By Brittney Herrera, Senior Workplace Strategist, SERA Architects
Editor’s note: Brittney Hererra is a Think Tank member for the Boston and San Francisco Workplace Innovation Summits on October 27th and November 17th.
“The workplace is a patriarchal system,” Traci Rossi, the Executive Director of the Center for Women’s Leadership at Portland State University, shared with me over coffee. She continued, “It was developed by men and we have not evolved the model, women just blended into it.”
Women make up 46.8% of today’s workforce in the US, a landscape that was previously dominated by men. Diversity is key to an organization’s ability to innovate and be successful. One area that has been slow to evolve on pace with the progress of women’s representation in the workforce is work space itself.
As someone who designs workspaces for dynamic, cutting edge, global companies, I strive to provide high performing spaces where all employees can do their best work. This is a critical factor in the process. Traci’s comment, while obvious to her, was incredibly powerful to me – had we been doing it all wrong? What would the workplace look like if we threw out the current model and reverse engineered it to include everyone?
I had to know more. Here are what 4 amazing women taught me about designing inclusive workspaces:
Build a community through communication. This time, Ana Chaud, CEO of GardenBar, shared her thoughts over cold brew. From the first moment you meet her, being with Ana is like being in her inner circle. Her management style is the same. Her team is her family, and she affirms that through every interaction. She connects her store managers and staff over seven locations via Slack, and when the salad hits the fan, they are all there for each other. They support each other’s success, in real time, effectively leveraging technology to build community.
Bring your whole self to work, and your kids. Glaucia Martin-Porath, Founder & Chief Empowerment Officer at Women’s Plaza had an idea for elevating women at work into a grass roots community. Her vision is to provide a co-working space where working mothers have access to high quality daycare adjacent to their workspace. Amazing! Giving parents access to their kids throughout the day means recognizing the value in raising well-balanced children while supporting the well-being of moms. Workout clothing retailer, Lululemon takes the idea of being a whole person at work a step further with how they review their team. Managers are evaluated on how they have been able to help their staff achieve their personal goals – not their professional goals. Talk about balance!
Take care of yourself, so you can take care of the world, through meditation. Eileen Fisher, fashion designer, begins each meeting with a one minute meditation, telling Fast Company “We try to lay that down as a primary foundation of what we do within the company, because giving people that open space allows them to get in touch with what they’re there for and what matters to them, and show up a little differently.” A recognized leader in advocating for women, and sustainability, she believes that being mindful throughout the day allows us to work with purpose and kindness.
Make it mean something. Carolyn Rafaelian, CEO of Alex and Ani, consults an astrologist and a psychic for major business decisions. Her belief in energy and its ability to shape the world around us has been her personal and professional foundation for a billion-dollar jewelry business. While her methods have been controversial, they speak to a large part of the population who believe in New Age ideologies. Making something meaningful is not only how you engage a buyer, it’s how you engage a workforce. Her passion is evident, telling Forbes, “When you call this a lifestyle company, it’s not because we throw some symbol on a piece of fashion,” she says. “It’s my life.”
Is there a place for these ideologies in the workplace? How will they shape our work spaces? As Gloria Steinem said, “Don’t think about making women fit the world, think about making the world fit women.” A new way to work is here.