I’m a 25-year-old white male who works for a tech company, and apparently I’m the target market of a new co-working space in Australia.
The space is set to include an office, cafe and gym. It also offers different tiers for membership, including “The Bear Grills”: $45 a week with unlimited hot-desking and gym time, and “The Musk Have”: $85 a week with everything the Bear Grills offers as well as a locker.
You’d be forgiven for thinking this was an ironic startup pitch with a parody TED Talk on its way. But these two misguided entrepreneurs seem quite serious about their startup, which has lead to a barrage of ridicule online. In a now-notorious interview with Junkee, Monaghan linked a friend’s story of pushing over his wife as a symptom of society’s obsession with gender equality.
When pushed for a response by Quartz, the founders supplied this statement highlighting that the number 1 cause of death for Australian men aged 15-44 is suicide (Man Up 2016), that 1 in 8 men will have depression at some stage in their life (Beyond Blue 2016), and that domestic violence has been trending at pretty much the same figures for a decade (Cussen & Bryant 2015).
They then try to wrap this all up in their final statistic, linking our ingrained culture to men having trouble accessing traditional support services as the raison d’être for their space’s existence. Saying, “we believe that our space that combines mental, physical and social stimulation will be a catalyst for impact amongst the men of our community.” But it’s exactly this manner of speaking about men’s issues that has gotten them into so much hot water.
At the end of the day, while they’re not helping the issue of diversity in the least, the case for a male-only area of the world is not completely out of the question. But the language in which they’ve chosen to talk about their startup and its mission presents men as if they’re an abused minority, and that this co-working space doubles up as a shelter for misunderstood misogynists that only abused their wives because they were depressed.
Let’s just think about what women have had to go through in the last fifty years to get to where they are in workplaces today. Think about what other cultures, religions and sexual orientations have had to compromise in order to assimilate to the office culture of the white man. If bros are the minority for a co-working space – a space usually inhabited by mostly white male entrepreneurs – then who is the majority, and what problem is this startup actually solving?
Nomadic Thinkers is not some sort of public service. Rather, it’s an excuse to return to what a lot of coworking spaces have been up until now. This “minority” – apparently led by these two entrepreneurs – seems to believe men have reached breaking point, and that it’s time for them to finally speak up and fight for their right to discriminate without persecution.
“Given the office will have a 1950s vibe, in terms of the whole “whisky-drinking, casual misogyny, aggressively ignorant male entitlement” will there still be other modern things like Wifi?”
– The Bondi Hipsters, via the Nomadic Thinkers’ Facebook page
While Mercer and Monaghan have positioned their male safe-space as a necessary tactic to cope with the barrage of women apparently entering the workforce, the reality of the situation twas ever thus.
From inequality in what they’re paid compared to men, to poor options for maternity leave and flexible working arrangements for mothers, the leftover remnants of fifties-era working conditions still linger for women in many workplaces today.
And although here at Envato we were voted the coolest company to work for women by JobAdvisor in 2015, this year our diversity figures actually went down a bit – evidence that quality is extremely hard to make happen. And taking into account that companies like Envato are actually leaders in this area, yet are still struggling to make headway, you can imagine how far behind many other slower moving industries undoubtedly are.
“It’s a great reminder of how easy it is to get into a bit of a feel good bubble when you’re spending all day in an environment that is trying to champion diversity,” says Envato Senior Product Manager, Luke Meehan. “The reality is we need to be looking at actual data and getting feedback to understand what’s really happening out there.”
Nomadic Thinkers is an ugly reminder of the work that’s yet to be done to make our workplaces more diverse. It represents the attitudes a lot of men default to when asked to change aspects of their behavior for the greater good. They blame women, they blame society and go from being the privileged ones to feeling like they’re being forced to give something up, leading them to argue that things aren’t equal.
Of course, this stems from a misunderstanding as to how unequal things have been for so long. The first step on the path to equality isn’t just an even number of men and women in the workplace, but rather more women than men, for a time anyway – as well as changes to the systemic issues that enable these inequalities. We have to account for all the years leading up to now – an era where a lot of companies are pushing to hire women over men.
We are not there yet. In fact, these figures show we’re not even close. And men are only going to feel more deprived of opportunity, less certain about career progression and quite probably discriminated against – issues women have been dealing with all along.
It’s something that – as a male in the tech industry – I’m ready to deal with and embrace. But it’s a reality a lot of others won’t want to accept. I only hope the next time those types of men act out, what they pitch is a little less ignorant than an all-male workplace.
Related article: Creating Community Through Coworking Spaces
Featured image: stokkete