Melissa is the Director and Owner of Dimension H&S Ltd, with over 20 years experience in construction and 15 of those within the health and safety profession. Melissa now specialises in SHEQ in providing strategic and operational support to the facades industry. She is also a HSE People Champion.
Many years ago (sounds like a story, kind of is) I attended my first IOSH meeting in person. I had just joined IOSH and thought ‘great the meetings are free learning so I’ll check it out’. So, back in 2010, possibly 12 months after my daughter was born, I took myself off to my very first IOSH meeting as a Tech Member.
I didn’t like it!
I turned up to a room full of men, not a single woman in sight, and thought ‘Wow. How on earth can this be a career for a young woman?’. A sea of blue ties, blue shirts, grey suits, and an older demographic sipping tea all around me. (No, I have no issue with blue shirts, ties or grey suits, older demographic or tea drinkers don’t come at me!)
‘Is this really the right career choice?’. I walked out and went home. I didn’t stay for the presentation. I potentially missed out on something valuable. At the time, I knew of one woman in safety, part of the team I was in, she was and always will be an inspiration to me Natalie Lloyd.
Being the young spritely individual I was, full of spunk, and ready to take on the world…I didn’t return to an IOSH meeting for a few years!
Now, I’m not sure what changed, what made me try out a meeting. Maybe it was the cocky me saying ‘balls to that I’m going getting what I want and I’m going checking out these meetings, it’s free!’.
I went to an IOSH Manchester & North West District Branch meeting, I cannot remember the presentation topic to save my life, but there was a lovely guy there who made the event so personable and warm. It was none other than Chris Knagg CFIOSH FIIRSM FCMI FISQEM.
There was a handful of women in the room, not many, but there was more than my first experience. The room was intimate (not as many members attending basically). I felt kind of comfortable with showing up to these and seeing what went on.
Was Health and Safety changing? Could this be a career path for me!
I continued to attend the Manchester meetings, I liked the atmosphere, I liked the friendly committee members, the topics were very useful in my early career. Then when Chris was chairing, he asked the room if anyone would be interested in volunteering for the committee…I went home that night and sent an email to the Secretary of the branch Stuart Bailey DipNEBOSH expressing my interest (I reckon Stuart probably still has that email somewhere!).
There was still very few visible women in safety at that point but there were allies! I found people who wanted to see some diversity in the room, who sought it out and wanted to see new perspectives and support others growth and success!
I wanted to be part of it, I wanted to be a woman in safety who shows others it is a great career path. To show others this can be achieved, that the meetings are there for the taking and to be…whats the saying, we all know it, all together now…
‘You must be the change you want to see in the world’ Mahatma Ghandhi
Of course, I did, I had to do something about it.
I don’t know if I influence others, whatever their gender, but I love what I do. I love to support others, help them grow, listen to different perspectives, and have that diversity in health and safety we so need as a profession.
If you walk into a room and you don’t ‘fit in’ keep walking into that room because you could be the change one or more people need to see to take that step themselves.
If anyone, early, middle, or late in their career, fancies a chat and a brew (virtually or otherwise) just let me know.
Walk into that room because you never know what amazing things will happen.