Gender Equality and workplace safety
What is gender equality?
The Oxford English Dictionary gives a definition of equality as “The state of being equal, especially in status, rights, or opportunities”.
Discrimination is common against both genders in different work environments, however it is not easy to find many statistics or research results on this particular topic and women do not appear to be well represented in the Health and Safety arena.
Years ago, when I told my husband I wanted to pursue a career in construction as a CDM Co-ordinator (as it was at the time), after a short intake of breath, he said he hoped I had a thick skin because “blokes don’t like women on building sites”! 15 years on and this is improving, but the construction industry is still a predominantly male-run and male-worker environment.
Disadvantages for Women
Pregnant women often struggle to obtain a uniform or PPE to fit throughout their term of pregnancy and this can lead to an increased risk to the woman even in a female dominated environment. Employers struggle to justify the expense of additional specialist work gear for such a transient amount of time.
Advantages for Women
On the other side of the coin, women have always had the advantage when it comes to flexible working due to childcare commitments. New fathers can be exhausted too! This has now improved with new rules on paternity and parental leave. However, in fast-paced environments, employers need to be aware that taking this leave should not disadvantage male workers – the effects remain to be seen.
How employers can Improve Gender Equality?
What employers can do however is assess the risk of discrimination within the workforce to both male and female employees and understand what consequences it could have directly from being exposed to unnecessary risk which can breach legislation. Indirect effects on an organisation can come from stress and low morale which can affect the business financially through reduced productivity, increased absenteeism. In these modern days where everything is instant, bad practice can become viral in minutes damaging reputation and customer relations.
In short, look at what is the potential risk of refusing another PPE request from the same woman and how much your lead salesman will improve after a break to be with his new baby. Staff safety, loyalty, good practice and business profits are all likely to improve.