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Increasing the number of women on worksites could be a matter of amenities

Juliet Helmke
19 August 2021 1 minute readShare
women on worksites

Mandating women’s toilet facilities on worksites across Australia could help bridge the gender gap in male-dominated fields, according to a report from the Electrical Trades Union.

The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) has launched a nationwide campaign with the aim of increasing the number of women working in male-dominated fields, by calling for women’s amenities to be mandatory on worksites across Australia. 

A recent report from the ETU uncovered that women make up just 2% of their membership and employees in the Australian electrical industry more broadly.

Titled Nowhere to Go, the report outlines several aspects of the industry that make it an inhospitable environment for women, recommending key improvements to mitigate the barriers and pain points female employees of the sector face.

They include:

  • Legislating minimum requirements for workplace amenities, ensuring they are regularly serviced, accessible and suitable.
  • Ensuring women are included in advisory groups and reference committees that oversee matters of education and compliance within male-dominated occupational industries.
  • Establishing a singular point of contact for all employees to report gendered safety issues.
  • Implementing female apprentice meetings and mentorship programs.

ETU national secretary Allen Hicks noted that ensuring workplace amenities and, in particular, workplace toilets are available and suitable should generally be a minimum requirement of every workplace.

For women, that’s often not the case.

“For women in historically male-dominated occupations, the challenge is particularly stark, with women’s amenities frequently treated as an inconvenience, improperly or irregularly serviced or not provided at all,” said Mr Hicks.

Women reported making health choices such as drinking less water on site or delaying their menstrual cycles due to the lack of amenities, according to Mr Hicks.

Moreover, women often face barriers when attempting to address these issues, coming up against prevailing stereotypes and myths about women in male-dominated workplaces, the report noted.

“This contributes to workplace cultures that are non-inclusive and historically masculine with a tolerance of inappropriate behaviours including bullying, aggression and the objectification of women,” Mr Hicks said.

“Research has shown time and time again that one way for us to increase participation is to provide amenities and make sure women aren’t left with nowhere to go.”

The ETU is calling on regulators to develop checklists as guidance for establishing adequate workplace amenities or when performing workplace inspections or audits. These should be used by entry permit holders, inspectors, workplace delegates, health and safety representatives, safety managers and human resources representatives to ensure that facilities for women exist, are clean and safe.

Increasing the number of women on worksites could be a matter of amenities
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Juliet Helmke

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