Is there gender bias in office design?
- Your company’s office layout might be unfair to women, reports Fast Company. A "Women in the Workplace" study by LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Co. suggests that the squared off, segmented space that describes most office layouts favors the hierarchy working style men prefer. Women, by comparison, work best in open spaces, which they view as more congenial.
- A University of Toronto study, "Group Dynamics: Theory, Research and Practice," found that teams made of women tend to be more egalitarian than those made up of men. Open work spaces are better suited to collaborative, more democratic work environments. The conclusion is that structured layouts with walled off offices work best for the chain-of-command approach to work that favors men.
- A University of Calgary study concluded that women aren’t visible in closed-in office spaces. And with less visibility, they’re not as likely to move up into leadership roles in their companies and be as successful professionally as men.
Creating more open work spaces by removing a few portable walls and cubicles might bring more gender equality into the workplace. Of course, open work spaces have their own set of detractors and downsides, but many modern offices are opting for a more open space thanks to changing workplace expectations.
Perhaps a more meaningful solution would be to maintain and enforce policies that give all workers the same opportunity for growth and advancement on the job. For many women, few pipelines into leadership exist— a problem that starts early and gets worse over time.