Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to the US Congress, once said, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” It is a simple yet incredibly powerful statement on the barriers women (and people of color) have faced in the world of not only politics but of work. Despite making up more than half of the workforce (58.4%), women still find themselves in a corporate/business culture that was made by – and for – men. Coworking space for women provides a comfortable, professional environment that is conducive to creativity, innovation, collaboration, and results. We can, and need to, do better than a folding chair.
Coworking Space for Women: a Change
It is astonishing that in 2023, the majority of women in the workforce (59%) experiences non-inclusive behavior at work. This is not about “fitting in” or failing to adapt to a male-dominated culture. Although that’s more than enough. According to recent statistics, 38% of women experience sexual harassment at work, 77% are verbally harassed, and 51% are touched without their permission. This is unacceptable.
Imagine going to your place of work and hearing degrading comments continually and with impunity. Imagine going to work and being touched without your consent. Imagine being talked down to, belittled, sexualized, and objectified. Imagine being paid less for the same job on top of that. For women, it’s not a case of imagining. It’s a case of preparing, trying to figure out what to do, navigating your options, and going to work anyway.
It’s not just attitudes and mindsets. The very physical space in traditional offices is designed for men. For example, office temperatures are set using an old formula that accommodates the ideal temperature for men (72℉). This helps increase cognitive functioning and performance. But the ideal temperature for women (most: this is a generalization, of course) is closer to 75℉. A colder temperature decreases both cognitive functioning and performance. Even offices favor men.
We can, and need to, do better.
*Note: We are using the term woman; we are also cognizant of the fact that nonbinary and trans folks also face significant challenges, discrimination, and harassment in the workplace. Equity demands that a solution is inclusive. We strive to ensure our coworking spaces are welcoming and inviting.
The Case for Women’s Coworking Space
While coworking is an innovative idea, there is a risk that it just moves the traditional boy’s club mentality from the traditional office to one with new floors and sleek decor. Fortunately, there has been an increase in coworking spaces for women. Or, rather, solutions that allow space for women to do their jobs, start businesses, develop innovative ideas, and connect in an environment that is welcoming, supportive, and respectful.
Coworking can increase women’s participation in the workplace. How?
- Coworking space can remove (or lower) financial barriers. Women often face significant financial limitations when it comes to their careers. They do the vast majority of “unpaid labor” – that is childcare, cooking, cleaning, etc., while typically earning less than their male counterparts. It can be difficult to advance. Coworking space is far more affordable and accessible than long-term leases or commercial property purchases.
- There are opportunities for networking and learning. Women are more likely to find chances to collaborate in a coworking space than in a traditional office. Further, whether through formal programs and events or informal conversations and connections, they can form relationships that are mutually beneficial and conducive to career advancement.
- These spaces are flexible. As mentioned, many women still pull the full weight of household responsibilities, and fitting everything into a traditional schedule can be difficult if not downright impossible! Coworking spaces work around their schedule, freeing them to work not only where they are most effective but when. They also provide a distraction-free space when professionals need to concentrate, think, produce, and meet.
- Coworking spaces can be safe and supportive. The term “safe space” has become almost a joke at this point. But it is far from for those in the workforce who face non-inclusive behavior, harassment, verbal abuse, etc. Safety is non-negotiable, and as we know from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we cannot grow and develop optimally if we are not first safe. The right environment does that, and the value cannot be understated.
There are some dedicated women’s coworking spaces popping up in cities across the country. If your area does not offer any specifically for women, look into providers who strive to create a safe and welcoming atmosphere that works for your needs. Office Evolution is committed to equity and to empowering women, nonbinary people, and trans folks to do their best work. That benefits all of us.
We can do better. And we are. Contact Office Evolution to learn more about our inclusive, flexible coworking and private office solutions.