Workplace

The Men of Nomura Win Bathroom Equity


The Men of Nomura Win Bathroom Equity

Photograph by David Atkinson/Blend Images

All these years that women have whined about inhumanely long lines for restrooms at restaurants and ballparks, it would seem that the brave men working in Nomura’s urinal-deficient New York headquarters have silently held it in. Relief is on its way.

This summer, the Japanese financial company will move into a new building in midtown Manhattan that, on four floors, will have more facilities for men than for ladies, dodging standard plumbing code that requires men’s and ladies’ rooms to be equal. The building owners received approval from the buildings department in 2012. The main trading floor, located on the fourth story, will gain an additional men’s room and the restrooms on three higher floors will get additional urinals.

“Nomura believes in providing equal employment opportunities and a sound working environment where our staff can and do perform at their best,” says Jonathan Hodgkinson, a spokesman for the company.

If the idea is for workers to be away from their desks for as short a period as possible, this may help, says Rick Bell, executive director of the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Yet he believes designing offices so people walk further to use the restroom and other facilities—to give their minds a short break—is actually a better way to boost productivity and overcome sedentary office culture.

The New York Post reports that the owners of Nomura’s new office, led by real estate company George Comfort & Sons, asked for a 75/25 ratio for “water closets and lavatories” on these four floors (of the 20 floors the company will occupy) because the population in this part of the business historically comprises 75 percent men and 25 percent women, according to a document filed with the city. Nomura would not confirm this figure.

This victory for men comes eight years after the city passed the Women’s Restroom Equity Bill, which requires new public venues such as bars, restaurants, and concert halls to have a two-to-one restroom “fixture” ratio in favor of women. The law does include an exemption for places with a strong gender imbalance, reported NBC News. Similar laws exist in Virginia, Texas, Pennsylvania, and California.

Still, wonders Bell, why not just outfit all restrooms with unisex stalls?

Venessa-wong-190x190
Wong is an associate editor for Bloomberg Businessweek. Follow her on Twitter @venessawwong.

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