It is well known that many technology companies have struggled and continue to struggle with gender diversity issues. One of the more peculiar trickle down effects, or indicators of a diversity issue is the complaints you often here in the hallways of many offices. “I had to check three bathrooms just to find one that was open.” “I had to wait for 20 minutes, what are people doing in there!?!” The voice of these complaints in my experience, has most often been men. Why are there never enough stalls? Is the company too cheap? Are people working in there? The problem is a bit more nuanced than one may think.
How Many Bathrooms Do We Need?
OSHA requires companies to maintain specific numbers of toilets to employees. Those ratios are then broken down into male and female restrooms, "unless they can be occupied by no more than one person and can be locked from the inside." At a workplace that is 50 percent female and 50 percent male, this would work. However, how does this work in the technology world, where companies average between 55-84 percent men?
This variance is where the law highlights the issue. If you start hearing men grumble about not finding a restroom but you never hear any complaints from women in your office, what does that indicate? If you have counted the restrooms and you're meeting code requirements, you may need to dig deeper to solve your problem. In the end, you may find the cause is a gender diversity issue. Now what can you do about it?
Working Within the Current Law To Improve Experience And Inclusion
The easiest solution is very simple. Within the same OSHA guidelines you’re able to make all restrooms gender neutral and provide a common area sink. Provide full height stalls with individual air feeds / vents, are lockable, and why not some music to improve experience? Your employees will appreciate the privacy and better experience as well. Not only will you have gender neutral restrooms that help show you understand gender is non-binary, but you’ll also be able improve the lives of your teams.
This is a great first step, and it really is a great path forward for showing your employees you care about inclusion. However, it's really just a bandaid for the larger problem. If you're a workplace employee (or anyone at a company for that matter) and you see something like this start to occur, maybe you should sit down to talk with your diversity team instead? You may find you can work together to bring the issue to light internally, and help make some change that lasts. Maybe you can even get the funding to build those nice gender neutral restrooms.
Alternatively, you can take the advice of a friend of mine when I ran this issue by them: "People should just stop hiring men until the problem fixes itself. Diversity problem solved. Bathroom problem solved." Simple.