The Coven: Drawing Down the Moon

Photo courtesy of Bethany Birnie
Photo courtesy of Bethany Birnie

Let’s be honest: identity matters. When we’re applying or interviewing for a new job, our identities as women, non-binary folx, trans humans, people of color, and so on have an impact on the way we’re viewed and the types of positions we might be considered for. For me, I am a bi+/pan woman, and while these facets of my identity play a major—and positive—role in my personal life, they can sometimes feel like parts of myself that I need to hide in the workplace.

But at the Coven, these sorts of diverse identities are encouraged in both a personal and professional setting.

Photo courtesy of Bethany Birnie

“We had a hunch that women, non-binary, and trans folks may be searching for a space where their professional and personal lives could intermingle,” says Erinn Farrell, co-founder of the Coven, “a place where they could perhaps shed the armor they walk through the world with and discover and celebrate their whole selves. We tested this hypothesis with hundreds of interviews and focus groups that we dubbed ‘witching hours,’ calling into conversations with folks across the Twin Cities to spend time together and provide feedback about our idea.”

Farrell adds: “In sharing space with all these folks from differing lived experiences, socioeconomics, industries, and generations, we started to notice something incredible: a bias for risk-taking where the community began to both inspire and support each individual’s goals and aspirations of growth.”

The Coven is a network of radical spaces for changemakers with a mission of designing equitable arenas for members to pursue growth and confidence.

“We facilitate physical and virtual spaces created for community, collaboration and conversation,” Farrell says. “Everyone is welcome to become a member of the Coven, but we center Coven experiences on the needs of women, non-binary, and trans people. We are an actively anti-racist organization that prioritizes the intentional care and attention for our BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ members. We do not tolerate microaggressions, racism, or anti-LGBTQIA+ language or actions.”

Alex West Steinman. Photo courtesy of Bethany Birnie

Farrell continues, joined by co-founder Alex West Steinman and marketing lead/graphic designer Jac Boyum: “We designed our spaces to be a place not just where work gets done but as spaces to evoke joy wherever we could. Joy itself is an act of resistance and we wanted to help create an environment where our members could put down the heavy (metaphorical and physical) weight they were carrying and be whatever versions of themselves they needed to be that day. So what you’ll find in any of our locations is a lot of color, comfort, natural light, real plants, and moments of inspiration. Working with a diverse team of local artisans we ensured the space was not just a reflection of a singular lived experience, but rather a tapestry of stories, identities and experiences coming together to bring joy, inspiration and confidence to all our visitors.”

Beyond the Coven’s physical environment, Farrell, West Steinman and Boyum say they believe in the power of community and the connective tissue that results when a multitude of experiences and industries are brought together.

“By creating a space where industry, age and work approach is not limited and diversity of experience is encouraged, we’ve witnessed new relationships, friendships and mentorships form,” they say. “We design programming, create opportunities for connection, and facilitate introductions specifically to encourage these cross-career stage connections. We’ve seen firsthand confidence take root and personal and professional ideas flourish as the community bands together in support. We’ve seen businesses start and interesting partnerships form. One of our favorites was to watch the CEO of a bank sit down next to a young Community Organizer and strike up a conversation, which led to multiple projects and collaborations together.”

Photo courtesy of Bethany Birnie

The Coven is first and foremost a space (both physical and digital) that offers physical and psychological safety for folks to connect, grow and build. Membership is open to everyone, but by focusing on women, non-binary, and trans folks, the organization is boldly centering their lived experiences and ensuring offerings are designed for them specifically.

“Our members often find themselves having to fit into environments elsewhere that were never designed for them—whether that be the inclusivity of the restroom or the people on the Board,” they add. “To step into a physical or digital space that suits your needs, that removes the constant and typical barriers of spaces designed by others, that not only acknowledges your presence but celebrates it—well, that can be life-changing. We wanted to build a space to hold community and provide folks who are often the ‘other’ a place to be themselves—and when you can do that safely a whole new world opens up.”

Photo courtesy of Bethany Birnie

“I’ve been a team member of the Coven’s for over a year now,” says Boyum. “You spend so much of your life in a workplace, and when you’re queer or trans there are several hurdles that you have to approach along the way. And a lot of the time queer/trans folks (and queer/trans BIPOC folks especially) have to decide to just hide bits of themselves away to make the day to day more manageable, if not survivable. From the moment I walked into the Coven I felt so incredibly seen, and I continue to feel that way every day. My voice isn’t just heard, but enacted.”

They add: “This is the first team that I feel like I have true stake in, and I think it’s because it’s the first time that I have been utterly and unquestionably accepted in a work environment. I have felt celebrated, held and supported in a way I didn’t know was possible. Over the past year I’ve watched the Coven pivot to support whoever needs supporting at that time. I’ve watched them learn and ask before they step—not after. I’ve watched them continue to carve out space for those that don’t have it. And I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of this team.”

For more on the Coven, follow @thecoven.co on social media to learn about upcoming content, programming and amenities. Visit www.thecoven.com for more information about the spaces and membership.

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