When Chelsea Roper made the switch to the construction industry three years ago, it wasn’t the fact that the industry is male dominated that made her reluctant — it was the hygiene when it came to the toilet facilities.
But Roper, who is undertaking a carpentry apprenticeship in Queenstown, says the smelly reputation portaloos receive isn’t what she encountered at all.
She says they were clean and fresh smelling, which was a great start to her new career path. Now, Roper is taking portaloo service a step further to make them more female-friendly by becoming an advocate for all portaloos to have a sanitary bin service.
In New Zealand, 40,000 women are employed in the construction-related workforce. However, Roper says that what’s provided in construction-related offices, such as sanitary bins, needs to be provided on site too.
HireKING, which supplies portaloos to construction sites across the South Island, couldn’t agree more, and is one of the first portaloo companies to offer a sanitary bin (including the disposal service) in all of its loos.
Roper, who works for Queenstown Carpenters, approached HireKING about the issue because the company is a major provider in Queenstown — and she’s always noticed how clean and tidy their portaloos are.
“As women, we tend not to really ask for what we need, but this is a basic necessity for women,” she says.
“I thought I might as well ask the company because, to be honest, it’s not something men are going to think about.”
HireKING general manager Fabian Kulpe says he was glad Roper brought the issue to his attention.
“We started to question why this wasn’t provided as a service, and how can we make this happen. At the end of the day, it’s a basic human right for women,” Kulpe says.
“It’s great to see more women getting into the construction industry, so anything we can do to make women feel more comfortable in their profession is great.”
After crunching the numbers, HireKING has decided to provide sanitary bins (and disposal) by increasing the cost of portaloos by $10 per service, solely to cover costs.
Kulpe says the conversation around providing sanitary bins for women in all professions, especially outdoors, is one that needs to be had more often.
“I don’t think women in trades have really had a voice. But things are starting to change when it comes to women vocalising their needs and conversations around topics that were previously a bit taboo,” he says.
“We are glad to be at the forefront of this change, and we realise there is an overall social responsibility to providing this service.”
The National Association of Women in Construction NZ (NAWIC) is also thrilled to see change happening within the industry.
“NAWIC is thrilled to hear the new initiative to include sanitary pods into site portaloos has been instigated by advocate Chelsea Roper and HireKING working together to find a solution,” NAWIC president Stacey Mendonca says.
“It is a great way to normalise working on site for women tradies, and ensure we are all covered with the basics to do our job.”
Roper says more women are getting into different trades, and there aren’t any aspects of the job they can’t do.
“In Queenstown, women working in trades is quite popular. I’ve worked alongside other female builders, tilers and plasterers. I even know a whole painting company made up of women.
“With more women keen to work in this industry, we just need a bit of thinking outside the box so we’re comfortable on site from all aspects.”