Located in central Tel Aviv’s booming business hub, three Israeli women have created a shared workspace with a difference.
Panthera, Hebrew for a female panther, is a sprawling indoor campus on HaArba’a Street catering to professional women bringing together a shared workspace, accelerator, networking hub and social club under a single roof.
The brainchild of co-founders Galit Ben Simhon, Limor Dahan and Shani Burstein, Panthera aims to create a suitable environment to advance and promote businesses owned or managed by female professionals and entrepreneurs.
“We called our project Panthera because a panther has qualities that a shark, for example, doesn’t have,” Ben Simhon told The Jerusalem Post.
“While a shark only knows how to swim, a panther knows how to walk on land and swim. A shark always has a knife between its teeth, is aggressive, competitive and always shows its strength externally. A woman is not like that. Her power and ability to communicate are more balanced. In business, you need a balance to succeed.”
Far more than about making women feel more comfortable in their workplace, Panthera was built to challenge the factors making women less likely than men to advance in business.
According to a recent study undertaken by American management consulting giant McKinsey on women in the workplace, factors affecting women include a lack of access to networking and mentoring, a shortage of role models, and the continuing role of gender in the promotion process.
Embracing the need for greater dialogue among female entrepreneurs than men, approximately three-quarters of Panthera is open, networking space, compared to other shared workspaces which are dominated by private offices.
“Our target is to explain to women that they don’t have a chance to survive as employees in large corporations and the start-up world where they aren’t partners or owners. The only way for them to succeed is to open their own businesses and build it according to their needs,” said Ben Simhon.
According to a study published in March by Edit Cohen, executive compensation manager at BDO Consulting, just 12% of senior management positions in public companies traded on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange’s 125 Index are held by women.
“We don’t believe that women can break through the glass ceiling of the large corporations. The one way to break through the glass ceiling is to create businesses where women are owners or partners. Only then we can have control of the company’s values and a career that provides a good chance to retire with a good wage,” Ben Simhon said.
Unlike other shared workspaces in the United States which emphasize the needs of women, Burstein adds that Panthera doesn’t just offer regular social events for women at its impressive bar and stage area.
Rather its primary focus is helping women-led businesses to flourish. Events hosted by Panthera have included artificial intelligence and public speaking workshops for women.
“We took all the worlds of shared working and integrated them under one roof, but the emphasis is always on business development,” said Burstein.
“Research shows that even when children are still babies, we speak to boys and girls with different intonations. When they start to walk, we let boys run ahead and always hold girls back,” she added.
“So what happens when we start to work? Women don’t know the rules of the game. Panthera gives all the tools for women to go out and enter the male-dominated world.”
In February, Panthera opened its doors to its first female customers, backed by a group of investors including venture capitalist Fiona Darmon, Dr. Shoshi Feingold-Studnik and actress Asi Levi.
Two months later, the co-founders are aiming to open another five branches in Israel, and in major European cities including Berlin, London and Paris. Their next Israeli branch, currently under construction near their first office, will offer daycare for children up to three years old.
“The very identity of Panthera is to create a movement, so we won’t be alone. Our ecosystem is one of mutual assistance, opening doors for one another and trading with one another,” said Ben Simhon.
“As women alone, we don’t have money, and without wealth, you don’t have power or influence. But as a group, we will have a lot more influence. Only as a group, we can progress from a situation of lacking contacts to much larger achievements.”
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