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How About a Startup Co-Working Space with Childcare?

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The growing legions of more than 42 million independent contractors have few options except expensive off-site daycare or even more expensive nannies. So a co-working space with childcare is the natural next step for our freelance nation.

By Rachel Lehmann-Haupt (Editor, Women 2.0)

Perusing the blogs yesterday, I came across a post in the Japan Daily Press announcing that Minhee Katayama, a freelance videographer, has launched a co-working space called Hatch + Kids in the Akasaka district of Tokyo that caters to women workers. He started the space in reaction to the fact that 70 percent of Japanese women leave their jobs after having a child because of the country’s daycare shortage. So Katayama simply set up a playroom inside the office that he plans to evolve into a daycare center. For an additional 20,000 yen, or $200 a month, members can have 24-hour access to this space with babysitting next door.

“What we are trying to do is to show through cooperation that we can create female role models who work while raising children,” he told the Japan Daily Press.

In San Francisco, where I live, co-working spaces for tech companies are popping up like daisies. There’s the Hatchery, where Women 2.0 is based, The HUB, Citizen Space, Startup space, the list goes on. While most of these places provide free Diet Coke, Goldfish, and let workers bring their pets, there is no space that provides affordable on-site childcare.

Hello!  Let’s get going on this! As we all know, the American social system is pretty dismal when it comes to affordable childcare options, and few companies offer onsite daycare options. The growing legions of more than 42 million independent contractors have few options except expensive off-site daycare or even more expensive nannies. So a co-working space with childcare is a natural next step for our freelance nation.

The 2010 Goldman Sachs report Womanomics 3.0 found that in Japan bringing women back to the workforce to a rate of 80 percent will boost their GDP by 10 percent. In the US, the situation is a little bit better, but not much. According to a 2013 paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research entitled “Female Labor Supply: Why is the US Falling Behind?” women’s participation in the workforce has flat-lined since the 1990s. An article about the report by Bryce Covert in Forbes lays it out well.

Covert reports that in two decades the percentage of women in the workforce has only grown from 74 percent to 75.2 percent. Other countries with better childcare systems have increased the number of working women to nearly 80 percent because they’ve adapted their laws and policies around part time work, parental leave, and public spending on daycare to support the rise of women workers.

“Our barely adequate policies of the 1990s have failed to keep up with women’s continuing desire to enter the workforce, which means we’re shooting ourselves in the female foot,” writes Covert.  “Other countries took note of the fact that policies can no longer be modeled on June Cleaver greeting her husband and children at the end of the day with a meal and a smile. The U.S. still pretends that there is someone at home to care for the kids, even though wives stay home is less than 25 percent of married-couple families.”

So while the US situation is not as bad as Japan, affordable childcare in a co-working space would help the growing legions of independent contracts who are parents. Women more regularly opt out because they can’t afford childcare, so a space like that might let many go back to work – or even launch that tech company they’ve been dreaming about.

Women 2.0 readers: How can we build a co-working space to better support working parents?

lehmann-hauptRachel Lehmann-Haupt is an editor at Women 2.0. She also works with companies on the art of storytelling and was a founding editor for TED Books. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, the Daily Beast, New York, Vogue, Self, Outside, and Wired. She is the author of In Her Own Sweet Time. Follow her on Twitter at @rlehmannhaupt.

Photo credit: Miriam Berkley