Inspiring LGBT Women to Connect the Community - Inspired Week

By Nicole Stinson

Screen shot courtesy of Wing Ma’am.

Opening up opportunities for women throughout the LGBT community, Wing Ma’am is more than just your average dating app like Tindr or Grindr.

Described as a social app, Wing Ma’am focuses on community events as much as the usual interests of dating networks. “You can message and connect with your future hiking buddy or even meet princess charming,” the app’s iTunes page explains.

Ariella Furman, CEO and creator of Wing Ma’am, explains, “What we found out about women is that they are more community based people. Women enjoy going to different structured events like going to the theatre, an art night, or even having a smaller cocktail party.”

Wing Ma’am reflects a growing trend towards finding people online. A recent study by Pew Research Center determined that the one in ten Americans uses online dating websites and apps. While there’s already a strong market providing dating apps for gay men, Furman explains that is not the case for the lesbian community.

“I think the amazing thing about the gay apps that are already out there [is] that none of them are unpopular,” she says. “Since there is no mass marketed app for women, I think that this is the experiment.”

Furman tells BTR that it is harder for women to meet other women in bars.

“I think we are having an epidemic where all these lesbian bars are closing down even in the big cities,” she explains. “It surprises most people but Seattle doesn’t even have a lesbian bar, and you would think that a city like that would have one.”

The lack of available social environments can lead to the women of the LGBT community to feel fragmented, which was something Furman experienced when she moved to Pittsburgh almost three years ago. Disappointed at how hard it was to find like-minded people, she created the social group Impulse Pittsburgh, which hosted dance parties and other social gatherings. Following the suggestion of a friend, Furman decided to expand the networking concept further and develop an app based on the model of Grindr, but geared toward LGBT women.

“We get to think what women want,” she tells BTR. “My staff and I don’t always have the answers but sometimes the voice of thousands of gay women will give solutions to this audience”

Launched as a beta version through the Apple Store last December, Wing Ma’am grew to serve over 9, 000 users within its first month. Come spring, the app is expected to become available to Android users.

To start, users create a profile by providing short answers to questions, including what they identify as, what they are looking for, and their relationship status.

“It is important to proof read your profile,” Furman emphasizes, explaining that “if you have a good first impression [it] increases your chances.”

She also advises that users put themselves out there and to add cool and interesting facts in their profile answers.

Users also have the option to hide their age and location to protect their identity. There are also flag and blocking options.

One of the features that makes Wing Ma’am different from other apps solely focused on dating is its community focus and usage as a platform for marketing political and activist events.

“Users can create their own events and usually these are activist [events] such as march for equality,” she says. “They can categorize events as a ‘rally’ which allows people in their cities to see them. We provide the marketing.”

Furman also describes a user-organized poetry sitting which attracted more people than most of their bar events.

“[Event organizers] pick a meeting time, they write a description, and they put a picture,” she explains. “There is pretty good chance that people from that city will go to that event.”

Wing Ma’am maintains a strong social-media presence with its Facebook page, which has attracted over 3,000 likes, as well as Tumblr and Twitter accounts. Empowering the community spirit, these platforms post regular LGBT public updates, dating tips, and advice, as well as fun memes.

“Personally, I think we’ve got it,” Furman says. “We’ve got what women want, a community-based app.”

For more, check out this week’s Third Eye Weekly podcast on BTR, featuring a conversation with Wing Ma’am CEO Ariella Furman.