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“The Most Powerful Thing I Can Do Is Pass the Mic,” Says Founder of Women-Run Co-Working Spaces on Workplace Equity

“I don’t know if my company will be around 20 years from now,” Duley says, “but the characteristics of my company will help build what comes next.”

There are more Fortune 500 companies run by men named John than there are companies run by women. Aileen Lee, founder of the venture capital firm Cowboy Ventures, says this fact shows that we need to change "corporate cultures built by men, for men."

Lee was joined at TechfestNW today by Jessi Duley, founder of the Portland-based spin studio BurnCycle, and Amy Nelson, found of the women-run coworking company The Riveter, in a panel called The Future is Female.

All three women implored people in positions of power, of all genders, to advocate for modern workplaces that are inclusive of everyone, not just men.

"I don't know if my company will be around 20 years from now," Duley says, "but the characteristics of my company will help build what comes next."

Duley—who says, "I have short hair, a deep voice and wear all black. I intimidate everybody"—grew up in Los Angeles, and says she founded BurnCycle to fill a gap in intense fitness she couldn't find in Portland.

"Portland's great. The people and weather are mild," she says. "I was looking for something that would melt my face off. I couldn't find the intensity here and I wanted a challenge."

At BurnCycle, she says the focus is, "not to make people skinnier, but to remind them they can do hard things." The company now has three locations in Portland and two in Seattle.

Amy Nelson, founder of The Riveter, is also no stranger to hard work.

For a decade prior to founding the co-working spaces—which are "built by women for everyone,"—Nelson worked as a lawyer.

She says she started thinking about work differently when she became pregnant and colleagues and bosses began to treat her differently. "I started talking to women who were starting businesses and I learned that there's not a community for women to find resources and connections and work with men," she says.

There are now six Riveter locations around the nation, with one scheduled to open in Portland this year.

As a company founder, Nelson says the most important thing she's learned is to "pass the mic to people who have less power and platform."

She says she wants to prove that "that you can build a world where women lead and everyone can be a part of it."