HSE People has been lucky enough to chat with Kristy Christensen, Female Inclusion Expert, Speaker and Entrepreneur about Shesfreetobe, women working in heavy industry and much more!
HSE People: Firstly, we know how busy you are Kristy so thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us. We have been focusing recently on women within HSE and PPE so your experience and insight will be incredibly useful. Could you please begin by explaining about your creation Shesfreetobe?
Kristy: Thank you so much for coming to me and wanting to know more about Shesfreetobe and what we do. Basically Shesfreetobe are female inclusion experts who help heavy industry organisations create a workplace environment that welcomes, supports, values and considers a female workforce. Traditionally, heavy industries like mining, construction, forestry and transport have been predominantly male, because of this the workspaces where designed with only men’s needs in mind. We help them understand how they can recreate these spaces to include females. Currently, its just my business partner and I, but we are growing and looking to bring others on board who are passionate about ensuring females thrive in our heavy industries
HSE People: Fantastic, what a great idea! How did it all come about?
Kristy: I created Shesfreetobe in 2019 after turning the idea over in my mind for some time. I have worked in the mining industry for 15 years, and 10 of those were working in one of the toughest environments in the world, underground mining. I started as a Geologist and have spent my career working at the coal face, while upskilling as a Senior Engineer and Manager across different commodities like gold, minerals sands and metallurgical coal. I love the diverse and dynamic environment and no two days are ever the same. But being a female, and often the only female onsite had some distinct challenges in a world not built for me, and I have spent my career breaking down barriers and enthusiastically educating businesses on how to create change and space for women to bring their whole selves to work.
I have spent a lot of time doing NFP work on committees and boards in different industry organisations, which allowed me the opportunity to help other workplaces improve, so I have been providing this service for a long time and Shesfreetobe was the opportunity to bring all those learnings to the world.
HSE People: Okay so you saw a need and Shesfreetobe was born! What exactly is it that you do?
Kristy: I started out supplying the Shesfreetobe Toolkits through my website. They have a FUD (female urination device), two sizes of menstrual cups and an information sheet with many of my workplace hacks.
Did you know that many women don’t drink water for their entire shift and are constantly dehydrated?
Did you know the reason they don’t drink water is because they are too afraid to urinate and so hold it?
I used to be underground for 12 hours and not drink water so I didn’t have to take all my bulky gear off, find somewhere private and squat down to do my business as quickly as possible before someone came along. All while sitting there in my bra because I stupidly ordered overalls as my site clothes and I wasn’t allowed to replace them. I used to get debilitating headaches and migraines, but I loved what I did and stubbornly refused to quit. When you work remotely toilets are either not there, disgusting, or your clothes are hard to remove, a Shewee or flexi funnel is a godsend! This also leads to the challenge of menstruating while working remotely. I used to skip my periods by using the contraceptive pill or layer up forms of management, but that is unhealthy so when I discovered menstrual cups, I was so excited and had to share it with others. Later I added services like our signature ‘A day in HER life Assessment” where we visit the worksite and assess the all those things that stand in the way of females fully participating like equipment design, PPE etc. We also offer training sessions for workplaces to understand challenges that are unique to females, with a focus on reducing the stigma around these things in a safe environment, and we do public speaking gigs to inform people in the heavy industries about how to successfully include females in their workforces.
HSE People: Wow, some of those issues would not even be on some people’s and company’s radars. Such basic and essential needs yet they are so often ignored. Who are you working with to educate and share your insights with?
Kristy: We get brought on board to consult with a wide range of organisations, I find the message on female inclusion I have on my heart to share resonates with many people who want to see more women in heavy industry but don’t know how to make it happen. Our main clients are large and small construction and mining companies, industry organisations, NFPs driving change, membership organisations, industry training organisations and government groups. We are careful that the organisations we work with want real change and their values align with Shesfreetobe, if they are wanting to tick a box, talk the talk but not walk the walk my spidey senses go off and I suggest that perhaps we are not the consultants they are looking for. There is very real fear about more women in heavy industry spaces, male employers may see that women having periods, being pregnant and going through menopause are too scary and are challenges that they don’t want to consider. They are afraid that they can’t swear or make jokes because of sexual harassment and that women are going to make everyone uncomfortable. And sometimes even the women already there don’t want anyone pointing out those differences, because those differences are perceived as weakness and taking away respect for them as hard workers who get on with it without causing a fuss. Large scale changes don’t happen if we don’t get uncomfortable, in the discomfort is where we learn and grow. We are happy to be the ones highlighting the embarrassing things women don’t want to talk about, silence achieves nothing.
HSE People: Amazing, you truly are an inspiration!! So who or what inspires you?
Kristy: The everyday people out there being vulnerable with open hearts sharing their souls’ message about inclusion to the world inspire me. The women and minorities working in non-traditional spaces like the trades and mining, speaking up for the silent ones and pushing for change from the grass roots to the top. And the people in powerful positions listening or learning to listen with empathy so they can elevate others voices and make change. Words matter, and sharing our stories and different perspectives has an impact.
And if we are talking about famous people then Brené Brown is an inspiration to me, she knows how to dive right to the edge of your heart, tap on the door and open the flood gates with her beautiful, meaningful words. Every time I listen to her podcast or read her books, I get inspired because she gets to the heart of human nature in a way no one else has done for me before. Trust is built in the small moments that matter. To be clear is to be kind.
HSE People: So how do you see the future of women in heavy industry?
Kristy: It’s so damn bright, I feel like I can almost touch it. The pace for change is slower than I want, but it is moving in the right direction and if organisations don’t jump on the wagon they will be left behind. Covid accelerated the need for change, I see so many people talking about how women are the majority who lost their jobs and then heavy industry complaining about a lack of skilled labour…hello, join the dots! People say they need those skills now, well you better start training the other 50% of the population then because if you don’t start, this problem is going to get worse! What better time to start than now? To include females, you can start small with the right PPE and flexibility in roles and work from there, it doesn’t have to be rushed and costly, but you to need to commit to make the workplace better for people of difference.
HSE People: Thank you so much for your time and for sharing your thoughts and the messages Shesfreetobe are working so hard to champion.
If you would like to find out more about Shesfreetobe and the amazing services Kristy offers get in touch –