Signy Judd, co-founder of the CA-based co-working space Sphere, is here with her thoughts on why the definition of wellness should take diversity and equality into consideration.
Everyone seems to be talking about “diversity” and “inclusion” in the workplace, but what about in the wellness industry? My two business partners and I own a co-working space focused on wellness in Oakland, CA, and we make reflecting the diverse community where we’re based one of our primary goals. Oakland is so diverse, and from the start we’ve strived to reflect this rich and varied population. All three of us are white; Marielle identifies as Latina, and hails from the Dominican Republic. While we aren’t racially diverse ourselves, we know that working with/among people who are different than us enriches our thinking and understanding as individuals and a collective.
Sphere’s mission is to provide a space where all women can work, sweat, grow and replenish, all under one roof. As we prioritize wellness at Sphere, our fitness classes are included in the cost of membership. Classes are taught by instructors who specialize in a variety of methods, from guided meditation to hip-hop cardio to yin yoga. They are bold, beautiful and diverse, and all are 30 years or older (like our members!).
Our wellness director, Heather Gersh, is a woman of color with an athletic build who is all too familiar with feeling put off by narrow conceptions of fitness, bodies and health. She believes in an approach to wellness that’s not about how you look or what you wear, but is about how you move and how you feel. There are plenty of studios out there that cater to one type of person, or offer a narrow approach, but fitness is not one size fits all! As Heather explains, “It’s good to mix up the energy and experience—same-same is uninspiring and boring. I believe in a beautiful mix of many different types of people and energy. It may throw some people off at first, or they can’t quickly put their finger on what the vibe is, but soon realize that it’s the mix of energy that creates powerful interactions. And it lights you up.”
Our on-site treatment room offers massages at a discounted rate for members, which makes self-care easier than ever. Members—and our staff!—can take a break from their workday to get a massage, acupuncture or a facial. And of course, we ensure that practitioners are visibly diverse.
One of our first hires was our director of diversity and community programs. She helped us set clear and actionable goals, and establish practices to help get us there. And just two months after opening our doors, the results speak for themselves: I’m proud to say that 50 percent of our staff and members identify as people of color, and many are LGBTQI.
To make joining Sphere financially accessible to a wide range of women in the community, we offer a community-funded membership. For every six full-paying members, we provide a free membership to a woman or gender-fluid person who would like to join, but finds it out of reach. These memberships are six months long, and include all the same benefits and access as a paid membership.
But race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status are not the only forms of diversity that we address. Gender expression, sexuality, age and physical ability are varied and visible at Sphere. We would love to see more wellness centers, spas and salons think about reflecting their community, rather than asking the community to fit them. Our efforts to be inclusive—making our space and programs welcoming to many different people—are especially important in our wellness program. In our minds, they go hand in hand. And it works! The synergy is building at Sphere—we are varied and different as individuals, and growing bigger, more diverse and dynamic as a community.