NSC Business and Industry Division news Research/studies Professional development Leadership

Women in safety face six common career challenges, researcher says

Photo: gorodenkoff/iStockphoto

Bowling Green, KY — Leadership training and organizational support may help bolster the well-being and careers of women in safety leadership positions, according to a researcher from Western Kentucky University.

Jacqueline Basham, a WKU instructor and associate safety professional, interviewed 15 female safety leaders to find out what career challenges they face and identify potential interventions that could be used to increase the number of females working in the industry.

She found six common barriers:

  1. Work hours and travel required
  2. Lack of formal education in safety before career began
  3. Low number of women in the industry
  4. Frequently having authority questioned on the job
  5. The notion that the industry is not for women
  6. Being perceived as young and inexperienced augmenting feelings of frustration around the job

As for the employer interventions that could help alleviate these barriers and create opportunities for more women in the field, Basham lists three:

  1. Offer resources related to child care and maternity leave, financial support, and scheduling flexibility
  2. Provide leadership training, along with training on specific occupational safety and health topics
  3. Establish support mechanisms, such as mentorship programs, and support from upper management and safety teams

“It’s important that workers know they are represented,” Basham said in a press release. “With almost half of the workforce being women, it is important that they feel represented in safety and know their safety at work is important and acknowledged.”

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