In recognition of International Women's Day, Adele Abrams, J.D., CSMP, Lindsay K. Bell, CSP, Abby Ferri, CSP, and Camille P. Oakes, CSP, recently appeared as guests on the EHS on Tap podcast hosted by EHS Daily Advisor's Justin Scace. The four ASSP members share their experiences in the OSH profession, including the challenges and opportunities they see for the profession moving forward. They also discuss mentorship, diversity and ASSP's Women in Safety Excellence (WISE) Common Interest Group.
Oakes, a professional member of our Georgia Chapter, shares a story about the moment she began gaining confidence in her role as an OSH professional. It occurred during an incident in which a truck had run over a ramp, spilling diesel across the dock area and requiring a HazMat crew. “The first thing they did was turn to the oldest man in the area [who had] a collared shirt [and] keys on his belt. . . . [He] clearly looked like the guy in charge," she recalls. "They started asking him questions, and he turned to me silently and pointed and said, 'I don't know. Ask her.' And he looked terrified."
Abrams talks about the progress that has been made over the years with respect to women being regarded as subject matter experts. "I do expert testimony in the mine safety area, and you would not have seen that 20 years ago," she says. A professional member of our National Capital Chapter, Abrams says she still sees challenges ahead. "I think the problem is still for the women who are part of the workforce and perhaps are managing safety and having to tell the men what to do and how to do it and call them out when they are not following the appropriate protocols," she says.
Ferri, a professional member of our Northwest Chapter, has also seen changes for women in the field during her time in the profession. "When I first started in the career, there were a lot of comments and things that I just took in stride as thinking that was just part of the job," she recalls. "There are more apparent pathways for people to be able to report things like that, and women may feel more empowered in some settings also to bring those things up, as in we're not going to put up with that type of thing in our workplace," Ferri says.
Bell, a professional member of our Chesapeake Chapter, speaks about the need for representation of different women in safety. "I think we've talked about it at WISE before . . . the idea that in order to be a woman in safety, you must identify as masculine," she observes. "[The idea that] you can't wear nail polish, you can't wear lipstick, you can't be 'girly,' and you can't fit. There is only one way to be a woman in safety. So if we're talking about representation, I think we also have to talk about the representation of different kinds of women because we're not all the same," Bell says.