Electronic Specifier takes INWEDs 'Make Safety Seen' to the women in engineering
It is Friday 23rd June, it is International Women in Engineering Day (INWED), and this year’s theme is all about #makesafetyseen.
According to an EngineeringUK report, in March 2022 women made up just 16.5% of the engineering workforce in the UK. Whilst this is up 6% from 2010, it still lags behind the percentage of male counterparts in the industry.
Encouraging women into engineering is challenging, but however difficult that is, it is harder still to retain that useful, necessary, and diverse talent. So, for things to change we need to listen to what women are telling us, and to action those changes to ensure the future of engineering is as rich and as diverse as it can be.
With that in mind, and because safety means different things to different people, Electronic Specifier decided to take the INWEDs theme to the women who are working in the industry right now to find out: What does safety mean to you? And, what one thing would you change if you could?
Michelle McDaid, Senior Director of Engineering
I am very interested in the topic of psychological safety and believe it is necessary in order to have innovation. 'Make safety seen' to me is about rewarding the right behaviours and demonstrating that it is safe to speak up, question, and share ideas in the workplace.
The changes I would like to see is for people to notice and be curious about women's experiences, and then to be intentional about change. Transparency is essential to close the Gender Pay Gap.
Michelle has also recently taken part in a podcast for Rise Up (helping companies to attract and retain top female talent) on LinkedIn talking about the importance of trust and psychological safety in the workplace.
Sarah Mlundira, Head of Engineering Change at XP Power
To me, ‘Make safety seen’ means making all aspects of safety visible, both psychological safety which is often not seen, and physical safety.
One thing I would like to see more about women’s safety in the workplace is an inclusive safe space for women. Both physical safety, but also psychological safety, so that we can fully express ourselves without fear of negative repercussions or retribution.
Helen Duncan, Marketing and Business Management, and Technical Writer
I have had minimal experience of a physical workplace since 1992, and I'm sure that many things have changed since then, but I've been extremely lucky during my career to work with some lovely people who genuinely respect women in the workplace. When I left Uni standards were very different, and there was casual sexism like nude calendars on the engineering workshop wall and being expected to make the coffee more often than the men did. However, there was far less swearing and innuendo in front of women than seems to happen now.
I think what I would like to change if I could is related to the attitudes across society in general, where - a lot more so than in the late 20th century - a woman seems to be expected to dress and act in a very feminine way even if she's in a serious professional role like being an engineer, but then if something inappropriate happens it's somehow 'her fault' for dressing 'provocatively'. Mixed messages and impossible expectations. Don't get me started on the increasing polarisation of genders and its effect on young people's mental health!
Elena Davidovska, Business Manager, Waldom Electronics
Women have superpowers! They can multitask, plan, and solve problems. The engineering world needs women to make it a better, smarter, and safer place to create.
I encourage all women to start actively participating across different organisations, advocating for themselves and their colleagues, and becoming a mentee and/or mentor, this way we can all captivate the differences in the workplace to make it more safe and equal – find likeminded communities to help you grow personally and professionally, and share your story to inspire not only other colleagues in the workplace, but also younger generations that are just starting.
Molly Bakewell Chamberlin, Fractional CMO/CBDO, and Founder of Embassy Global LLC
To me, ‘Make safety seen’ is about acknowledging and addressing the specific risks and challenges that women face in the workplace. It means creating a safe, inclusive, and equitable work environment where everyone feels empowered, respected, and valued. Ideally, it also involves promoting diversity in leadership, providing flexible working arrangements where feasible, and developing and implementing educational programmes and robust in-house policies that uphold these core values.
If I could change one thing about women's workplace safety, it would be to eradicate all forms of gender-based discrimination, harassment, bias, and particularly wage disparity.
Kateryna Larosh, Strategic Business Development Leader, Waldom Elecronics EMEA
‘Make safety seen’ is an important initiative which can help women in engineering to feel more inspired, empowered, and experience greater career opportunities in the field that they have chosen. Safety for me is feeling free to express ideas, to speak up openly, being noticed, and valued.
There is still a gap for improvement, and, for me, the one thing every organisation could change is to promote more diversity in the team to have better results.
Emma Swinscoe, Supply Chain, Engineering, and Operations Professional, Amazon
‘Make safety seen’ to me as a Leader of an Engineering Team, means supporting an environment where people feel comfortable reporting potentially unsafe conditions or ideas for improvement. Making safety issues visible, discussing them, shaping solutions together and then implementing them encourages a culture where people care about making a difference. As a team we view safety as purposeful, we work and act together to make our environment and ways of working safer every day for each other!
One thing I would change about women’s safety in the workplace – PPE!! Its 2023 and we still cannot get good quality PPE designed for a woman’s body.
Natalia Adamson, Lead Project Engineer, Ricardo plc
‘Make safety seen’ to me is all about the culture surrounding how health and safety is promoted within a team. By having a culture about awareness, understanding, and one which prioritises safety, a by-product will be that safety is seen as soon as you enter the space.
If I could change one thing about women’s safety in the workplace it would be creating better awareness for the need for different PPE and letting go of the concept of ‘one size fits all’. The average dimensions of women differ from the average dimensions of a men, and the effectiveness of PPE depends hugely on how well it fits, hence it’s important to factor these in when supplying PPE to a workforce.
Becci Statham, Health and Safety Officer and CI Lead, USystems Ltd
'Make safety seen' for me comes in two parts. Firstly, it means making safety the first thing people think when they enter work in the morning. Signs, posters, and pictures are visual clues that, although they become part of the wallpaper and people think they don’t even notice them anymore, kicks the subconscious into safety mode. Safety becomes part of the work culture and the mindset. Secondly, it means showing people that their actions have an effect on their colleagues. By bringing near misses and safety concerns to the attention of the H&S team, action is taken to make the workplace safer for everyone. An unactioned safety concern leads to a near miss which leads to a first aid incident. Showing the team what concerns were raised and what actions were taken to correct it is essential to making safety seen and highlighting the importance of see it, say it, sort it. Safety is a team sport.
One thing I would change about women’s safety in the workplace is better fitting PPE. We offer our employees a range of PPE, as one size doesn’t fit all and as a company, we want to encourage rather than dictate. Offering options makes such a difference to attitude. However, there is such a lack of options for women’s PPE.
Ama Frimpong, Head of Product Development, 52 North Health
Across all industries, engineers are working tirelessly on the important mission of creating safe and effective solutions for their end users and the world at large. For me, 'make safety seen' means reminding everyone and highlighting the fact that safety is important on both sides of the table; for end users but also for innovators/engineers … and this needs to be upheld with equality at its core.
The Gender Pay Gap is a crucial issue that requires immediate attention. Unfortunately, progress towards closing the gap has been disappointing despite ongoing work. It's imperative that women employees feel secure, respected, and valued in their roles/careers, and this can be achieved by increasing the representation of women in top-level management engineering positions and standardising salaries for all employees regardless of their gender. Simply negotiating better salaries won't suffice; it's essential we eliminate the pay gap altogether.
Dr Tosha Nembhard, Programme Director in Aerospace Engineering, Lead for Degree Apprenticeships and EDI Director in the School of Engineering at University of Leicester
'Make Safety seen' is about everyone feeling safe at work, safe against work hazards, safe against bullying, discrimination, and unwanted comments, and safe to be who they are.
If I could change one thing about women's safety, it would be to get employers to put measures in place for mental and emotional safety just as they do for physical safety; something that would be beneficial for everyone, not just women.