How OSH practitioners could close the gender pay gap

Louise Hosking CMIOSH, director, Hosking Associates

In June, IOSH Magazine’s salary survey determined that median earnings of female OSH practitioners were 5% lower than male respondents. That’s almost half the 9.4% gender pay gap for all UK occupations.

Women in OSH are in the minority, but more are choosing to enter the profession. The OSH skills shortage may explain why the differential is half the national average but, as a woman, I believe any pay gap suggests employers value the work we do less.

Many women can tell stories of being automatically treated as a subordinate to male colleagues. I was once asked if I was serving the food when I was standing beside a buffet for a meeting I was chairing. It wasn’t that long ago that OSH careers in the Middle East were open to male applicants only. Laws may change, but attitudes take much longer to catch up.

I have always felt I had to put in more effort than my next-best male counterpart. It’s something I accepted early in my career and perhaps it has made me better at what I do. I know I can be dropped into almost any situation and make a difference.

Conversely, I have been asked to support businesses that have specifically sought a woman; some employers recognise the genders approach work differently and place their own value on that difference.

It wasn’t that long  ago that OSH careers  in the Middle East  were open to male applicants only. Laws may change, but attitudes take much longer to catch up

The salary survey identified a clear advantage of moving up the IOSH membership grades. The greater our experience, the greater our worth. Women are more likely than men to take a career break or to  work part time, which will affect their levels of experience.

Many OSH professionals have significant responsibilities, and make policy decisions that can change the direction of the businesses in which they work. We are often the only individuals with our skills set, and what the survey does not consider is how our salaries compare with those of other operational managers.

Career progression does not just happen. I have been the only female applicant for senior roles. Everybody should be confident in their abilities. If you expect to be treated as an equal, you will be; if you apply for a dream job, you might just get it.

As we move into leadership roles, we coach, we support, we manage; however, there are some men (and women) in the workplace who do not like to be managed by women, so institutional inequality continues.

Until we learn more about equality, there will continue to be men who talk over, talk for or interrupt women, but this is not always the prerequisite of men and we should all be respectful of each other. 

If we believe this is important, remain professional, work alongside all our colleagues in the right way and treat each other fairly, we have the potential to continue to close the pay gap faster than other professions. All levels and both genders must work on this issue together if we are to eliminate the present differences.


Louise Hosking CMIOSH, director, Hosking Associates


  • I support career development

    Permalink Submitted by Don Urquhart on 5 September 2017 - 12:44 pm

    I support career development by becoming a Mentor with IOSH and have always given freely of my time to assist people to develop and attain better qualifications and as a result better salaries.

    I have found that our female colleagues have as much worth and value to our business as our male colleagues, in fact some are better at producing the results than others therefore when I see talent or can see in a person that they have the ability but have not yet been advised of the fact, I immediately take that person to one side and explain to them that they should consider a change into the SHEQ field.

    This leads to many different responses BUT I have great success and now can proudly say that I have encouraged more than 20 people to move into SHEQ of which 14 were female and all have benefited from doing so.

    Equal opportunity = equal pay status as far as I am concerned.

    It is time to put away the "Older" ideas and embrace the new or future of society and give everyone an equal chance based on ability and skill and balanced through appropriate assessment of people v task etc.

  • Hi Louise, interesting

    Permalink Submitted by David Thomas on 5 September 2017 - 04:50 pm

    Hi Louise, interesting article and one that took me back to the article 'The results of our survey suggest that the gender pay gap in safety and health is half this average. The 528 full-time employed female OSH practitioners in our sample (25% of the total) had a median salary of £40,000, 5% lower than the £42,000 for male respondents' .

    What would be interesting if it were possible to look at what underlying factors there are and whether there are imbalances with regards qualification etc. and iosh membership- in effect what is the gender gap for both highest qualification and current job role.

    I have come across a number of HR managers who have played the 'positive discrimination' card with regards professional opportunities and negative stereotypes around 'middle age men'.

    I do believe the key has to be raising the overall professionalism of the profession to broaden competency and get people into the board room.

    One for coffee....


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