Raphaela: How can team members help empower women in the workplace?
Stephanie: I believe there are a few ways that team members can help women in the workplace and the very first thing they can do is to recognize their own biases, especially those that are unconscious. Biases are natural, and they can be limiting to others if you aren’t aware of yours and how to manage them. For example, do you assume all women are mothers? Or that they don’t want to advance their careers and lack “killer instinct?” Do you assume they can’t travel for work? Or that a young woman will leave to have a family, so she’s not afforded a promotion? If she is passionate in a meeting, do you call her emotional and her male counterpart demonstrating the same passion as driven? (of course, you can flip this and ask yourself if you have the same unconscious biases towards men)
The second thing you can do is to ensure inclusion of women on your team, and yes that includes things like company golf tournaments, business development opportunities and in meetings, ask for, listen to and acknowledge their contributions too.
The third thing is to call out others who may be showing bias or sexism towards the women on your team. For example, if there is one woman in the meeting, does someone ask her to get coffee, arrange meals and take minutes? Do you allow the women to be excluded from activities (I had one vice-president tell me I wasn’t allowed to sit at the table with the team during lunch, because I was a “girl.” Instead of saying something, his team laughed and came to me afterward, individually to apologize. They said they couldn’t speak up due to peer pressure, but how do you stop bullying? By standing up). Are the women on the team referred to as bitches when they are decisive or asked if they are “being hormonal”? These things happen daily, and we need our teammates to step up and lead a better way.
Raphaela: What are some pieces of advice you’d offer to women and men in the safety world?
Stephanie: There are a few that I have found beneficial in my career.
Firstly, network. Network while you have a job instead of while you are looking for a job. Depth and breadth of exposure to other people will enable you to learn more, build bridges, and become a better professional. Volunteering is a wonderful way to network.
Secondly, continuously learn about “safety.” Commit to continuous improvement by challenging yourself to learn about a different element of safety, earn a credential, or present what you know at a conference. Learning to speak confidently in front of your peers can be significantly more challenging than in front of leadership.
Thirdly, learn about something other than safety that will benefit how you do your job. I am a systems-thinker and work hard to understand all parts of a company, so I know which levers to pull to create sustainable change. Learn about business and where “safety” fits in the business. Often people are surprised to see how safety influences the organization beyond execution.
From the Canadian Regional Airlines Flight safety department to becoming an HSE catalyst for change, Stephanie has taken the safety industry by storm. We encourage you to incorporate her takeaways on understanding the work dynamics of women in high-risk industries and stand up for your fellow colleagues.
Like Stephanie, 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.