On New York, March 25 of 1911 a fire started. The casualties were mostly women (123 to be precise, and 23 men). These were 146 lives that were lost due to smoke inhalation, fire, or jumping to their deaths. Why? Because Max Blanck and Isaac Harris, the company’s owners, had locked the fire escape exit doors. Why again? Because women, at the factory, had to leave the building to go to the bathroom. Therefore, management had the keys and, in order to avoid the “interruption of work”, decided to protect the company’s productivity by locking the safety doors.
Now, I want you to picture this. Imagine your 15-year-old sister, or daughter, working from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. (if lucky), with a half an hour break for lunch (if, again, lucky) and with (very) limited access to the bathroom and unacceptable hygienic conditions. You may think of 1911 again, right? While true (these were indeed the conditions that all these women endured at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory), sadly it is still the reality in many underdeveloped countries. We all have read at some point news about companies having their workers wear diapers to avoid these “interruptions of work”, and it is 2020.
This made me think about the Future of Work. Where is it headed towards? What are, or should be, its characteristics under this new development of technologies, shared economies and global connectivity? Though, as I mentioned before, it is a reality that in many of the emerging worlds the physical conditions for women (and men, of course) to work are precarious, to say the least, it is also true that the “interruption of work” also comes in different forms for women.
Are you pregnant? Are you planning on getting pregnant any time soon? Are you married? Women sacrifice productivity time because they have kids to take care of. Because they have to put on makeup. Because they have to invest more time getting ready in the mornings. Because they have to go to the bathroom more often than men. Because they have “their days” and hormones kick in… and the list goes on.
A fire started in 1911 indeed. But this fire is still raging, although this time with a more positive outcome in mind. The question is, are we, as a society, still locking the fire escape exit doors by turning our backs on gender equality? You, me, society, we are all part of a living system that is, as we speak, designing the future of work. Let us not waste the flames that started on March 25 of 1911 and find the key to those exit doors that will free us all from inequality.
Written by Silvana Lopez, CEO, The Blockchain Challenge and also posted here: https://medium.com/@theblockchainchallenge/triangle-shirtwaist-a-catalyzer-for-equality-99ccef52fe30