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March is Women’s History Month, and there is something truly powerful about shining a light on leaders who might otherwise be overlooked or who don’t get the recognition they deserve.
Katherine Johnson, the celebrated mathematician portrayed in the Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures, passed away just last week at the age of 101. She calculated the trajectory for the first and subsequent NASA space flights yet only received the spotlight decades after helping Americans go to space and return safely home. Imagine how lackluster our world would be if her contributions weren’t valued simply because she was a woman of color. Thankfully, NASA didn’t overlook her talents, and it’s a reminder for all of us not to overlook potential innovators who could help us create a safer world.
Many people have changed the world without knowing their impact. My personal heroine, Hedy Lamarr, was one of those pioneers. While she was publicly known as the “most beautiful woman in films,” when she wasn’t on screen, Hedy patented technology that became the basis for military communications, GPS and mobile phone technology. Her induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame came only after her death. Today, we know that when we bring people of diverse backgrounds together, it improves how we perform, results in more creative and successful solutions, and helps people reach their full potential.
The first all-woman spacewalk last year was hampered by the fact that the space station only had one functioning suit for two female astronauts who were scheduled to perform repairs outside the International Space Station. The realization that women are built differently and therefore need specially sized personal protective equipment or PPE hasn’t come soon enough. When I was in officer training school in the Air Force back in the 1980s, finding boots and other gear in my size was nearly impossible. Today, we recognize that we must protect people on the job no matter the packaging they come in.
I am proud that at the National Safety Council, we not only recognize women safety leaders through our Marion Martin Award, we also strive to create a more inclusive environment in the safety field through our Women’s Division. We aim to provide space for female leaders to share their knowledge and experience about keeping people safe on and off the job.
Over the next few months, you’ll notice a special Women in Safety series right here on the Safety First blog. Established women in safety will share valuable insights about how the field has changed and where we need to improve. I challenge you on this International Women’s Day, March 8, to reach out and thank a colleague who is making safety a priority at your organization. Remind them how their work is making a difference.
The most important thing we can do is help others succeed and achieve their dreams. That can only be possible when we bring all voices to the table, support one another and keep each other safe, from the workplace to anyplace.
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