Workplace amenities creating barriers for women

A new report titled Nowhere to go has highlighted the issues women in the trade sector face finding workplace amenities.

The report highlights that women in male-dominated industries are often provided with inadequate amenities.

“Ensuring workplace amenities and in particular, workplace toilets, are regularly serviced, accessible, suitable, and open should be a priority for every workplace,” the report states.

“Sadly, this is often not the case.”

It also brings attention to the fact that this matter could create a barrier to women entering the trade sector at all.

One hospitality refrigeration specialist told HVAC&R News that a lot of the time there isn’t a clear divide between men’s and women’s amenities.

“Or if there was a dedicated women’s it’s been usurped and raided some time ago,” she says. “You usually find they’re the first ones guys use because they’re perceived to be cleaner, but everyone has that mentality and they’re just the same. If you’re on a build with one operational bathroom, you use it.”

She describes most amenities on work sites as “pretty terrifying places”.

“You don’t want to spend much time in there, male or female. Trade bathrooms in general are fairly neglected. They’re heavily used and under-cleaned, in some you struggle to find hand soap or toilet paper.”

She says at the very least, toilet paper, hand soap and bins should be provided at all times.

“I cannot stress enough how inconvenient it is getting a period, let alone when you’ve got a used tampon wrapped up in your pocket, trying to find a bin to discreetly dispose of it without being busted because you’re sure as hell not about to be the person responsible for blocking the trade toilet with things that should never be flushed!”

Another female refrigeration mechanic agreed.

“Amenities on worksites for women are limited, and ones that are available do not have very good hygiene upkeep, and don’t have sanitary disposal,” she said. “This is a very common issue, and is a very sensitive subject.

“This has affected me greatly, especially suffering with mental health – the anxiety gets a lot (feeling like everyone’s watching me, sanitary disposal, and how to dispose discreetly) and I’d imagine the same would be said for other women in the trade.

“I understand for employers, builders and building sites this is an uncomfortable topic, but it is needed. It should be standard. Females are starting to creep into trades a bit more now, so it should be addressed.”

The discussion paper explores the barriers inadequate workplace amenities create, and suggests key recommendations to fix the issues. These include the problems mentioned above, as well as safety issues. In one case study from the report, “Jodie” says she was locked in a toilet in the middle of summer for three hours, because her male co-workers thought it was funny.

The recommendations to change these conditions include creating regulations and legislative amendments, establishing regulator requirements, ensuring women have access to all facilities they might need, and changing industry gender-perceptions through education.

For more information and to download the report, click here.

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