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Report highlights gender disparity in safety sector

Study of 200 health and safety professionals suggests issues around senior-level progress and bias.

The survey, Gender Disparity in HSE, collated by HSE recruitment Network, canvassed 200 health and safety professionals who were asked if they believe there is a gender imbalance in the sector. While 20% responded ‘no’ and 9% were unsure, 71% said there was an issue.

Around senior-level visibility, 59% of those surveyed felt that female representation at the top level was not fairly represented citing barriers including professional growth and unequal pay and compensation. Asked if they had experienced gender-based discrimination and bias, 44% reported they had not personally, however, 15% had frequently and 39% said they had occasionally.

The report’s analysis suggested verticals such as construction and manufacturing have traditionally been male-dominated, which can illuminate biases. Commenting on the study, however, Heather Beach, Managing Director at The Healthy Work Company, said progress has been made: “There have been huge shifts in diversity and inclusion in health and safety over the last 5-10 years, and an increased awareness that this is a profession which benefits from emotional intelligence and empathy. These skills have been stated as generally more feminine characteristics according to research, alongside the technical and compliance skills. This has led not only to the rebranding of the profession (helped by Covid), but also to the employment of more (and younger) women.”

In response to what initiatives or actions could help negate gender disparity issues, over a quarter (29%) cited mentorship and sponsorship opportunities, alongside better promotion of work-life balance policies (27%).  The report also highlighted a trend around the perception of the sector, with many suggesting in order to attract the next generation, branding of the profession needs to adapt.

Responding to the report’s findings, Marisa Firkins, Director at Safety Forward said a more diverse workforce can only enhance the profession. “I believe that women bring huge benefits to the health and safety industry. Encouraging more women…would bring new skill sets and perspectives.”

You can download the full report here

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