February 14, 2022

ELECTRICAL WORKERS building the new Mills Memorial Hospital in Terrace won’t have to worry about finding menstrual products when they need them, thanks to their contractor.

Houle is the electrical contractor for the new 285,000 square-foot replacement project in Terrace and has signed on to the United Way’s Period Promise campaign to provide barrier-free menstrual products to people who need them.

“Once we learned about this campaign, it was really easy for us to say yes,” said Houle’s Amber Roberts, VP People & Culture. “Our vision is to be an industry leader, and that includes embracing and advancing diversity and inclusion.”

The objective of the Period Promise campaign is to eliminate “period poverty.” Half of all people who menstruate say that they have struggled to purchase products for themselves at some time in their life. Affordability is even a concern when it comes to tradespeople who, while paid a living wage, sometimes have to fork out $18 or $20 for a box of tampons in remote and rural communities.

But there are other particular barriers for construction workers, said Mollie Routledge, a journey electrician responsible for membership development with IBEW Local 993, which will have up to 80 members working on the hospital project. Women, non-binary people and trans men represent less than five per cent of skilled tradespeople, and so their menstrual needs are rarely considered when it comes to stocking the restrooms.

Routledge, who is also a director of Build TogetHER, the women’s committee of the BC Building Trades, took her concerns to Houle earlier this summer, and is thrilled to have the company come on board in a big way by signing the Period Promise.

“I’ll admit it’s a pun, but this is the right thing to do, period, and I’m deeply grateful to Houle for taking this step,” said Routledge. “They are an outlier in the sector, but all good leaders are outliers at some point.”

Adopters of the Period Promise include unions, post-secondary institutions, and non-profit organizations, but only a handful of private companies like Houle. And aside from BC Infrastructure  benefits, which is the crown corporation managing workforce development on some public infrastructure projects, construction companies are not represented.

“We’re hoping that the more companies like Houle become adopters, the more it will catch on,” said United Way’s Neal Adolph. “Employers will realize that the Period Promise program not only benefits workers, but is feasible, economical, good for business and the right thing to do.”

Houle’s president, Chuck Phillips, agrees: “This initiative aligns with our values and culture and we look forward to extending our efforts to other remote project sites and camp locations.”

Houle will be providing menstrual products for its 50-100 members doing the electrical work on the multi-year $623 million Mills Memorial Hospital project. Houle’s Matthew Bewsey, VP Operations, said he’s proud to see how quickly this initiative is being embraced and supported by field leaders. “I’m thrilled to be part of initiatives that will continue to encourage and advance inclusion in our industry.”

Research by the United Way found that more than 20 per cent of people who menstruate missed work due to being unable to access menstrual products. Meanwhile, 30 per cent of people who menstruate have had to leave work for the same reason. Menstruation, in fact, is one of the top two reasons that women miss work in Canada.