Nowhere to go – women’s loos continue to disappoint on building sites

New statistics show the shocking lack of women’s toilets on building sites, revealing a massive barrier to boosting female participation in the skilled trades, a critical economic imperative.

The Electrical Trades Union’s National Amenities Survey examined 2,656 complete responses from mostly electrical workers.

The responses highlight some of the major issues women in the industry face, including how few there are. Only 8.5% of respondents identified as female and just 2% of Australia’s electricians are women.

The survey reveals the following gender disparities: 
  • One in five women still don’t have access to sanitary bins in their workplace
  • Women are eight to 10% less likely to have access to gendered and/or permanent bathrooms compared with their male comrades
  • Nearly half of female respondents say they’ve raised an issue in their workplace about inadequate amenities compared with fewer than 30% of men

The results also expose the unsanitary, unsafe and unsuitable amenities that many workers use:

  • Half of all workers don’t have amenities that are always cleaned regularly
  • One third of workers don’t have access to gendered amenities
  • One quarter of workers don’t always have access to toilet paper
  • One in five workers don’t always have running water in their amenities
  • One in six workers don’t have access to any on-site amenities

The ETU is calling on the Federal Government to establish a review into setting minimum health and safety standards for workplace amenities. Acting national secretary Michael Wright said:

“Suitable toilets aren’t ‘nice to haves.’ Having access to hygienic, reliable and adequate loos at work should be a basic expectation and a no brainer in 2022. White-collar workers expect these basic standards, yet for women on construction sites, there’s still no guarantee of a usable toilet.

“We have a national sparkie shortage just when we need more of them than ever as Australia embarks on its renewable energy transition. How can we expect to boost numbers if we’re discriminating against half the potential workforce? We can’t afford to exclude an entire gender of workers if we’re going to build the Australia of the future.

“Women are speaking up, seeking better and fairer conditions at work yet they’re being ignored. Government, regulators and industry need to pull their fingers out. This isn’t groundbreaking stuff but it will make a hell of difference.”

State and territory information available upon request. 

Read more about the ETU’s Nowhere To Go campaign

This article was publised on 12 December 2022.