Celebrating Women in EHSQ

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EHSQ is a challenging field with demanding work in harsh environments.

The best EHSQ professionals tend to be detail-oriented leaders with great foresight. With many EHSQ job requirements coming naturally to women, it is surprising that the field has been dominated by men. This Women’s Day we asked a few leaders to share their thoughts and journey in the EHSQ world.

 

Julie Oxtoby

Current position
Regulatory Advisor (Operations and Environment)

Number of years in EHSQ
16 years in Oil and Gas, 12 years in a specific EHS capacity

Is a woman’s life in EHSQ different than a man’s

I think women working in any industry or position face different challenges than their male counterparts. I like to think the disparity is shrinking over time but I do still encounter those with outdated ideas of gender roles and norms. I have experienced gender and age discrimination in the past. The beginning of my career was spent working on drilling rigs and I saw the gamut of ways women are treated differently than men in the workplace. I experienced everything from preferential treatment to outright rejection and harassment

 

I do still encounter those with outdated ideas of gender roles and norms

 

Do you have equal opportunity to reach the top

That definitely depends on the corporate culture and senior management in the organization you work for.  With that said, sometimes you need to make your own opportunities. Continuing education and professional development are key components to success. Reaching the top is different for everyone, sometimes it involves being in the right place at the right time. My idea of the top isn’t having a Chief or President in my title or managing a lot of people, I prefer being a technical expert and bringing forward new opportunities for improvement.

What are some challenges you face being a woman in EHSQ

I don’t currently face any challenges that involve being a woman at work, this has not always been the case. My ideas and opinions are respected in my workplace and I am also at an age and level of confidence where I would be comfortable letting anyone know if they were off side. There is no place for gender inequality in the workplace as far as I am concerned.

 

I don’t currently face any challenges that involve being a woman at work, this has not always been the case. 

 

Any advice to the young ladies beginning their career in EHSQ

  • Be your own advocate and don’t tolerate any mistreatment, speak up if you need to
  • Find good mentors, they can be male or female
  • Be diligent and try not to get caught up in where you think you should be by now
  • Keep an eye out for multiple women in senior roles within an organization you want to work for, it is probably a good sign of equality

 

Juliette Lees

Juliette Lees, third from left, with some of the best people she has worked with in the field.

Current position
Regulatory Analyst at Nimonik

Number of years in EHSQ
4 years with Environmental non-profits and 1 year at Nimonik

Is being a woman in EHSQ different than being a man

My work experiences mostly has been with diverse, open-minded, and equality based teams. Most of my supervisors and co-workers were women and they inspired me every day with their leadership, charisma, and work ethics.

Do you have equal opportunity to reach the top

In our team, the opportunities to learn and grow interrelate with new tasks and responsibilities that are assigned to us as part of our work. Our approach seems to be more of a horizontal than a vertical one, and is based on cooperation rather than competition. In my opinion, everyone on my team is given the same opportunities.

 

In my opinion, everyone on my team is given the same opportunities

 

What are some challenges you face being a woman in EHSQ

Our society has come a long way in terms of gender equality in the workplace and a lot is still to be done. I have been lucky to experience healthy dynamics and meet so many role models.

Any advice to the young ladies beginning their career in EHSQ

  • Speak up about your ideas
  • Do not hesitate to question the data you are working with and how things are done around you
  • Keep on learning and building your skills
  • Be kind to your co-workers

 

Be kind to your co-workers

 

 

Lea Wachowich

Current position
Quality Assurance Manager

Number of years in EHSQ
12 years

Is being a woman in EHSQ different than being a man

Yes, there is definitely a difference in the approach you have to take as in, if you are forceful or hard you are seen as extreme vs just doing what it takes.  There is definitely the benefit in a softer approach, in being able to create stronger working relationships through collaboration and teamwork.  Though when it comes to safety it takes a balance to ensure.

 

If you are forceful or hard you are seen be extreme vs just doing what it takes

 

Do you have equal opportunity to reach the top

In Quality Assurance, it is definitely easier to reach the top but it does take a lot more work being female.  You have to prove your knowledge and be more committed than your male counterparts.  This is especially the case if you work in a male dominated company.

 

You have to prove your knowledge and be more committed than your male counter parts.

 

What are some challenges you face being a woman in EHSQ

Some of the challenges include the long held stigma that women don’t know as much so it requires twice the amount of work to prove your effectiveness. Working to bring new technology or processes in to place without a proven record makes it harder to get buy in or support to go forward with projects that could be extremely effective at supporting the business.

Any advice to the young ladies beginning their career in EHSQ

  • Persistence and commitment to ideas can pay off in big ways not only for you but also your team and company
  • Take any opportunity to learn and develop you can as it makes you a stronger resource to those around you and continues to show how committed you are to your career

 

Sara Lipson

Current position
Chief Regulatory Analyst at Nimonik

Number of years in EHSQ
12.5 years

Do you have equal opportunity to reach the top

In my work in small and growing organizations, I’ve enjoyed having opportunities to work on many types of projects and develop competency in numerous areas. I’ve found myself surrounded by supportive colleagues who’ve mentored and coached me along the way.

