How Sodexo Ensures Safety for Women in Remote Workforce Lodging

Published on : 4/29/22
  • There is no denying that some of the world’s most male-dominated workplaces are the energy and mining industries. In Canada, women make up only 19% of the labour workforce in mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction[1]. Since many of these workplaces are in remote locations, these women face a variety of challenges, including higher stress levels, maladapted lodging accommodations and pervasive harassment.

    For most workers, on-site, remote camps — sometimes known as lodges — are a home away from home. The size of the site varies from one project to another, with some major camps accommodating up to 4,500 workers, in addition to hospitality and services staff. With guests staying weeks or even months at a time, there can be a true sense of community. 

    Yet, less than a decade ago, most remote workforce lodgings were still called “man-camps” and at the time, most women on-site worked in the lodges as housekeepers and front desk agents. Lodges were built around simplicity, most times forgoing any safety concerns for women on-site — shared bathrooms, poorly lit passageways, faulty locks and an obvious lack of support services to report safety concerns and harassment.

    44% of women can find it hard to adapt to the culture of mining, twice as hard as men do (23%)[2].

    A History of Bad Behaviour

    On remote sites, personal safety is at the front of women’s minds. There is a perception that women are victims of harassment. It is not just a perception. 

    In camps with a culture of silence and toxic behaviour, harassment can be a regular occurrence. Since support services for ensuring personal safety are not readily available, the lack of assistance can result in a lack of reporting. Where to go and whom to report to may not always be clear. Due to the remoteness of some of these sites, mental ill-health is common, and the lack of support services can exacerbate minor issues.

    In organizational climates in which silence is the norm, men are 50% less likely to be committed to interrupting sexist behaviour at work[3].

    In Canada, most remote camps are on Indigenous lands. This history of bad behaviour has had real consequences on communities, with violent crime statistics higher than in metropolitan centres.

    Since many lodges prohibited alcohol on-site, workers would head to the nearest town to drink and have a fun time. With no personal stake in the community, disrespectful behaviours, such as fights and destruction of property were routine. The consequences were minimal, and it was unlikely that a complaint resulted in police action.

    These workers spent a lot of money in a community, and most locals were afraid of jeopardizing that cash flow. The affected women were usually from the community and would have little access to support systems. Assaults took place far away from the mainstream population and reporting was ineffective.

    Building on a Culture of Safety

    For improvements to happen, they need to occur institutionally. At Sodexo Canada, we consistently collaborate with our clients, local communities, guests and on-site team to identify improvements.

    We are committed to achieving a world-class health and safety culture, and we believe everyone has a role to play to minimize risk to people and property. As we ensure the safety of our workers, we aspire to provide comfort and care in a safe environment for guests at the lodges we operate. 

    Feeling safe while working away from home is essential to Sodexo’s quality of life culture. We recognize that it is difficult to be away from family and friends while working and we provide opportunities to participate in activities that may improve guests' well-being.

    In Her Own Words

    Leanne LeBlanc, Senior Sodexo Energy and Resources Health, Safety and Environment Manager, says:

    I can recall my first experience staying overnight at a remote worksite. Saying it was uncomfortable is minimalizing it. How you felt and your entire thought process would be almost on a survivalist kind of level.

    You were tired, you were stressed, you were worried. It was hard being so far away from home, and not having cellular service to make a quick phone call in the evening to your husband.
    I would think that most women in camps would have one of those stories about how uncomfortable and unsafe they felt. How they felt marginalized.

    Now, it is quite different from what it felt like back then. The units are so much larger and open. I'm happy to be part of a process to correct things, like working with the team in British Columbia and seeing the changes we made to improve personal safety and not just for women, but for marginalized groups, for new Canadians, for our LGBTQ2S+ groups.

    If someone feels unsafe, we want to do something to help them become more comfortable and be able to just concentrate on their work.


    Creating Support in the Community

    Engaging with local Indigenous community leaders helps identify the concerns with a large workforce accommodation near the community and provides a plan forward to ensure Sodexo is a respectful and positive contributor in the region.

    Within the lodge, our team engages specific groups — our team members, guests, visitors and public health representatives — to ensure we understand the concerns related to personal safety.

    Sodexo is committed to a proactive, preventative approach to personal safety. As leaders in diversity, equity and inclusion, we support personal safety for Indigenous communities and workers, women, the LGBTQ2+ community, new Canadians and any other group identified during surveys and through ongoing discussion.

    New Standards of Operations

    We have a dedicated team building from their decades of experience putting together concrete actions specifically to improve safety for women, starting with large camps in Kitimat, British Columbia, and Northern Manitoba.

    Leanne LeBlanc, Sr. Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) Manager, Sodexo Energy & Resources, Based in Alberta, Canada - Kirsten Godbout, Manager, Operational Excellence, Sodexo Energy & Resources, Based in Kitimat, BC, Canada - Soledad Altamirano, Sr. Human Resources Manager, Sodexo Energy & Resources,Based in British Columbia, Canada


    These actions include:

    • Safety surveys directly asking for input on improvements. Engaging women on-site through surveys or committees on improvements to ensure there is an understanding of requirements for everyone to feel safe while working and staying at the lodge. Committee meeting involvement includes developing educational initiatives aimed at drawing awareness to behaviours and cultural differences.
    • Creating women’s groups. Sodexo and our clients’ representatives host a weekly meeting space for women in search of community, friendship, support and learning. The intent of the group is to encourage women to connect with women from other areas of the project.
    • Adapted lodging accommodations. Women-only workout facilities, well-lit shared areas and open spaces for socializing are just three specific actions in place to improve a feeling of safety.
    • Increased security presence. Agents walking throughout the lodge provide extra visibility.
    • Additional safety tools. As a result of the surveys, a panic button was added at the front desk with a direct alarm to security; housekeepers have live link tablets to update management; there are optional localized personal alarms for lone working housekeeping and janitorial staff; emergency numbers were added to each employee badges.
    • Providing training and resources. Educational initiatives and engagement sessions designed to provide context to a marginalized community are supported by Sodexo. Diversity and inclusion webinars that highlight women's safety concerns are held Canada-wide. Sodexo supports Indigenous organizations and provides a platform for education to prevent continued violence against women. Internal training on DE&I is mandatory for all Sodexo staff. 

    Through education, awareness and partnerships with all stakeholders, we build a culture of prevention that ensures there is no tolerance for unwanted behaviours, in turn limiting the number of occurrences.

    By working in a collaborative spirit with the clients, Indigenous communities and partners, team members and guests on assessing known risks on site, the team works on finding solutions and corrections needed on site to improve personal safety for everyone.

    Since 2009, the cornerstone of Sodexo’s gender equality strategy has been SoTogether, a global advisory board dedicated to driving gender balance by advancing women at all levels of the organization.

    Learn more about Sodexo Canada’s actions for gender equality.

    Employers now know that employees who feel cared for, comfortable and safe are more productive, likely to stay for longer and perform more safely on the job. Genuine hospitality in camp provides value to all.

    Ask us how we can improve your camp operations with our culture of safety.


    [1] "Women in male-dominated industries and occupations (quick take)" from Catalyst.

    [2] "Why women are leaving the mining industry and what mining companies can do about it" from McKinsey & Co.

    [3] "Interrupting sexism at work: How men respond in a climate of silence" from Catalyst.