The Guardian • Issue #1977

Electrical Trades Union (ETU) Statement

Women’s amenities should be mandatory across Australian worksites to boost female participation

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #1977

The Electrical Trades Union is launching a campaign to boost the number of women in male dominated occupational industries, calling for women’s amenities to be mandatory on worksites across Australia.

The ETU’s “Nowhere To Go” report found women make up just two per cent of the electrical industry nationally and two per cent of the ETU’s 61,000-strong membership.

The report outlines the significant obstacles women face within the industry and makes a number of recommendations on how to increase female participation including but not limited to:

  • Legislating minimum requirements for workplace amenities which ensure they are regularly serviced, accessible and suitable
  • Ensuring women are included in advisory groups and/or reference committees to determine priorities and assess progress in improving 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 said “Ensuring workplace amenities and in particular, workplace toilets, are available and suitable should be a minimum requirement of every workplace but this is 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.

“This has forced women to take drastic action, risking their own health, safety and hygiene through practices like drinking less water or deliberately delaying their menstrual cycles.

“Further, women face major barriers when attempting to address these issues, through the prevailing stereotypes and myths about women in male dominated workplaces.

“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.

“Meanwhile, these same industries face a skilled worker shortage and rely on migrant workers to fill the gap.

“Instead of relying on overseas workers, we should be boosting the workforce participation of women, who make up 50 per cent of our population.

“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.”

ETU member “Marie” said “The single biggest issue in four years that I have ever faced on a construction site is every single construction site caters only to men, you never get a toilet.

“The first thing I would do when arriving on site is try and find a toilet and make sure it is not down a dark alley or in a position where the girls would not be safe.

“We have our personal safety to take care of as well.”

The “Nowhere To Go” report also makes the following recommendations:

The creation of regulations and prescribed codes of practice which account for the different risks and hazards presented by different industries and ensuring the codes of practice address the difference in amenities uses and access needs for both men and women

Regulators should develop checklists as guidance for establishing adequate workplace amenities or when performing workplace inspections or audits for the provision of adequate amenities. These guides could be utilised by entry permit holders, inspectors, workplace delegates, health and safety representatives, safety managers and human resources representatives

When identifying annual priorities for education, compliance and enforcement, regulators should consult with industry stakeholders to develop targeted campaigns to address improvements to workplace amenities which include a focus on both men’s and women’s amenities

Personal protective equipment must be either pre-stocked or reimbursed and must be appropriate to the needs of both men and women. Consideration should be given to how employers are required to make safety equipment available which may include handwash, sanitiser and sanitary items.

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