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Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.
March 6, 2015

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Women in health and safety, where are you?


All around the world, International Women’s Day represents an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women while calling for greater equality. #MakeItHappen is this year’s theme with the aim to recognise and advance the role of women in society.

This is not a feminist rant, but International Women’s Day does make me wonder if we women working in health and safety are recognised for what we do and if collectively we are helping to forward our role in society? I don’t think we are, and I think the reason for that is because we don’t have a voice, unlike many of our counterparts in other professions.

From a cursory search on the internet it is clear that an increasing number of professional women are joining forces to promote what they do and entice others to join their ranks. Looking at the world of engineering, the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) encourages women to participate and achieve as engineers, scientists and as leaders.

In their ninth year, the Women in Construction Awards provide a showcase for the brightest and the best female achievers in the housebuilding and wider construction industries. In manufacturing, the Women in Manufacturing organisation supports, attracts and retains women in the UK manufacturing sector.

In oil and gas, the Women’s Oil Council is an initiative based on the belief that a more inclusive workforce not only enhances business performance but is also an integral part of business strategy and planning. To help grow awareness of women in the sector, a list is published annually showing the Top 50 most powerful women in oil and gas.

In the maritime industry, the Women’s International Shipping & Trading Association (WISTA) is an international organisation for women in management positions involved in the business and related trades worldwide. Believe it or not WISTA has over 2,100 members in 35 countries worldwide! Women are also represented in motoring – the Women’s Automotive Association International is the automotive industry’s premier professional organisation, established in 1995, to recognise the achievements of women in the industry and encourage growth through mentoring, educational endeavours, and scholarships.

There is even a Women in Aerospace (WIA) organisation that is passionate about expanding women’s opportunities for leadership and increasing their visibility in the aerospace sector.

All this activity begs the question, what are we doing to promote our profession and encourage other women to join us? Does it matter if women in health and safety have a voice? The resounding answer must be “Yes!” because women make up 45 per cent of the employed population in the EU.

We know, and the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) acknowledges, that men and women are not the same and the jobs they do, their working conditions and how they are treated by society are different. With this in mind, EU-OSHA recommends we take a ‘gender sensitive’ approach to health and safety at work. As women, we are ideally placed to do this, making the workplace safer and healthier for all.

On International Women’s Day, let’s celebrate what we have to offer, find our voice and join the very first Health and Safety Women’s Forum taking place on 16 June at Safety & Health Expo in London’s ExCeL. Please contact Roz Sanderson on [email protected] for more information.

Mary Mary D Fitzgerald works for The McOnie Agency as a PR Account Manager.

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