Women in Safety – Louise Hosking CMIOSH CEnvH MCIEH CMaPS PIEMA SIIRSM

Director, Hosking Associates & OneWISH – the coalition for Women & Inclusion in Safety & Health

We know that the pandemic has disproportionately burdened women. Globally, gender equality is one of the UN’s life-enhancing sustainability development goals seen as a fundamental human right and a foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. There are many parts of the world where women live and work in fear. This is not a women’s issue it’s an organisational issue.

Greater diversity, equality, and representation in workplaces worldwide is not just the morally right thing to do it makes smart business sense. When we embrace and use our differences we make better decisions and when we make better decisions in health & safety we have the ability to save more lives and reduce cases of ill health. For large multi-national organisations this extends across global supply chains.

We know that globally around 20% of Health & Safety Professionals are women. I graduated 30 years ago and this figure has not changed very much across that time. A recent survey by ERM used data they collated which showed that within 273 of the world’s largest organisations only 15% had female Health & Safety leaders whilst the same organisations had 29% women in similar level roles. This means our industry is 20 years behind. Therefore, it’s time to actively support women to move into these roles. Traditionally, the Health & Safety profession was born from high hazard industries, mining, manufacturing, offshore, and construction. All of these industries are still largely male-dominated but our work is changing and so too is our profession. The way we work is becoming less physical; climate change, the pandemic, new technologies all mean emerging hazards are very different. Psychosocial risks and the prevention of chronic injury require us to adapt to modern leadership styles. The modern Health & Safety professional needs a wider range of soft skills. Skills I don’t believe are particularly soft so I prefer to refer to them as #PowerSkills. These skills are around collaborative leadership styles, creativity, remaining curious about the environments we work within, and becoming more inventive in our approach.

To achieve this, we need greater diversity of thought which comes from greater gender balance and looking beyond the process and the physical to care about how people feel using evidence-based resources but keeping a focus on people.

Command and control leadership styles are not going to cut it in the modern working world or with the next generation of workers who value a work-life balance. We are in the midst of a skills crisis at the most pivotal time in history where we need our people to be their true selves so they may solve some of the most complex, ambiguous, and ever-changing issues we’re currently facing.

The way we do business is rapidly changing and for businesses to be truly sustainable, to meet the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations, ethical values must be held in higher regard. Those organisations that are able to balance their ethical and social values in harmony with their financial values will be more sustainable. In the future, the more sustainable organisations will be more successful as investors look for these companies to balance their reputational risk too. Looking after our people by creating balance where everyone is welcome we have it in our gift to transform how we live and work.

Future generations are going to look closely at what we do over the coming years. They will examine the things we do, and the things we fail to do, and rightly judge us.

About Louise Hosking


Louise Hosking is Director and sole owner of Hosking Associates Ltd which was established in July 2005. An IOSH approved training provider and risk management specialist with over 29 years’ experience within a variety of blue chip and public sector organisations, she specialises in project managing the creation and implementation of safety, health & environmental management systems and procedures within any type of organisation to develop positive safety strategies and mitigate risk. Her aim is to help organisations to create healthy, happy and safe workplaces that enjoy all the benefits of operating in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner.

Louise is President-elect of IOSH, as well as an Experienced Team Manager, Chartered Safety & Health Practitioner, OSHCR Registered Consultant and Qualified Environmental Health Officer.