...by a woman in gaming and digital media.
1) Safe Location
Women are by nature more susceptible to harassment and violent intent so the location of their potential workplace is of vital importance.
While it’s true that a male may not feel threatened when he leaves work on a particularly dark winter’s afternoon, females and visible minorities may feel a heightened concern for their safety traveling to and from work.
Locating your office in cheaper areas of town typically means poorer lighting in the streets. It often means that there are fewer people walking in the area, and those on the streets may seem more threatening.
The reality is that I wouldn’t let my daughter or my wife walk alone in these areas after dark (which in my town is 4:30 pm in winter) because I would fear for their safety. I pose the question, is it fair to ask young or vulnerable staff to walk to and from work in these conditions? The very obvious answer is no, yet the way office locations are decided — often by C-Suite males— means that such companies are unknowingly participating in a systemized exclusion, that by its very nature discourages diversity and reduces women’s opportunities in tech companies. Women will be encouraged to work in tech when safe locations are provided.
Don’t: Do not locate in the cheaper run-down areas of town, located near homeless shelters or parks or next to known high drug traffic areas.
Do: Locate in high traffic, well-lit areas with easy access to public transport and parking.
2) Safe and Comfortable Workspace
Our most creative and productive selves thrive when we feel safe and comfortable. Comfort can mean different things to different people, but a few factors encourage females and diversity through their office environment set up. Along with the obvious need for safety, light and bright spaces are typically more appealing to women. While males might like the gaming-styled dim rooms, women and visible minorities typically feel safer and more in control working in well-lit spaces. Furthermore, they typically like the room to feel fresh and clean. Old cans and stale pizza simply isn’t an inviting workplace.
Don’t: Create a dim, stale and messy workplace environment.
Do: Create a bright friendly and inviting workspace where everyone feels productive, creative and ready to work.
3) Adequate and Appropriate Facilities
Workspaces need clean and adequate facilities. There are three key areas:
Kitchens: It is important to have a clean kitchen without filthy plates and dishes piled high. Everyone deserves to be able to make a cup of coffee in a clean mug a clean workspace. No old food, no uncleared fridge growing mold and especially no automatic assumption that a female in the office will automatically clean up everyone else mess.
Workspace: An adequate space with a clean work area is essential to encouraging women and diversity, and it goes without saying that a comfortable chair helps too.
Washrooms: Workplaces need to provide clean washrooms and an adequate number of facilities in the washrooms. One female toilet in a large office is simply not enough if you want to encourage more women in tech.
Women by their very physiology need access to washrooms for longer than males. Likewise, they have other needs that require them to commit a long time to washroom usage. This means that more washrooms are needed for females. This simple oversight causes discomfort and discourages women from seeking employment in tech companies. Likewise, the location of washrooms can play an important factor in the discomfort level of women. With an obvious need for increased visits at times, women do not want to have to walk into the main foyer area to visit the washroom as needed. For women already in a heightened emotional state and need privacy, this showpiece location adds unnecessary pressure and discomfort. A minimum number of facilities to female staff is 10 females per washroom with a minimum overall number per floor of two washrooms. This is one area where action is genuinely needed in the tech industry. Too often this situation is overlooked to the obvious discomfort of women in tech.
Don’t: Have inadequate, poorly located washrooms
Do: Have clean, bright washrooms located with easy access.
Diversity and inclusion mean that everyone should be able to access your office space easily. This means having lift facilities for the disabled or those where 3 or 4 flights of stairs will add an unnecessary level of discomfort. Ignoring fundamentals relating to staff and guests access automatically discourage women in tech. The cruel reality is that some days it is very uncomfortable for a female to climb multiple flights of stairs and if we are genuine about wanting females in tech, then we need to be aware and considerate of this.
Don’t: Don’t obviously discriminate against women and those with disabilities
Do: Provide adequate access for everyone
5) Non-Gendered Job Ads
Gendered language still runs rife across employment marketplaces. In a survey carried out by Indeed.com usage of “ninja” increased nearly 400% between January 2012 and October 2016 (in the same year the word “dominant” rose by 65%). Although the former may sound ‘current’ to a millennial audience, it also carries strong masculine connotations and may dissuade a female from applying for a role. We must make a conscious effort to de-bias the application process as much as possible in order to rewrite this systemized narrative.
Don’t: Include gender bias in your job application process
Do: Re-write your advertisements to attract all peoples
The five factors I have listed make a huge difference to the comfort level of women in tech roles. While they can be swept aside by casualties like, “well we have the building so there is nothing we can do about it now” or “well they will just need to fit in” or “why should we pander to their special needs”, the very core to including women in tech, necessitates the action in these areas.
I feel it is time that we stood up and called out those who preach diversity and inclusion yet are unwilling to create an environment where women are comfortable working. Whether its insensitivity to washroom needs or simply leaving a huge mess in the kitchen sink, if we want women in tech, then we need to be serious about making a space for them.
This article is written by Lee Brighton, CSO of Virtro Entertainment. Contact via LinkedIn