Shetopia: Are Women-Only Spaces Ideal For Women In The Workplace?
There was the rise of the bro-palace open office space sparked by Silicon Valley with ping pong tables, video games and kegs of beer in the office lunchroom. Many women who worked in those spaces wondered when it would be time to flip the switch and honor the preferences of some of the women who might reside there. Most just went along with the male-heavy ride.But what would it mean if offices reflected the preferences of women, or if offices were women-only? Perhaps they are a flashback to the men-only clubs and boardrooms of the past, or perhaps female-inspired workspaces are a sign of the future.[bctt tweet=“Are women-only workspaces a great idea or a throwback? #womenintheworkplace” username=“takeleadwomen”]According to some experts, these women-only spaces for women in the workplace are a trend.“New Women Space co-founder Melissa Wong says the hope is that the impact of women’s spaces will extend beyond the walls. ‘If we serve as a central hub for women interested in supporting women, and they get something out of their experience here, they can bring that back out to their other communities. There’s this domino, trickle effect,’” writes Lisa Elaine Held in Well and Good.“There’s The Wing and the Center for Social Innovation’s The Women’s Lab in New York City, Paper Dolls and One Roof Women in Los Angeles, and Hera Hub, with locations in San Diego and D.C. In December, LMHQin Manhattan hosted a panel called ‘The Rise of Women’s Clubs,’ based on the observation that ‘women are banding together to build empowered spaces where they can collectively grow in their professional lives,’” Held writes.“One Roof Women co-founder Gianna Wurzl says she felt inspired to create spaces for women after a long career of working in corporate America, in spaces designed by men,” Held writes. “‘I thought, I don’t feel safe, I don’t feel supported, I don’t feel like this is a creative space,’ she explains. “What would it look like if women were to reimagine workspace?’”In Liverpool, England, a new business center is 80 percent filled with women-funded or women-led businesses, “ blazing a trail for the women-only movement, “ according to The Times. “Helen Millne, operations chief of The Women’s Organization, which advises women on starting businesses, said, “We could have gone for 100 per cent women, there is no legal issue and we would have easily filled it. We wanted businesses to be able to meet socially during working hours. Women often have caring responsibilities so can’t go out for drinks after work or play golf on a Saturday.”This new trend arrives at a time with new findings from the Pew Research Center about the shifting numbers of women in the workplace.“The female share of the labor force is expected to peak in 2025 at 47.1 percent, but will then taper off to 46.3 percent by 2060, relegating women to the minority of workers for the foreseeable future,” according to Fortune.“That disheartening forecast is the result of new projections that indicate a continued decline in the share of women who work. After soaring to 59.9 percent in 2000, the women’s labor force participation rate has ticked down, landing at 56.7 percent in 2015. In addition to aging and retirement, the decline is due to an increased likelihood that mothers with young children will not work. That group, especially those with less education, is less likely to participate in the labor force now than it was in 2000, perhaps because of what some sociologists see as a reversion to traditional gender roles. Another factor is single women withdrawing from the labor force in favor of attending school,” writes Claire Zillman.Female office spaces and female clubs are ideas that are gathering momentum, some say, even though there are only six women-only clubs in the world, according to Conde Nast Traveler.[bctt tweet=“Female office spaces and female clubs are ideas that are gathering momentum #taketheleadwomen” username=“takeleadwomen”]“While the idea of female clubs isn’t new—the first iteration dates back to the late 1800s in the U.S.—in other Western cities, modern interpretations have been surfacing for the better part of the last 10 years. So for all its assertiveness and liberalism, New York was actually late on creating such a space for women who may be balancing work, motherhood, and everyday life against a lightning-fast, often harsh city,” writes Caroline Tell in CNT.With two women-only clubs in New York and London, and one each in Paris and Toronto, the spaces look like something Carrie Bradshaw or Diane Von Furstenberg could have dreamed up with brightly colored pillows, flower vases and curvy chairs.Still, some are pushing back against women-only spaces and the idea behind them.“Women-only spaces are intended to be safe — and in a world that’s still rife with misogyny, it’s easy to see why they might be appealing. But that doesn’t prevent them from falling into anti-feminist traps, even unintentionally,” writes Suzannah Weiss in Bustle.Among other considerations, including respect for trans and non-binary individuals and intersectionality, Weiss suggests not to fall into the feminine pink power trap.“Events with pink decorations, workspaces that assume women put higher value on work-life balance than men, and social groups exclusively centered on manicures and chick flicks only set women back. If you do like pink or chick flicks, then of course that’s fine; the whole point is to have options,” Weiss writes. “The problem only arises when pink and chick flicks are the only options presented.”