Australian women are building a different kind of ‘she shed’

April 13, 2021, 1:01 PM UTC
Backyard Shed
The communities women in Australia are building give a new meaning to the lowly shed.
Getty Images

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Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Darktrace plans a $4 billion IPO, Singapore misses a goal on board gender diversity, and Australian women are connecting in ‘sheds.’ Have a thoughtful Tuesday.

– Head for the shed. The news out of Australia lately has been downright ugly. Reports of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct in Parliament have rocked Canberra and underscored the country’s macho, misogynistic culture. So this story seems like salve for those wounds: Women across the country are borrowing from a longstanding trend among Australian men to launch women’s ‘sheds’, or community-based clubs that provide members a place to connect, to learn new skills, and to remake themselves.

The New York Times profiled a women’s shed in a down-and-out suburb of Adelaide that opened in an abandoned high school last March. Among its members are women who are widows, or out of work, or survivors of domestic violence. They come together to share in an activity, like sewing or singing. The shed also features a “room of love” filled with household items, clothing, and beauty supplies, all free to women fleeing domestic violence.

The men’s sheds, popularized in the 1990s, are regarded as “models of egalitarian connection” and a way to stave off isolation, the Times reports. Women’s sheds seem to be filling that same role, and then some.

Leanne Jenkins, 46, joined the shed on the recommendation of her therapist who thought it might help her anxiety and depression. Now, she shows up regularly.

“They treat me like family,” she told the Times. “And if I’m not here or not around for a week, they come get me.”

The term ‘she shed’ entered the American lexicon in 2017 or so as an answer to the man-cave. It offered women a backyard escape from their families, where they could find solitude to paint, or read, or do yoga. Australia’s version, meanwhile, turns that concept a bit on its head by providing women a place to feel less alone.

Claire Zillman

The Broadsheet, Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women, is coauthored by Kristen Bellstrom, Emma Hinchliffe, and Claire Zillman. Today’s edition was curated by Emma Hinchliffe


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"How did this thinking become so set in our society? How about just saying no?"

-Actor, writer, and director Justine Bateman, on plastic surgery. Her new book is Face: One Square Foot of Skin. 

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