For many years the health and safety industry has been a male dominated domain. Images of men, wearing hard hats, and clutching a clip boards came with the territory. But in recent times that stereo type has been challenged. There are more women than ever before in the industry, which is increasing the visibility of a career in HSEQ and it’s potential trajectory.
However, female representation in the industry still remains low. There is a gender-split ratio of 3:1 in favour of men. Moreover, women are getting paid less for doing the same jobs. There is an 18% gender pay gap between men and women in similar roles. Clearly there is still work to be done.
The question is what? Increasing the number of women in the industry and closing the gender pay gap is a complex business – dependent on many different variables.
Promoting inclusion and diversity in HSEQ careers
More than one solution
There are clearly, two prevalent issues for women working, or considering working in the HSEQ profession. Firstly, pay equality with men and the opportunity to progress into leadership positions. Some of the challenges are about moving away from traditional images of a Health and Safety professional. It’s also about earlier engagement with women about the fantastic opportunities a career in HSEQ can offer. And engagement shouldn’t stop there. It’s about providing ongoing career advice. At the same time, it’s about looking at better recruitment and retention processes, alongside re-imagining what great leadership looks like.
Here are just a few ideas about how organisations can improve the career path for women in HSEQ.
Good equality and diversity practice is really just good people practice
- Promote inclusion in all recruitment strategies: Remove gendered language on job adverts, application forms, screening applications, marketing and websites. Show that you are actively seeking a diverse profile of candidates by being explicit – putting ‘(M/F)’ next to the job title show that you are EDI aware and reduces candidates self-selecting out. Use gender balanced selection panels for interviews. Competency based interviews leave less room for bias and allow greater objectivity.
- Flexible work opportunities for everyone: Job-share, home working, term-time hours. It’s easy to assume that all jobs must be full-time, but to access a bigger and better talent pool we need to challenge these assumptions. it’s important to be clear that flexible work practice is good for everyone – not just women.
- Transparency: Gender pay reporting has been a good first step but we need transparency in all areas. This should include looking at our HSEQ talent piplelines to ensure they are diverse and map out where there is a shortage of sought after skills. Then we need to apply more objective attraction strategies to source them.
- Attract more women into the industry earlier: Women tend to start later in health and safety, often as a second career. This means they have a greater distance to ‘catch-up’ in the leadership stakes in comparison to men. We need to understand why fewer women are choosing HSEQ as a first career and look at how we attract and advise them earlier on.
- Careers information network for all age groups: We don’t just need careers advice at the beginning of our career, we need it all the way through – particularly at pivotal points.
- Consider working as a contractor: agency work can often be a way for people to enter the job market. Perhaps in a temporary role initially. This can often lead to permanent opportunities later on. This is particularly true of the public sector
- Championing a broader range of role models: We need to increase the visibility of women in Health and safety roles, whether it be on websites, marketing, or the photographs on our office walls. Mentoring and sponsorship schemes are also important tools in developing women’s careers
- Tackle stereo-types of what makes a good leader: Challenge what may be old ideas of leadership and the ways in which it is personified (white, male?) Sometimes what is considered ‘normal’ in your organisation just means ‘the way we have always done things’. Similarly, there should be no fixed path to leadership.
- Investigate what ‘cultural fit’ means in your organisation: Often when we recruit, we look for people who seem similar to us. Is not being the ‘right fit’ for the job just code for ‘they weren’t somebody like me’? Whilst a homogeneous workforce my be harmonious, it’s not necessarily effective – leading to ‘groupthink’ . Concentrating on, and recruiting for competencies and skills – both technical and soft – is a much better way of developing your talent pipline.
Women leading in Health and Safety
Whether it’s improving recruitment practice, sharing stories about the industry, or addressing barriers to entry, it’s important to keep the conversation going.
In June, we’ll be hosting an evening networking event for HSEQ professionals, providing:
- Insight into EDI recruitment best practice
- Attraction and selection case studies in the Health and Safety industry
- Leadership stories: How to navigate your Health and safety career from women in the industry.
For more details about this informative evening:
email Francesca Crossley at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0161 967 9674