Women’s Safety Society works for a better future

It’s an exciting time to work in the occupational health and safety profession.

Such a career offers endless flexibility and diversity, as this type of work can be done in virtually any industry.

OHS professionals also have the ability to impact the well-being of frontline workers, but also the overall health of the organization.

While the number of women working in security is on the rise, OSH remains a male-dominated profession today. Over the past 40 years, only 30 percent of security professionals to be certified by the Canadian Council of Licensed Security Professionals (CBRSP) have been women.

The gender gap in OSH becomes even more evident with increasing seniority levels. Women tend to be underrepresented at all levels of management – ​​from the front line to C-suite.

Gender imbalance exists

OHS professionals work in and support a wide range of industries such as construction, energy, mining, utilities and healthcare.

It is important to recognize that gender imbalances exist in the OSH profession and in some industries more than others.

Women in OHS can face unique challenges that our male colleagues cannot, such as:

  • Security Women face personal security issues when working in remote locations or living in camps.
  • Issues related to diversity, inclusion, harassment and discrimination in the workplace are unfortunately a reality that many women will face.
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) is generally geared towards men, so finding gear that fits a woman’s body properly can be a challenge.

These are just some of the reasons why a group of like-minded OSH professionals – all women – came together and formed the Women’s Occupational Health and Safety Society (WOHSS).

The company provides a safe place where women can have difficult conversations without fear of being judged, and goes a long way to making things better for the women who follow us.

Support women

Incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation in 2017, WOHSS is a grassroots organization dedicated to supporting women working in OHS in Canada.

It supports women through education, mentorship, resources and connection. The creation of women’s networking groups and the recognition of gender issues within a profession can increase awareness, promote personal growth and foster positive advancement.

With over 200 members across Canada, WOHSS welcomes women and men at all stages of their career – from OHS students to those in leadership positions.

The great diversity of members has contributed to the success of the WOHSS mentorship program. Feedback from attendees has been overwhelmingly positive.

This year, WOHSS hosted several events and networking sessions, including a Professional Polish event in Toronto on November 27.

For some it’s personal

Working in male-dominated industries such as construction, utilities, and energy, it was common for me to be the only woman in the room.

Like many women, I have been personally affected by workplace issues such as:

  • a lack of access to mentors
  • inadequate networking opportunities
  • gender bias
  • sexual harassment.

Thinking back to the situations I found myself in at 25, I wish I had someone to give me insight, advice, or even just a listening ear.

This is what I would like WOHSS to be – the opportunity for women at different stages of their careers to come together, engage and support each other.

Because empowered women empower women.

Paula Campkin is president of the Women in Occupational Health and Safety Society (WOHSS) in Calgary.

Mara R. Wilmoth