Are personalised workspaces a feminist issue?

‘A decade ago a visiting female academic surveyed a (female) colleague’s office and declared that the array of family photos was not just unprofessional but anti-feminist. We were taken aback, to say the least. We had always thought a few pictures brightened up the place and gave it a more human touch. But we were told that they undermined academic credibility and, worse still, evoked associations that feminists had fought long and hard to challenge.

Irrespective of whether the accuser was right or wrong, the criticism did make me notice something. I became aware that very few men, especially those in senior roles, had similar displays in their own offices. But those who did were not seen as being unprofessional.

I went on to carry out research in this area, and interviewed dozens of female office workers. I found that many do choose to personalise their workspaces – with holiday pictures, degree certificates, plants, lamps and other decorative touches. 

It would be unrealistic to claim that none of this applies to men, of course. But it would also be wrong to dismiss the impact that these issues can have on women – especially when there’s a wealth of research that shows they are much more likely to feel invisible and to suffer from imposter syndrome. We can still struggle to fit in, to adapt and to make our workplaces our own, in various ways.’ - Guardian


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