In 2015, a network for Women in Health and Safety was launched at Safety & Expo, with the aim of providing a forum to focus on issues that affect women within the profession, encourage connections and prompt important discussions around how to progress within your career.
With many people within the industry talking about how ‘Safety is Broken’ the Women in Health & Safety initiative has created a valuable forum in which key issues that specifically affect women within the industry can be discussed and debated, looking at real outcomes on how to move the industry forward with women at its heart.
Crucial to this will be looking beyond technical experience and focusing on people as the solution and not the problem, thinking of safety as a positive and taking it away from a bureaucratic process to an ethical responsibility of all companies.
Women have the potential to lead the charge on the ‘Safety is Broken’ message and look at re-branding the profession to focus more on the positive outcomes of a strong safety culture.
Since inception, the Women in Health & Safety network has gone from strength to strength – with a 1,000 woman event planned in June this year at Safety & Health Expo, bringing together women from protection and management professions, including health and safety, facilities management and fire, as well as site visits and regional events planned for later in the year.
The initiative officially launched back in June 2015 with a forum hosted at the UK’s national health and safety annual gathering, Safety & Health Expo. From this initial launch event a number of initiatives have been embraced across the industry including site visits to the Crossrail project, regional forums and evening networking sessions across the country, as well as a burgeoning LinkedIn group with over 650 members contributing to regular discussion topics.
Heather Beach, director of OSH at UBM has said of the initiative: “When we launched this nearly a year ago we felt that it was a great opportunity to bring the industry together to tackle a very important issue around women within the profession, the barriers that might be preventing them from truly reaching their potential and how as an industry we can all work together to ensure we have a diverse and empowered workforce. I personally am so proud of what we have already achieved in this year and I am looking forward to driving this great initiative forward.”
The first ever live event for Women in Health & Safety focused on the key theme of communication, how women can help to rebrand the industry and specific gender issues affecting some industries. This featured a panel discussion, moderated by Anne Davies, special counsel, Withers LLP, and attendees heard from Karen McDonnell, head of RoSPA Scotland, Teresa Budworth, CEO of NEBOSH, Amanda Owen, business standards and resilience director at BUPA and Tracey Boyle, director of Workplace Environment Solutions, about their career progression and how those in the room could benefit from what they had learnt throughout their time in health and safety.
This led to a lively discussion around the topic of communication, including topics such as whether you change the way you speak to somebody based on their gender – which led to further talk around gender divide in specific industries, like construction, where there is still quite a dearth of women, to others, like the entertainment industry, where the balance of men and women is pretty equal.
The event concluded with the comment from Anne Davis that despite this being a forum for women in the profession we had moved swiftly to empowering and positive messages for health and safety professionals without getting too bogged down in traditional ‘women’s issues’.
Since the first event at Safety & Health Expo the initiative has seen regional events take place in London, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Norwich and Leicester, with career development, upskilling into senior management and how to write a good CV among the topics covered.
The most recent event to take place was an evening at the head office of NEBOSH in Leicester in February this year. The focus for the session was developing individual careers and addressing the gender imbalance within the safety and health profession.
Heather Beach, director of OSH at UBM, owner of SHP Online and Safety & Health Expo, kicked off the eighth regional event by highlighting the success and growth of the Women in Health & Safety network.
Following the positive reflection on what the initiative had achieved to date, Teresa Budworth, CEO NEBOSH looked at how to upskill into senior leadership, encouraging women in the room to take a strategic view when thinking about upskilling to senior positions. She spoke about looking at the implications of what you are doing and the ability to align your plans with the corporate goals of the business.
Sue Cooper, a NEBOSH Trustee, and non-executive director for Skills4 UK Ltd, discussed her experience of implementing a career development training programme for women during her time at WS Atkins.
In her talk Sue highlighted: “There are three main personal barriers to career progression for women, a reluctance to showcase ourselves; understanding communication differences and making adjustments; and planning our careers, setting goals and actually achieving them.”
If you are interested in taking part in any of the Women in Health and Safety events you can stay up to date by joining the linked in group here: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8305631
Women in Health & Safety will be hosting the SHE 1000 women event at Safety & Health Expo 2016, this will encompass a dedicated networking event for women working not just in health and safety but also across facilities management, security and fire safety. Welcoming 1,000 women who are really driving these industries forward and the role that women can play in doing this.
To register for this event please visit: http://www.safety-health-expo.co.uk/WIHS-PR/
Click here for more information.