Public Health and Social Justice Shape Safety at Work

NSC Women’s Division chair looks at barriers faced by women in the workplace.

Shelley Brown
June 15, 2020

Over the past year as chair of the NSC Women’s Division, I’ve been working to better understand how women’s health and safety are affected by past policies and current workplace cultures. It did not take long at all to recognize the barriers faced by women in the workplace. And for non-white and LBGTQ women, there are additional barriers and challenges to overcome.

Whether examining workplace fundamentals, such as the pay gap or technical issues like safety research that omits gender, race and age, the complexity is apparent. The public health and social justice tragedies of late have heightened my awareness of this dynamic, as well as my own blind spots. This period of uncertainty compels me to take stock of how the Women’s Division is driving solidarity and modeling the inclusive society we want to see outlined. These activities include the following:

  • In 2020 the Women’s Division leadership team is the most diverse it has ever been. We have established a succession planning process so the membership can benefit from the creativity, experiences and perspectives of diverse leaders.
  • We increased our efforts to amplify a wide range of voices contributing to NSC publications and online channels.
  • We advocated for an increasingly diverse offering at NSC Congress and Expo so every attendee can see themselves in the experience.
  • Our 2020 Women’s Division is hosting a series of webinars focusing on issues for women in safety that were voiced by our membership. This includes addressing ergonomics, pregnancy and leadership, attempting to create space for open dialogue between safety practitioners, researchers and leaders.

We still have work to do in many areas, including those listed above. Three additional points I want to highlight on this platform are:

  • Our need to recognize contributions of women and minorities by nominating more to prestigious safety awards such as Marion MartinDistinguished Service to Safety, and CEOs Who ‘Get It.’ There are unsung examples in our workplaces and communities that we need to elevate to make safety and health leadership accessible to all.
  • We need to leverage the NSC Safety Advocate program in communities most affected by social injustice and inequality to create the safety leaders of tomorrow and inspire positive change.
  • We need to expand understanding on how we, as NSC CEO Lorraine Martin says, ‘enable those around us to live their fullest lives with dignity and respect’.

I welcome you to reach out to the Women’s Division leadership team to share your story, ideas and experiences. All genders are welcome to join, especially if you are looking for a supportive community to help raise your voice. Join us if you are taking stock and seeking ways to grow into a more effective ally in supporting equality, inclusion and diversity.

Shelley Brown

Shelley Brown is chair of the NSC Women’s Division and vice president, safety, health and environment, transportation business line, AECOM DCS Americas.

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