I had the chance to read Lean In : Women, Work and The Will to Lead recently. In it Sheryl Sandberg shares many thoughts and ideas, but what stands out to me the most this morning were her experiences when her needs as a woman were overlooked in the workplace.
First she recounts her experience through a rough pregnancy full of severe nausea, weight gain and swollen feet. After a particularly rough day she came home and shared her troubles with her husband Dave, who was working for Yahoo at the time. He pointed out that Yahoo had designated parking for expectant mothers at the front of each building. The next day she says she marched in to see Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin in their office and announced that they needed pregnancy parking, preferably sooner rather than later. They looked up and agreed immediately, noting that he had never thought about it before.
She explains that to this day she’s embarrassed that she didn’t realize that pregnant women needed reserved parking until experiencing her own aching feet. Like the two men, it had never occurred to her. “The other pregnant women must have suffered in silence, not wanting to ask for special treatment. Or maybe they lacked the confidence or seniority to demand that the problem be fixed. Having one pregnant woman at the top, even one who looked like a whale, made the difference.”
And the second experience that stands out to me today was her time at a particular corporate office:
“Two years after I joined Facebook as chief operating officer, our chief financial officer departed suddenly, and I had to step in to complete a funding round. Since I had spent my career in operations, not finance, the process of raising capital was new and a bit scary. My team and I flew to New York for the initial pitch to private equity firms. Out first meeting was held in the kind of corporate office featured in movies, complete with a sprawling view of Manhattan. I offered an overview of our business and answered questions. So far so good. Then someone suggested that we break for a few minutes. I turned to the senior partner and asked where the women’s restroom was. He stared at me blankly. My question had completely stumped him.
I asked, “How long have you been in this office?” And he said, “Oh year.” “Am I the only woman to have pitched a deal here in an entire year?” “I think so,” he said, adding, “or maybe you’re the only one who had to use the bathroom.”
Now in my experience, I’ve never had a problem locating a women’s restroom. But once I get there, with my daughter who needs a diaper change I do have a problem locating the changer once I’m in there. Because more often than not, there’s not one to be found. As a hopeful optimist, I’d like to think that similar to Sheryl’s experience with expectant mother parking, it’s something some businesses just haven’t thought of.
I did a little research, and a simple Koala Kare Changing Station only runs a business $199.31 from The Restaurant Store HERE. One Ninety Nine. That’s it, that’s all.
I’m not sure the best way to go about this, but blogging seemed like a natural fit to begin the conversation. After this, I’m seriously contemplating designing cards to hand to managers in family restaurants or shopping areas without a diaper changer. I don’t think that the changer needs to be a beautiful stainless steel, I’m not even asking for the sanitary sheets to always be stocked, just please provide a changer, in the men’s + women’s restrooms.
Asking a parent to return to the car to change their child’s diaper is no more appropriate than asking a nursing mother to breastfeed in the bathroom. Dear business owners, please provide changing stations.