'There are lots of smart, creative female expats in Zurich'
Zurich's recently-opened women-only coworking space Birdhaus is the brainchild of Michelle Gasparovic, a California native who moved to Zurich 18 months ago from New York after her husband found work in the Swiss city.
“When I first arrived in Switzerland I made a lot of Swiss friends and a lot of expat friends but I noticed there wasn’t a lot of crossover.” Gasparovic told The Local recently of her decision to open the coworking space.
“The social side came first: this is a place where all my female friends can gather,” explained Gasparovic, a one-time travelling musician who worked in luxury retail before attending culinary school.
The name Birdhaus references the British slang term for women and is a nod to the coworking space's international nature. Photo: Jasmin Frei
Gasparovic spent months asking women if they would be interested in working in a space like Birdhaus before going ahead with the project.
The decision to make it women-only was key: “We can all relate to each other on the same level and it’s important to have a place where you can go and find strong women to talk to and draw inspiration from,” she said.
Read also: The pros and cons of working in Switzerland
To date, the overall response to the idea of a women-only coworking space has been all positive, although Gasparovic anticipates this may change with future growth.
“Men have told me the space is beautiful. They say ‘I wish I could work here,’” she told The Local.
Birdhaus is located in Zurich’s Hürlimann-Areal district and has space for 45 people, with membership capped at 65. The payment plan allows for full-time and part-time places while there is also a day pass option.
To date, most of the members are Swiss, with people working in fields as diverse as yoga, marketing and migration services. But Gasparovic said expats had also shown a strong interest.
“There are a lot of smart, interesting, educated, creative expat women who have followed their husbands or partners to Zurich but maybe don’t have Swiss work permits themselves and then finding themselves asking ‘Now what?’” she said.
“Already, some of them have approached me and expressed an interest in starting a business or a new project through Birdhaus,” she added.