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Women In EHS Decision-Making Roles Are Underrepresented

The ratio of men to women in EHS decision-making roles is disproportionate, as women are underrepresented in the health and safety industry. According to ASSP, only 18% of EHS professionals are women, among 9,978 sampled individuals. Similarly, HSE reports that women are underrepresented in the EHS decision-making process and their views of health and safety issues have been marginalised or underestimated in the workplace. Importantly, the exclusion of diversity within the EHS practice is hindering the industry’s ability to tackle varied health and safety problems. With International Women’s Day 2020 on March 8, it is important to shed light on what this imbalance may mean for the EHS profession and how women in health and safety can further improve worker wellbeing and organisational productivity.

As it stands, predominant health and safety efforts are focused on addressing visible dangers, typically seen in high-risk industries such as oil and gas or mining and metals (see Verdantix EHS Software Market Size And Forecast 2019-2024 (Global)). EHS functions are adopting new technologies to address safety concerns, such as wearable devices to mitigate work-related musculoskeletal disorders and software for better incident management, amongst numerous other use cases. These developments are undeniably beneficial to firms and workers alike. However, by focusing on tangible risks, less visible work-related illnesses arising from long-term exposure and constant physical and mental pressure can potentially slip under the radar.

With a lack of women in EHS decision-maker roles, the experiences of women in the workplace are more likely to be overlooked. By marginalising women’s perspectives in EHS decision-maker roles and their experiences on the frontline, firms are failing to consider the full range of risks facing their workers and the potential solutions. Melissa Mark, Life-Saving Rules Programme Manager at BP told Verdantix:

“I don’t want to broad brush, but feminine and masculine traits are different. That isn’t to say a woman can’t have masculine traits or vice versa. But it is important to have a balance of the two. The different personalities means that individuals have different approaches to complex situations, analysis, relationship, priorities and planning. Firms need to have a good mix.”

In recent years, groups have emerged that advocate for women in the health and safety profession after recognising the important contribution that they can make to the industry. From the Women In Health And Safety events in London, to the Women in Occupational Health And Safety Society (WOHSS) based in Canada, the industry is beginning to recognise the value of a more diverse EHS function. Verdantix spoke with Paula Campkin, Chairperson for the WOHSS, who explained:

It is all of our responsibility to support and promote women in the profession. There is so much untapped potential for women to make a real positive impact on safety.”

EHS Women In EHS Decision Making Roles Are Underrepresented Verdantix Blog