Raphaela: What has been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
Lee-Anne: Looking back, I think my biggest obstacle was me. I’ve read articles that say women often sell themselves short and our level of confidence is different from our male counterparts and I think in my case that was also true for me. On top of that, I’m a visible minority and I rarely ever saw people who looked like me in authority or leadership roles growing up. My teachers, the principals and vice-principal, the police person, firefighters, CEO’s, business owners, the pastors at church, the news anchors on TV, my professors in university, my supervisor or managers rarely ever looked like me. I think it subconsciously affected my confidence that I could be one of these people one day too even though I knew I was more than capable. I had to get out of my own way and once I did things started to change for me when I started to believe I can do it too.
I recall a time where my line manager started teaching at college, this was after several years of experience under my belt where I lived and worked in the oil sands region in Alberta. I was a confident trainer and more. I remember thinking that if he could teach at a college surely, I could too. It was great to have his support and I still have his support to this day and now I currently teach at Humber and Seneca college in addition to my full-time position. Releasing yourself of fear, being thankful for every opportunity, saying yes even though everything inside me says “don’t take that chance, don’t put yourself out there” and having support from some amazing leaders is what helped me to overcome my own insecurities.
Raphaela: How can team members help empower women in the workplace?
Lee-Anne: I think this answer goes beyond just how we can support women in the workplace. We must appreciate what many of us have learned through history, from our environment and society what the workplace is “supposed” to look like or who the boss is “supposed” to be, and we all need to change our thinking. We can all support those who are not “expected” to get to certain roles or take certain jobs or be given certain opportunities. We can expect more inclusion in our workplace, in the organization’s communications, in the pictures that our organization uses, and most importantly in the conversations and interactions, we have with each other.
Another quick story, once upon a time, I was in a meeting and the new safety brand was being rolled out, and part of the rollout was a set of posters. The original set of posters only contained men and all from the same ethnicity. I remember saying “Excuse me, I hate to be the one to bring this up, but it would be great if the posters were more reflective of our actual workforce.” I think we can all use our voice and not be afraid to challenge unconscious bias when its appropriate to do so.
Raphaela: What are some pieces of advice you’d offer to women and men in the safety world?
Lee-Anne: From my experience, in order to survive being a safety professional, you need to be ok with not always being liked by everyone. You won’t always be appreciated which is ok. You don’t have to have all the answers because there is too much to know. After almost 20 years in this profession I hate being called an expert, I don’t think I’ve put in enough time to be an expert yet. You must keep learning. This is one of the most important things for me to read, read, and read some more. Try your best to be fair, consistent, accurate, analytical, inquisitive, empathetic, steadfast, honest, careful, calm, kind, balanced, trusting and humble.
Lee-Anne shared her journey with us from a trigger incident at a supermarket to her becoming VP of Health & Safety at Dexterra. Her experiences and advice give us even more reasons to take action and be our own safety champion – in every industry.
We all know women who champion the safety industry, but we encourage you to take a deeper look and recognize them.
For more information and to nominate an inspirational female leader for our Women in EHS Award awarded at NXT 2019: Women in EHS Award
And of course, In true LLB fashion, she has graciously written us a poem – from her to you:
A little poem from me to you
We are all on this safety journey together,
Your desire for learning, will only make you better.
If passion for serving others is not for you,
Maybe there’s something else you can do.
Sometimes things are great, and it goes your way,
But a lot of times its tough, and you fight for a say.
Fighting to improve work, save lives, make the best,
for the employee, manager and company’s interest.
You won’t always win, and at the end you’ll know you’ve tried
But as a safety professional, I promise, you’ll be so very satisfied.
~An LLB original