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Alex West Steinman: Building inclusive workplaces

The ‘magic and energy’ of inclusive workplaces

On the latest episode of Disrupt the Continuum, The Coven cofounder and CEO Alex West Steinman explores why inclusive workplaces are essential — and urges her fellow entrepreneurs to build them.

When Alex West Steinman, Bethany Iverson, Liz Giel, and Erinn Farrell founded The Coven, they shared a vision for an alternative to traditional workspaces: a place where women and nonbinary and trans professionals would be empowered to work, collaborate, and grow.

“We got together and were like, ‘What is going on that people aren’t advancing in their careers as fast, women are dropping out of the workforce or leaving this industry altogether?’” Steinman remembered. “So we just decided to create this industry-agnostic space, a real container for the magic and energy that happens when women, nonbinary, and trans folks come together.”

In this episode of Disrupt the Continuum, Steinman illuminates the power of an inclusive and collaborative workspace, and explains why her company is so excited to be expanding to Nashville. She also unpacks what entrepreneurs can get wrong about inclusivity, and shares her tips for creating a company culture that works for everyone.

“Having a space that is truly safe for women, nonbinary, and trans folks to build their own empires is something that we really take pride in,” she said. “We can’t wait to be a part of this community.”

Freedom to thrive

The Coven opened its first Minneapolis location in March 2018, and immediately connected with its community. “We had 150 members at doors-open, and we crowdfunded our initial funding on the platform iFundWomen,” said Steinman.

Over the last two years, The Coven has expanded from Minneapolis to neighboring St. Paul and is due to open its third location, in Nashville, this year. “We have almost 500 members, which is super exciting,” Steinman said. “We’ve been open for a year and a half.”

The Coven leaders believe the power behind their growth is their members’ need “to be freed to do what they do best,” said Steinman. “Having a space that feels physically and psychologically safe for women is so incredibly important to the advancement of women,” Steinman explained. “We’re really focused on economically empowering folks so that they can transform … their lives.”

Working toward inclusion

Today, businesses across the country are grappling with inclusion — what it means, why it’s important, which voices are absent from board meetings and which have dominated them.

“Companies are now starting to recognize that having women on their boards, having diversity in their leadership board meetings … is incredibly important and actually fosters more money for the company,” Steinman noted.

But recognition is only the first step. To create truly inclusive businesses, entrepreneurs need to build diverse networks and open their ears to underrepresented voices. “It’s not about what you can necessarily bring to [marginalized communities],” said Steinman. “It’s about including them in a part of building whatever it is that you wanna build.”

The Coven models this approach to inclusion, prioritizing a deep connection with the communities it serves.

“Here in Nashville,” Steinman said, “we’re really connecting with as many community members as possible from different backgrounds, from different socioeconomic [strata], understanding what is it that this community needs from us.”

“How do I make sure that we have the resources for them to succeed?”

This episode wraps up Season 2 of Disrupt the Continuum, but Tennessee’s innovators and ecosystem builders are just getting started. Be sure to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts — we can’t wait to continue the conversation!

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