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The Journal for Employee Protection
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Addressing the OHS Gender Divide

Women are slowly breaking down occupation divide.


The roles that women have performed in the workplace have changed very much in the last 20 years, starting with the percentage of women making up the workforce. These numbers have increased, despite the challenges of inequalities, wage gaps, and glass ceilings that they have been forced to endure over time.

Women are taking on more diverse roles, and have prospered regardless of the obstacles. But an area that could stand a stronger presence we believe is in the field of health and safety.

For a long time, women have struggled to be heard and treated fairly in this occupation. It has become a rarity to see a woman in a leadership role in this industry. We most definitely have noticed that woman have tended to stay away from contractor safety roles and only looked at permanent roles. This in itself we believe is part of the cause of a gender imbalance in our industry.

So many women have discussed how they must grow a “thick skin”, and a “toughen up attitude” just to be accepted. Through persistence, education and knowing that the jobs they have taken on have had a powerful, positive impact on the lives of many people became a driving force for many to succeed. Women need more leadership roles in this industry to continue making that impact, and to show the world that this sector of the workforce demands respect.

Studies have shown that 70 percent of women who currently hold positions in occupational safety and health leadership roles, started out in areas completely outside the realm of safety and health, due in part to the positions in health and safety that they sought being designed, by the men who preceded them, to scare women from having a go at them.

Support and networking

Through many interviews, and many studies, there is a consistent reckoning that successful women are preaching to the up and comers, “Find a mentor”, and to the current leaders, “Be a mentor!” Working with associations to network with other professionals is a must. And those that have achieved success must pass that knowledge on to others. Those who seek this occupation as a future must attach themselves to an established professional and be open to learning from the uphill battles their predecessors have endured.

Although the challenges from years past have diminished somewhat, there are still far too many out there. Only by growing this field with serious professionals dedicated to making a difference, can the culture make the positive turn it needs.

This community can only be successful by learning from the negative attitudes they have faced, and developing the positive ones that helped them become established. The encouragement from these women who lead in this industry have impacted many women who without it may have chosen not to go in this field, and that would have eliminated the positive impact that they have had.

The consensus is clear, working with outreach programmes, networking and mentoring creates the support that the next generation needs to carry the torch and become successful. To assist in promoting this career avenue, there are many websites to visit. We invite you to invest some of your time looking into them for clarity and motivation. Most importantly, if you have found success, give back to others; if you seek success, don’t hold back ­– reach out and find a mentor.

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Gavin Coyle, founder and CEO of Coyle Group, has a deep personal investment in health and safety issues. He was motivated to pursue a career as a Safety professional after witnessing an onsite fatality while working on a large construction project aged just 18...