I spent the last weekend at #cowork2019 the annual conference of the German Coworking Federation. One major trend is rural coworking and the other big topic this year was Women and Coworking. One of the sessions I attended provided some examples and best practices, so of course, I reflected what we do in Bansko. And I don’t want to mansplain, but rather hope that I will get some more insights as feedback to this quick overview.
For us attracting and retaining women as members is a topic since the beginning as there are way less female nomads than males. There is a wholly separate and larger discussion of why that is and how we can do to support more women to become nomadic.
But in the short-term: What are we doing to create a more gender balanced space at Coworking Bansko?
- We are a safe space and have a clear code of conduct that is part of our sign up process. And when there is a sign of trouble, then we have a talk with members before issues become complaints. Members also have the possibility to provide feedback anonymously.
- Our Nomad in Residence program has some diversity criteria that we apply when selecting who should become our next nomad in residence — probably 80% were women in the past. If you think this is unfair, please read Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is before commenting.
- Even though Uwe and I are men, we have consciously decided that our operations manager should always be a woman. Having a woman in the management team helps to get a better understanding of the female perspective in a lot of decision making. And it also creates a nicer work environment.
- We put effort to decorate our interior, so that it is not only functional but also cozy: we have plants, artwork, height adjustable furniture, quiet areas, hangout spots, carpets and much more than a lot of our male members barely notice but our women often comment on.
We also provide female hygiene products in our toilets. Even though after writing this, I just saw that we are out at the moment and need to restock.
- A 2015 study by Dutch scientists found that women are comfortable at a temperature 2.5C warmer than men, typically between 24–25C. We empower our members to adjust the room temperature and provide warming orange blankets for everyone.
- (Some) women are interested in different topics than men. So we consciously organize female-oriented events to ensure everyone's needs are covered. Some examples: We had a Women on the Mountain female leadership weekend event, our Bloggers on Top event is dominated by women, our yoga events are mostly attended by women and our arts & crafts are very popular with women.
We also make sure that when we organize events that we partner with a woman and have women represented in panels and presentations.
- We play a lot of board games at Coworking Bansko. Probably because I like board games a lot. It turned out that our female members prefer cooperative games like Pandemic where we try to save the world as a team from a deadly virus instead of a highly kinetic, endlessly brutal campaign game like HATE where savage tribes need to kill each other before they torture and devour their fallen enemies.
So we have a huge range of different games to play in the space.
- Every member gets a beautiful Coworking Bansko T-Shirt. We don’t only offer all kind of different sizes, but also a female cut. And we let everyone decide what type they want to wear.
- When we first came to Bansko a lot of our restaurant guides were full of excitement about the massive amounts of meat that is part of the Bulgarian diet. Turns out that most women eat healthier than men, so now we have a lot of recommendations for more culinary variety, including vegetarian and vegan choices as well as the lighter fare in general.
Also for our weekend events and our weekly BBQ night, we always ensure that there are vegetarian options available.
- Even though a lot of our members are special and ask for exceptions, we hate to give special discounts to our membership plans. So our default answer is No to everyone. However when we do make an exception, then often it is because female members require and deserve a little bit more flexibility sometimes.
However, it is also important to understand that a lot of our female members are very strong solo travelers building amazing businesses on their own, so they do not need us to protect them or want to attend female-only events. They do however appreciate that we make an effort to consider female preferences and requirements.