Written by Rajina Shrestha
Maybe I talk with respect to a very small sample group, but the efforts I see in a few work-spaces in Kathmandu to increase the number of women in their own office to start with, makes me wonder if the tipping point to having women in mostly male dominated workforce (like tech) is near. Still, as they embark on a mission to have more women on board, they find it is not quite in line with what communities of Women in Tech tell them about the abundance of skilled women in the field. It might not be as easy to bring them on as they would like; so they ask, how can we make sure our office is more gender inclusive and diverse?
Now this is a good start. And the question is valid not only for IT companies, but pretty much every other establishment trying to get more women on board and in leadership positions. Maybe the more steady companies have already without efforts made their company women friendly with standard office infrastructure. But if yours is a startup or a smaller company consisting of 4 men for now, working from 11 to 7 and sometimes sleeping over in a sleeping bag; thinking if your 5th hire rather than the 11th should be a woman, there might be one very basic thing you want to make sure about your office first.
I’m talking about the bathrooms, guys. Now I’m not suggesting your company needs a bathroom with dry rugs, a bathtub, and a hot water shower before hiring your first female employee. I’m just saying they need to be clean enough and have some basic requirements such as appropriate waste disposal. Menstrual leave time is great and it’s amazing to see that some companies have it formally structured as some and some have informal structures so that if you have a stomach/back pain, you can just stay home or work from home- like anyone else could use sick leave. But not all women demand this sort of leave time and would be happy to come to work. Warm water and cushions are nice, but proper waste disposal in bathrooms are an essential.
As I say that, I duly appreciate all the efforts companies and individuals have been making to strengthen their number and positions of female employees by being mindful about it since the hiring phase itself. The companies owned/run by women aren’t the only ones who are taking steps towards inclusive offices. More and more of you are understanding that equality and equity can be two completely different things, investing your time and money by being a part of, or helping communities like Women Leaders in Technology (wlitorg_new)(us!), Girls in Technology (GiT), Women in STEM (WiSTEM), Miss Tech, Maker KT mitigate this problem at a more crucial point in time, and asking the right questions for change. Things like bathrooms with waste disposal is something that’ll cost you less than your daily lunch budget and might not be mentioned by your newer employees but matters a great deal. And why shouldn’t female employees just supply such basic necessities if they are so cheap to install? Because for a company to provide these it would be a symbol of commitment to gender diversification.
It’s Ada Lovelace Day today and as we celebrate the glory of the first programmer who also happens to be female, let’s talk more about specific steps to make gender diversification a common reality and who knows… maybe having pump rooms at work for women returning to work after maternity leave will be closer to reality than we thought.