What are some challenges you face being a woman in EHSQ 

Like many people, I have family commitments that put restrictions on my availability outside traditional working hours. On average, women take on more caregiving responsibilities; organizations that foster a positive work-life balance, and employ people rather than workers, are organizations that will be healthier workplaces for all employees and will allow women to contribute fully and succeed.

 

Organizations that will be healthier workplaces for all employees and will allow women to contribute fully and succeed.

 

Any advice to the young ladies beginning their career in EHSQ

  • Learn to express yourself clearly and assertively
  • Keep an open mind with respect to your career path–you may find satisfaction and opportunities in areas that you hadn’t considered

 

Sharon Tansky

Current position
EHS Coordinator

Number of years in EHSQ
3 years

Is being a woman in EHSQ different than being a man

I am lucky as most of my training came on the job from the President of the company, various consultants, and tools like webinars and an (R2) Internal auditor training course. For the most part the job is a good fit for both women and men, as it is a balanced combination of research and writing of documents and field work.

What are some challenges you face being a woman in EHSQ

The biggest challenge I have faced as a women is in the field: Most workers are men who are physical labourers and may not always respect a women or see why a women would understand the work they are doing and assume they know nothing about the tools they are handling from a practical point of view.

Most workers are men who are physical labourers and may not always respect a women or see why a women would understand the work they are doing and assume they know nothing about the tools they are handling from a practical point of view

 

As an EHS coordinator I often observe what the workers are doing and may have to point out if they are doing something not safe or not following the rules. I feel a man would be taken more seriously providing this guidance at times.

Any advice to the young ladies beginning their career in EHSQ

  • Learn as much as possible about different machinery and tools in general. It is one thing to know that all hand held tools have to be inspected regularly ensuring there are no loose parts and another to actually know how to use it
  • On the jobsite, it can be helpful to be on the floor and if possible, show workers you know how to do their tasks. If you do come across a tool you have no clue how to use,  ask the worker! Odds are he will be proud to show you and happy you are interested. Everyone likes to teach something to someone else!!! We can’t know everything

 

Yusi Wang

Yusi Wang at her graduation with Industrial Risk Management teachers

 

Current position
Regional Manager, Asia, Nimonik

Number of years in EHSQ
6 years

Is being a woman in EHSQ different than being a man

Definitely! And even more different in China than in Europe.

I had an interview at a manufacturing site in Shanghai for an EHS Engineer position. The recruiter told me to my face that male is more preferable for this job. He said women are considered less ‘suitable’ for being onsite EHS engineers because this job requires many night shifts and risky work like working at heights. From my point of view, I agree this part to some extent, but compared with male EHS engineers, women too have their advantages such as better communication skills with workers, etc.

But frankly, that’s all stereotype, for men as well as women

 

The recruiter told me directly in the interview that male is more preferable for this job

 

Do you have equal opportunity to reach the top

I think so. I have the opportunity to network with many EHS personnel from different companies. In China we have many many clients whose EHS heads are women.

What are some challenges you  face being a woman in EHSQ

As I have mentioned, factories might prefer male onsite EHS engineers, but in headquarters we see equal chance for men and women for leadership roles. The challenges is how women can gain more onsite EHS experiences before reaching to a leadership role in their career life.

The challenges is how women can gain more onsite EHS experiences before reaching to a leadership role in their career life

 

Any advice to the young ladies beginning their career in EHSQ

  • Do not hesitate to work in EHS because you are a woman. Women have equal power in this field as men
  • For both men and women, the only thing what should initiate an EHS career should be a great passion in EHS,  a strong belief that work in EHS would make the world a better and safer place

 

Chantel Van Den Berg

Current position
CEO, H&S Implementation, Auditing and Training Company

Number of years in EHSQ
9 years in EHS and 4 in the current position

Is being a woman in EHSQ different than being a man

O yes! Definitely! Being from South Africa where male dominance in the workplace is still very much a reality, we as women have to make our mark loud and clear in order to be recognized. When I started out in HSE, anytime I would walk into a meeting, the men would kind of try and exclude me thinking I had no valuable input BUT I stuck to my grounds, made my voice heard and always made sure that I was up to date with all current legislation, industry trends and common practises to prove to them that I am an asset to their corporation. My motivation is: Work till you no longer have to introduce yourself.

 Work till you no longer have to introduce yourself

Do you have equal opportunity to reach the top

I think in any career how far you go depends on how hungry you are to achieve your goals. I have had to climb mountains to get where I am today where for a man it would certainly have been a lot easier. I truly believe by overcoming these obstacles we are developing strong, intelligent female leaders who will take EHS to a whole new level and as they say, nothing that has ever come easy has ever been worth it!

What are some challenges you  face being a woman in EHSQ

Working in a predominantly male environment and being quite young I have had to prove my worth over and over again in order to earn the trust of the male employees. Only when I had earned their respect was I was given the opportunity to show how my knowledge and experience could be of value to them.

Most importantly I think that I have learned that showing that you are confident in yourself and your ability is half a battle won. There are always going to be situations where someone makes you feel you don’t deserve where you are in life, how you use that to your advantage will determine how far you go in life.

Any advice to the young ladies beginning their career in EHSQ

  • Push yourself to never give in to the opinions around you
  • Always be the hardest worker in the room
  • Confidence is the key that will unlock any door
  • To be able to succeed in EHS you have to have a passion for the industry, learn to fall in love with what you do