Wednesday 28 August 2019 6:00 am

DEBATE: Are ‘women-only’ spaces the answer to preventing sexism in the workplace?

Ksenia Tkacheva is the co-founder of Superfood Bakery.
and Nazia Siddiq
Nazia Siddiq is the HR Director of BE Offices.

Could “women-only” spaces be the answer to preventing sexism in the workplace?

YES, says Ksenia Tkacheva, the co-founder of Superfood Bakery.

In our experience, “women-only” spaces work. A key cause of sexism is an unfounded lack of respect for the opposite sex. But when you have a women-only workplace, it results in fundamental respect for colleagues, which is a prerequisite when you are trying to create a high-performing, cohesive team who enjoy their jobs.

Unintentionally, we have created an all-female team in our workplace, and we could not be happier. There is a kind of mutual understanding and support that makes it easier for us to do big things even as a small team.

Having a women-only team can lead to some obvious perks if you’re lucky – from office spa getaways to yoga studio vouchers. But this is about more than that. One of our company values is empathy, and women tend to be good at putting themselves in somebody else’s shoes. Business is all about building and navigating relationships, so allowing women a space to do this with confidence can be invaluable.

NO, says Nazia Siddiq, the HR Director of BE Offices.

Sexism and inequality are big issues for offices, and a raft of women-only co-working spaces have launched. But look at the data: our poll of 2,000 female workers found that only eight per cent thought that these spaces were the answer to tackling sexism. 

Some women undeniably feel safer and more empowered working in a female environment, but we believe that diversity drives success and that workspaces should – in addition to the obvious things such as stamping out sexism – focus on other areas.

For example, 43 per cent of our poll respondents said that better flexible working options were most likely to improve equality. Culture also matters, like considering office perks that might be heavily geared towards men and contribute to a sexist environment. And instead of women-only spaces, we should celebrate female leaders, and ensure that they have a prominent role in workplace decisions. 

In short, just make sure that yours is not one of the many spaces that are designed for men, by men.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.