Supporting Gender Equality for Working Parents
The IDEA Project is a global initiative aimed at developing Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility (IDEA) within coworking and collaborative spaces. Each month, we will host a challenge that assists you in broadening your understanding of IDEA, whilst giving clear actions for you to take to develop IDEA within your space.
Challenge #8 – Supporting Gender Equality for Working Parents
As economic demands have evolved it’s become the norm for parents to hold down a full time job while being the primary child caregiver. But how to balance the two while mastering them both well?
In 2008 with a five month old daughter, Shazia Mustafa was seeking an alternative to her corporate job. While battling to find the right moment to brainstorm business ideas with a friend, the thought dawned on Shazia – what about a place to work uninterrupted while childcare is managed for you?
In 2010 Third Door was born, one of the first coworking spaces with a nursery located in South London.
But this concept goes beyond having a workspace with a room for children with minders.
There is much more at play for the sleep deprived parent looking to work successfully, as well as for the growing little minds that need to be nurtured and the staff that is employed in the role.
Supporting the working parent and the community
In many cases quality childcare is seen as a luxury – as an added benefit – for the more affluent coworking space neighbourhoods, corporate offices, or a certain class of employee marginalising a whole section of society.
Having access to a local space to work at as well as having working parents’ childcare needs taken care of should be a real and affordable concept.
Aside from the affordable and sustainable solution coworking with childcare provides to working parents, it also provides employment for qualified childcare professionals. Thus also working towards paying a fair salary that goes beyond just minimum wage so that they can have employment to provide for their families.
Benefits of coworking and childcare for the working parent
Flexible childcare allows a parent to be on the premises and spend more quality time with their child as well as be focused on their work.
A parents’ mental wellbeing is positively impacted when they’re in a place where they know that their child is nearby and being nurtured. But largely also by being surrounded by like minded people goes a long way to improve a parents’ state of mind. People who can talk about what it’s like to be a working class parent, and who can understand what it’s like to be sleep deprived in a space where they’re not penalised for talking about their children.
Designing for an equitable future
There is also the misconception that a workspace with a facility like this isn’t a professional environment to work in or too ‘mummified’. For Shazia it has been important to also make working dads feel welcome in the environment, and that is why design is a critical part of the process.
Design needs to be considered from the beginning in order to make it more inclusive, more equal, more sustainable, and environmentally friendly.
When designing the nursery, much thought needs to be given to the design behind it. Consideration to colours and lighting that affect how little people develop, private areas for nursing mums and outdoor room for energy to be burned.
Then looking at the parents’ wellbeing, colour, lighting and room design go a long way to improving the experience of the working parent in an environment. Cosier spaces for deep work and comfortable chairs for tired bodies – creating a space that is intuitive to the working class parent.
A space such as this requires design for an inclusive future that welcomes parents from all walks of life that addresses race, religion and gender considerations.
Our entire work culture needs to change to accommodate and encourage gender equality for the working parents. Coworking spaces have the ability to help parents have a better work/parent balance, so that they can do both well.
How you can take part in the September IDEA Challenge
Coworking is evolving and maturing. Most coworking spaces have members who are parents or will become parents at some stage.
You don’t have to have a creche or a nursery to be able to cater to working parents.
How is your space catering for the different needs and stages of working parents? From new parents to those who have children in primary school and have the new challenge of school pick up and drop off, to parenting teenagers?
Understanding and empathising with their needs is where you need to start.
Does your space allow for parents to get the focused, headspace they need whilst their child is in school or nursery? Do you have links to experts that can help them deal with difficult teenagers at home or how to help their teenager with schoolwork?
How about those working parents in same sex partnerships, single parents or those going through a seperation or divorce? Does your space understand the stress and anxiety new parents face trying to do it all? Can you help them understand their rights at both home and work? Can your space curate a ‘back to work’ programme for parents who have been out of the workforce for some time?
What small, manageable and achievable steps or actions can you take that will help make a difference?
Have events that talk about gender equality, gender pay gap and how the pay gap increases once a woman has children. Talk about the mental load that parents all over the world face – having to manage the home, children and work. And see how your space can help couples have this conversation.
Do you have rooms that new mums can use to nurse their baby or pump milk? What about sleep pods where deprived parents can literally use that time to catch up on some sleep.
Have you considered the times of the day you are hosting events? School hours work for many working parents. For single parents, can you host an event where they can attend and their child is in another room being looked after by organised carers?
How can you measure your impact and know that you are making a difference?
Survey your existing members and find out if they are a parent and how old their children are ad/or if they are a single parent or co-parenting. Use this information to start putting in place small changes to cater for their needs and ensure you do your marketing so that similar people can see that your space is inclusive to them.