Potty Parity: Process Flexibility via Unisex Restroom

63 Pages Posted: 3 Sep 2021 Last revised: 10 Dec 2021

See all articles by Setareh Farajollahzadeh

Setareh Farajollahzadeh

Rotman School of Management

Ming Hu

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management

Date Written: December 9, 2021


We study the problem of inequitable access to public restrooms by women and the LGBTQ+ community. Individuals enter a restroom based on their gender identity and the expected (or observed) wait time. We consider two measures of potty parity: first, the conventional wait-time parity, and second, our proposed utility parity, which encompasses both wait time and gender identity to estimate users' utility for using a restroom. We show the benefits of unisex restrooms analytically and from various angles: (1) reducing the wait time for the women's restroom; (2) enhancing the potty parity of wait times and users' utility; (3) increasing users' feelings of safety; and (4) shrinking the wait-time disparity when arrival rates fluctuate. Moreover, we provide insights into both renovating existing buildings and designing restrooms from scratch. In particular, we show the following: (i) The process flexibility of having a one-unit restroom, either by converting a unit of the men's restroom or building an additional one, goes a long way toward improving wait time or user utility, and reducing their disparities. (ii) Building the women's room and the unisex restroom next to each other (such that users can jockey lines) improves potty parity. (iii) Even though an all-unisex restroom leads to complete parity of wait times, surprisingly, it does not improve potty parity, but reverses the ranking of users' utility in the population. (iv) Providing an all-unisex room plus urinal(s) can increase efficiency still more. Lastly, we also provide a numerical study with empirically calibrated parameters to show the magnitude of the impact of unisex rooms in a stadium.

Keywords: gender equality, process flexibility, potty parity, queueing games

JEL Classification: D63, I31

Suggested Citation

Farajollahzadeh, Setareh and Hu, Ming, Potty Parity: Process Flexibility via Unisex Restroom (December 9, 2021). Rotman School of Management Working Paper No. 3914880, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3914880 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3914880

Setareh Farajollahzadeh (Contact Author)

Rotman School of Management ( email )

105 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3E6 M5S1S4

Ming Hu

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management ( email )

105 St. George st
Toronto, ON M5S 3E6
416-946-5207 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://ming.hu

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