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November 25, 2015

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Karen McDonnell hosts first Women in Health and Safety regional event

The first regional event for Women in Health and Safety took place two weeks ago in Edinburgh.

Chaired by Karen McDonnell, head of RoSPA Scotland and IOSH president, the event was held at Select, the trade association for the electrical contracting industry in Scotland, and the topics up for discussion were personal development and the importance of networking.

After a brief introduction from Roz Sanderson, digital editor for SHP online, around the aims of the Women in Health and Safety group, Karen explained how the group was an opportunity for people to engage with one another and introduced the two speakers for the day -Cynthia Guthrie, joint managing director, Guthrie Group Ltd, and Claire Walsh, group SHE manager, Robertson Group.

Cynthia began by explaining the direction of personal development, with three parts of a career path:

  1. Starting out
  2. Middle management
  3. Senior level

She questioned why there are so few women leaders, with women making up just 23.5% of board level directors, with the majority of these in non-executive positions.

She encouraged the group to focus on three elements to help them better equip themselves to stand out at board level – business, strategy and finance. By focusing on these three aspects, then women and men can start talking the common language of business. This focus will help to prevent their being a focus on gender, and instead focus on people who are well-suited to leading and governing the direction a business is taking.

Following Cynthia’s talk there was a lot of discussion around women contributing to the strategic direction of business with questions from the group about how to get ahead and make yourself known to be a key player in the business.

“Take a brave pill,” said Cynthia, “and remember ‘No’ is not answer. It’s unhelpful, find a solution around it.”

Claire Walsh was next to speak, with her discussion around the importance of networking and mentoring.

She began by discussing a personal experience when she was just starting out when she was told by a colleague that he “wasn’t going to take orders from a little schoolgirl”.  Referencing Cynthia, Claire said she “took a brave pill” and started talking the same talk as the people she wanted to be working with.

“Having contacts means you can share your experiences and see if you can help other people out,” said Claire. “There’s a sense of shared purpose when you come together in a group or one-to-one and it can vastly improve your knowledge.”

Karen and Claire, both big advocates of Safety Groups UK, promoted the Health Risks at Work programme, a free initiative that raises awareness of the five key health risks that occur at work.

Claire explained how these types of groups – Safety Groups UK and the IOSH branch meetings – have great benefits to you and also to you business.

Moving on to the value of mentoring, Claire extolled the virtues of having someone to support and encourage you.

She asked the group: “When you started off, did someone help and encourage you along the way? Mentoring is a way of paying it forward to offer support to someone else.”

She urged people to use these groups as a safe space to share problems, ask for advice and practice skills that you aren’t sure you’re able to do.

Karen rounded up the discussion by encouraging the attendees to take away what they had learned and to get proactively involved in local IOSH branches, Safety Groups UK and the Women in Health and Safety group.

A number of campaigns were also mentioned as useful interactive tools to help people engage with health and safety and to get the workforce to sit up and listen. These include:

Healthy Working Lives initiative

See Me campaign

Health Risks at Work

Safety Groups UK

IOSH branch meetings

Birthday Party book – contact Karen McDonnell for a copy.

Scottish Occupational Road Safety Association ( ScORSA)

IOSH/HWL Train 2015 : Mentally Healthy Workplaces

The next Women in Health and Safety national event is taking place on the 23rd June 2015 in London.

Regional events are taking place throughout the year – stay up to date on our Women in Health and Safety LinkedIn group.

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