I can just get lost in a Pinterest hole and not be heard from for hours. Also our members, honestly — we have such a dynamic, rich, interesting group of women who are a part of The Wing. Having a coffee with a member and picking their brain about things they want to see us do, and then going back to the office to figure out what of those things is possible and what would be the steps we’d need to take to do it? That’s a big, ripe, fertile area of inspiration for me. I respond to every email from members and spend a lot of time in face-to-face interactions with them.
I’ve also been doing shifts where I’m doing dish-washing at The Wing. We have a new system where every employee has to do every different kind of job. Getting to learn how to work the line and wash dishes and go through all the different functions of The Wing has been honestly some of the most fun I’ve had in the last few months.
On managing email: My assistant Penelope is in my inbox all day. We have a very elaborate color-coding system for my inbox with over 60 categories of emails. And then we have another category for action items that go at the top of my inbox so I know that I have to deal with them that day.
Penelope and I created these categories in order to triage and organize all the emails I get in a day. The colors make it easy to go back and find information in my inbox. I know it might sound crazy, but it’s the best way I’ve figured out how to get people answers and responses most efficiently, and not bottleneck information or decisions in my inbox. The system also helps me spend less time on email during the day. When I have a break, even just ten minutes in a cab from a meeting to the office, I’ll send a dozen emails.
On travel: I used to feel like I was in a tornado whenever I traveled. If I landed in one place with all my stuff, it was a miracle. I’ve definitely become a much more efficient planner and packer. I make itineraries. I use a sort of a KonMari-esque folding style for my suitcases so I can really fit a lot of clothes in. And I think also consistency helps — staying at the same places, trying as much as possible to standardize the way I travel rather than it being a choose-your-adventure thing.
On life as a pregnant CEO: I knew that there was sort of systemic unfairness and injustice for women, but the truth is I had no idea. There’s so many things that you have to deal with when you’re pregnant, whether it’s nausea or fatigue or just the travel. We expect women to endure these things in private and not talk about then, but it’s a very particular experience to spend an entire flight from L.A. to New York in the bathroom, which I recently experienced.
Women who are pregnant are obviously systematically sidelined in the workforce. If I’m scared to tell my investors or the people that I work with that I’m pregnant, I can’t even imagine how women feel working in male-dominated environments. My eyes are opening to a lot of new things that I want to correct at least inside the environment of my own workplace.
On managing stress: My mom’s a therapist. I grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, so I’ve basically been in therapy since I could crawl. We have support circles that go on at The Wing and members will get together to talk about pressure, perfectionism, being single moms, anxiety, if they’re in recovery or sober, things like that. They’re support groups. They’re really rare and I think, a really vital part of the culture that gets created where people open up to each other and trust one another. I find that kind of fellowship and community and having people around you is a way that I combat stress and anxiety.
On winding down at the end of the day: I don’t take breaks. I work from like 8 a.m. straight through dinner. I used to get excited when I got invited to something at night, but that’s no longer the kind of person I am. I tend to work really hard through the day and then go home and decompress at night. I love baths and bath culture, so I’m a big proponent of that. And I have Britbox, which is sort of like Amazon Prime, but for all British shows. I am really into the show Midsomer Murders. The Wing is opening in London this year, and I’m tacking on a tour of all of the villages where Midsummer Murders was filmed for one of my upcoming trips.
This interview has been edited and condensed.