The health and safety field is one that provides extremely rewarding, well-paying, jobs with various levels of accessibility and plenty of room to grow and gain promotions.
However, as of late, it seems to be an opportunity that is largely blocked off from members of certain ethnic backgrounds and racial groups. It’s not literally blocked off via legislation or other obvious factors, but finding work in health and safety is dramatically more difficult, or not accessible at all, for members of various groups, and that’s a loss for all of us.
Not only does it remove high-wage opportunities from individuals, but it also deprives the field of new points of view and talented professionals; there are also more widespread concerns beyond the health and safety field. Since the opportunity to enter the field is seemingly less accessible for those from certain groups, it means that’s one less option for members of those racial groups to increase their financial power within their communities. That, in turn, has a major economic effect on the communities many members of these groups come from.
As you can see, the lack of diversity is a big problem, and it affects much more than companies or individuals. However, the first thing we must do before resolving that problem is to identify it and why it’s happening.
Today, we want to do just that. We’re going to go over a number of obstacles facing minority groups who struggle to find their way into health and safety, things the health and safety field does to make the job less appealing, and various other reasons diversity is lacking in health and safety.
1: Educational Disparities
Education is a major part of getting any job above a certain wage level in most situations. After all, the highest-paying positions typically demand a relevant degree of some sort to show that the prospective employee is formally educated and capable of taking on the job’s responsibilities.
Unfortunately, due to a whole slew of reasons spanning a very long period, certain ethnic and racial groups tend to either have a harder time being accepted into secondary education programs, funding their secondary education needs, or having the luxury of spending a substantial amount of time needed to get a degree.
This can start early; with lower funding in certain school districts, students might not receive the education needed to qualify for secondary education programs. Coming from a lower-income family can also make it extremely difficult to fund the skyrocketing tuition costs. Even if those needs are met, the lack of opportunity in minority-dominant areas can mean that prospective professionals are required to spend their time working multiple jobs to survive; leaving little to no room for college programs.
Until these educational disparities are addressed, increasing workplace diversity will continue to be a complicated task unless the burden of training and education is assumed by employers.
2: Experience Requirements
Similarly, to how many people from various ethnic backgrounds are required to spend their time working numerous jobs to fund their survival instead of getting a formal education, time restraints can also prevent these individuals from getting the experience required via internships, job shadowing, or taking on low-level positions.
For example, if someone is 21 and trying to pay rent, take care of their families, and maintain all of the expensive parts of life, they don’t have time to take an unpaid internship or accept a low-pay position for experience purposes.
If you take the time to look at a health and safety jobs board, you’ll notice most, if not all, of the health and safety jobs that dominate the field, require years of experience before an employer will even acknowledge an application.
With traditional experience routes being non-options, and employers being unwilling to take risks on employees with potential but no experience, a vicious cycle ensues, and it’s often a better option to seek a decent-paying job that doesn’t have such extensive experience requirements.
This can be remedied fairly easily. Jobs can offer reasonably paying internships for potential employees to gain experience and prove their value, or be more reasonable with experience requirements in the first place.
3: Workplace Cultural Restrictions
This has less to do with various cultural groups facing obstacles in getting hired and more to do with workplaces having outdated, unnecessary restrictions that make working for them an exercise in self-masking; which nobody wants to do.
These restrictions come in various forms.
Work dress policies might require employees to wear their hair in a certain way; typically, this can be a very “Caucasian” look that simply doesn’t work with the natural hair of people from different racial backgrounds. For example, black or indigenous hair might not have the capability to be styled in traditional professional styles, and alternatives might be seen as attempts to mask cultural differences.
Outside of race, a good example of cultural differences being restricted can be found in facial hair requirements and food restrictions. Some religious groups value beards on a spiritual level. Not allowing facial hair restricts these individuals from the workplace.
Banning certain foods that are stereotypically pungent, regardless of whether or not local cuisines can be seen the same way, also shows a lack of acceptance and respect for those from various cultural backgrounds. For example, banning curry from the workplace, but allowing people to reheat fish sandwiches, demonstrates this.
There are some factors that make certain restrictions necessary. Such as requiring beard covers for those working on food production floors, or requiring that hair be kept short or contained within an approved bonnet to keep employees safe around tangle-prone machinery or food.
However, arbitrary, unnecessary cultural restrictions can prevent certain groups from seeking employment in the health and safety field.
Why Diversity is Important to Increase
These are just a few of the many reasons diversity is falling behind in the health and safety field while other professions are climbing. The reason for pointing this out isn’t to chastise the health and safety field or cause any other negative responses.
Instead, it’s to pinpoint just a few of the areas we can be improving to increase diversity, boost communities in need of equity, and advance the field as general while supporting communities.