Standing up for women in safety

How Nicole Osborn is imitating the leaders who stood up for her

Standing up for women in safety

Nicole Osborn recalls a moment early in her career when she saw an email that made her feel excluded. One of Osborn’s bosses suggested she attend a high-level meeting, along with a couple of her other female colleagues. “I remember one of our VPs saying, we don't want to send three blonde girls to the meeting.”

Osborn says her boss stood up for her and replied, “we want to make sure that we send the person who is the best fit, and Nicole's the best fit for this, regardless of what she looks like.”

Now, as the manager of QHSE operational excellence at Avetta, Osborn tries to be the person who stands up for others feeling excluded in the workplace. She did exactly that when a colleague sent an email to a group of mostly men with an opening that read “Hi gents.”

Osborn says something that may seem trivial can make others feel like they don’t belong. “It's this sense of I don't fit in here… I just kindly reminded one of my team members that it's not nice to use words like that, and we should try to stay away from that.” Osborn says her colleague was receptive to her feedback, but thinks perhaps 15 years ago, “they might have blown it off.”

When Osborn attends the Women in Safety Summit in Calgary next week she will use the platform to address the pervasive issues of bias and stereotypes faced by women in the safety industry.

"I think all women probably have stories and experiences that they've encountered throughout their careers," Osborn reflects. Her session at the summit delves into navigating microaggressions and missed opportunities for women in safety. "What do we do to combat when we have some microaggressions? Or what do we do to combat if we have opportunities that just kind of get passed by when it comes to women in this industry?"

Addressing microaggressions requires tact and persistence. Navigating male-dominated spaces as a woman in leadership can be daunting, but Osborn refuses to be sidelined. "I don't tend to be shy or quiet in those meetings," she asserts. Drawing confidence from her background, education, and experience, she makes her presence felt and advocates for her opinions to be heard.

As she anticipates the Women in Safety Summit, Osborn is eager to engage in candid conversations with fellow professionals. "It'll just be nice to have face-to-face conversations," she says. Beyond networking, she sees the summit as a testament to progress in the industry. "I think it shows that we're... moving the needle," she notes.

Osborn's journey exemplifies resilience and advocacy in the face of adversity. Her commitment to breaking stereotypes and fostering inclusivity serves as a beacon of inspiration for women in the safety profession and beyond. As she prepares to take the stage in Calgary, her message resounds loud and clear: it's time to rewrite the narrative and create a safer, more inclusive future for all.

"I'm very excited to present. I'm very excited to meet everybody," exclaims Osborn. Her enthusiasm is palpable, embodying the spirit of empowerment that defines her journey.