employment laws
lactation stations
nursing mothers
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Update: An Open Letter To WeWork

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Dear WeWork,

We moved into WeWork Golden Gate on July 1 and signed a four-month lease on a sunny new office space for our growing startup, Glassbreakers. This is a really exciting time for us. We’re hiring our first batch of full-time employees and embarking on a whole new chapter scaling our company. Since our first day at WeWork, we’ve hired three new teammates (two engineers and a designer). We have two more important roles to fill next month.

We were shocked to discover that though there are kegs to pump WeWork beer at every kitchen, there isn’t a designated lactation room on any of the seven floors for members to pump breast milk. As an employer, we should have been more thorough in researching the space. But since every office I’ve ever worked in has had a lactation room, I assumed it was an accommodation that would of course be integrated into the floor plans of your booming global co-working empire.

Nursing mothers need to pump three to four times during a typical workday, for about 30 minutes per session. If a mother doesn’t have access to pump regularly, her breasts can become engorged, and engorgement can lead to a painful and dangerous infection called mastitis. In addition, pumping in areas that are not clean and private (like a bathroom) can affect milk supply and the ability for a breastfeeding mother to provide proper nutrition to her child.

Combing through your other locations, I notice at least one WeWork location (SoHo, in NY) that lists a lactation room as an amenity; hopefully there are more. However, considering these buildings are so thoughtfully designed to include yoga rooms, arcades, screening rooms, meditation rooms and indoor bocce ball courts to support the work-life integration of your members, I can’t understand how this very important space and legal requirement for employers of working mothers isn’t in every location. Hopefully with your latest $433 million round of funding, you’ll have the resources to change that.

Everyone in tech can tell you how competitive the hiring market is, and this failure to provide a workplace necessity for our employees is directly impacting our ability to execute as a fast-paced startup. It is illegal in the state of California, and federally, for employers to ‘not provide the use of a room, other than a toilet stall, in close proximity to the employee’s work area, for the employee to express milk in private.’

We’re not the first community members to request a lactation room; we learned that another woman working on our floor was forced to take a swivel chair into the handicap bathroom stall to pump.

We want to hire the best people possible, as quickly as possible. We can’t do that if we’re unable to onboard nursing mothers because our team is based out of WeWork.

You’re running a campaign called #foundedbywomen that’s highlighting women founders/creators at WeWork via your blog, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest boards. It feels really disingenuous to market your co-working spaces as inclusive for women when that doesn’t hold true for women who are breastfeeding.

If you want to build the ultimate workplace for creators you need to innovate your office for the modern woman. Please update your current locations with lactation rooms and design them into your future ones.

I promise it’ll definitely help you attract more badass female founders. We’d greatly appreciate it if you could fix the situation at WeWork Golden Gate in San Francisco as soon as possible so we can continue to recruit and work with amazing people.

Sincerely,

Eileen Carey

 WeWork Responds: 

Delivering a positive member experience and supporting our community’s growth is a top priority for us. We always welcome feedback and try to incorporate it in our offering.
When a member based in our Golden Gate location recently brought up the need for a dedicated lactation room, we immediately began working on plans to build a dedicated room for this purpose at this location.
We have been also actively developing multi-purpose private spaces to serve lactation and other personal, member needs in our future locations. We are committed to creating the best experience for our members, and providing the spaces and services they need to be successful.
Featured Image: KPG Ivary/Shutterstock