This article originally appeared on Refinery Times.
CATE LUZIO DIDN’T SEE ENOUGH INVESTMENT IN FEMALE TALENT. HER NEW COWORKING SPACE LUMINARY IS CHANGING THAT.
There’s a new creative center for women in New York City this week. Luminary, which has just opened near Madison Square Park, is a space for professional women—across all backgrounds, levels and industries—to connect and develop together. So says founder Cate Luzio, who, after two decades in banking, intimately knows the need for fostering female talent in the business world. From her seat at the executive table, “I looked around and didn’t see a lot of change happening,” she explains. “I didn’t see enough investment in women and building the talent pipeline.”
Enter Luminary. “We don’t consider ourselves a coworking company,” says Luzio. “We are a collaboration hub for women who are passionate about professional development and expanding their networks. Our desire is to create a community that fosters new business opportunities, idea generation and overall support for one another.” What makes Luminary so special? The communal workspace has the predictable huddle rooms and event spaces, but it also has an epic rooftop, tons of programming, and some serious amenities (wine on tap!).
In advance of Luminary’s opening, we caught up with Luzio at Refinery to chat role models, New York City, and how to #BeALuminary. Here, we get #InBedWith…Cate Luzio.
Could you talk a little about your finance background? You’ve talked about having great male mentors—at what stage did you realize there needed to be more women mentors in the room?
As a senior woman, I was frequently asked to “have a coffee” for mentoring and to give career advice. I could fill up a calendar with those coffee requests because women are searching for community and ways to amplify their professional development. As much as I wanted to do more individually, I knew there needed to be a bigger and broader platform to create a ‘multiplier effect’ to support women. We have to act to really move the numbers for more female leaders, not just at the top but more importantly in the middle.
Was there an “aha!” moment that led to your founding Luminary?
After a conversation with my mentor (a man by the way), he convinced me I could pivot my career and make a real change. He basically said “what’s the worst that can happen if you try and fail? You go back to banking.” I never really thought about it until he put it so bluntly. I realized I wanted to—and could—do things differently, act beyond buzzwords to make change happen. I’m putting my money where my mouth is to create a community for women to work together to accelerate progress to gender equality. Luminary is reimagining a space for women with an emphasis on building relationships, diversity, investing in self-development, wellness, flexibility and giving back.
Who were some of the women role models that have inspired you?
I’m inspired every day by the women who surround me, but my female role model has to be my mom. She has always encouraged me to work hard, go after what I want, and stand up for myself and what I believe in. She instilled the importance of giving back, doing for others, and being as selfless as possible. My passion for mentoring and helping others, personally and professionally, has been nurtured by her influence and support. She’s my luminary and I wouldn’t have had a successful banking career or launched Luminary without her.
Luminary takes “co-working space” to new levels. Can you explain what distinguishes it from other co-working companies?
Our frequent programming and content set us apart. We offer multiple weekly workshops, a monthly speaker series, office hours and in-residence partners as well as master classes. We want members to take advantage of our serious amenities including a wellness studio with discounted, “express” fitness classes, and a beauty bar in partnership with Glam+Go with discounted blowouts, showers and a locker room.
How do work environments like Luminary help women entrepreneurs succeed?
We are broadening the impact of women supporting women, helping them achieve their goals, and encouraging authentic connection. Our programming is uniquely focused on professional, career, personal, and entrepreneurial development, and many of these focus areas overlap. The future of work and how we work continues to change and Luminary is the next step in that evolution—fusing flexibility, collaboration, and career investment for all women. Our physical space brings people together and makes that face to face, human interaction possible. Connections and relationships are key to success whether you are working for yourself or working at a company, nonprofit or small business. We make it easier to meet.
How long have you lived in New York, and what’s your favorite aspect of the city?
Believe it or not, and despite my career in banking, I have only lived and worked in NYC for the last 4 years. I spent most of the prior ten years abroad between London, Mexico City and living out of a suitcase (I traveled close to three weeks a month for my various roles). As far as what I love about NYC, honestly it’s the diversity, the connections that can be made, and the feeling that you can recreate yourself and start all over again. Most of my immediate family lives in New Jersey, so being close to them after so much time abroad is a bonus.
Luminary is only opening in NYC. Are there any lessons or tips you have for women who live outside of New York that they can take with them and #BeALuminary in their own communities?
We’re only opening in NYC for now…but we’re really focused on collaboration over competition. Recently we announced a reciprocal membership with The Coven, a collaborative community and co-working space in Minneapolis designed for women and non-binary individuals. This is our first “sister-space” with more to come. I would ask women to stop pitting themselves against each other, especially women-run businesses, and focus on how we can help each other, and the women we serve and support. There is room at the table for all of us so let’s foster environments that encourage women, and doesn’t hinder them. Let’s not just talk the talk, but really walk it.