Assistant Editor, SHP & IFSEC Global

March 23, 2022

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Gender bias

‘I’m a warrior, I’m quick to act and roll up my sleeves’, OneWISH – Breaking the bias for International Women’s Day

On International Women’s Day 2022, OneWISH, the Global Coalition for Women and Inclusion in Safety and Health, hosted a series of webinars following the theme ‘Break the Bias’.

In this discussion, OneWISH Executive Committee Member, Tamara Parris, talked to health and safety professionals Joan Chelangat and Bobbie Grant about the biases and challenges they have faced as women working in health and safety.

equalityWhen asked to identify one of the biggest challenges they’ve faced as women in safety, Bobbie Grant, Senior EHS Manager at Thermo Fisher Scientific, stated that, for her, the biggest barrier she’s faced has simply been being a female in a male dominated industry.

She commented: “When I first started my career, the industry was dominated by white, middle-class males. I remember once at a meeting, a man asked me if I could get them some sugar for their tea thinking I was a waitress. At the time, that was really embarrassing and affected me greatly.”

Joan Chelangat, OHS Officer at Base Titanium Ltd., recalled a similar experience.

She said: “One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced has been a battle with imposter syndrome. When your opinions and ideas aren’t being integrated, simply because you’re a woman, that can lead to extremely low self-confidence and definitely had me doubting my ability. It had me thinking – am I really good enough? And ultimately affected my ability to achieve my potential.”

Host Tamara Parris, OneWISH Executive Committee Member, then asked the pair whether they believe those experiences of gender bias have helped shaped them into the women they are today, to which Bobbie shared an interesting insight.

She said: “I’m a warrior, I’m quick to act and roll up my sleeves.

“I think a lot of that came from continuously working harder with little financial progression. In my early twenties, I was made redundant from a job, and that really instilled a fear in me, I didn’t want to lose a job again, so I kept working harder.”

So – it’s all very good recognising the challenges we face as women in health and safety – but what can we do to ensure we’re facing those trials head on?

Within the talk, Joan discussed just how beneficial participating in the IOSH programme has been for her in growing her confidence as a female leader. She highlighted the importance of self-reflection, and the benefits of talking and connecting with other women in the industry.

Sharing her final thoughts, Bobbie states: “Bias is all around us, consciously or unconsciously, we all categorise gender. I want to challenge people to think about their own prejudices, ask yourself how you can be more understanding, set boundaries and don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

Watch this session in full here…

If you’d like to read more from women in the profession, visit SHP’s Women in Health and Safety network, see our hub page here.

To learn more about the Women in Health & Safety Network workstreams and mailing list, click here.

Learn more about OneWish, here.

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