Is there a Mars safety and a Venus safety?

A research paper released last month in Germany caught my attention even though it does not relate directly to research undertaken in a work environment.  

There seems to be an established train of thought that men and women choose to take risks based on some sort of gender criteria.

Alison L. Booth and  Patrick J. Nolen have published “Gender Differences in Risk Behaviour: Does Nurture Matter?”  They researched risk behaviour along gender lines in secondary education, a different sample choice to other researchers who mostly looked at their university students.  Booth and Nolen found

“…gender differences in preferences for risk-taking are sensitive to the gender mix of the experimental group, with girls being more likely to choose risky outcomes when assigned to all-girl groups.  This suggests that observed gender differences in behaviour under uncertainty found in previous studies might reflect social learning rather than inherent gender traits.”

Gender studies are fraught with ideological baggage and it is a brave person who chooses this line of study, as I learnt through studying sociology and Russian literature at university (but that’s another story).

The full report is heavy going for those with no sociology background but the research flags an issue that could be useful to pose to the growing band of workplace psychologists and culture gurus – what are the gender-based variations in unsafe behaviours in the workplace?

Could the available research mean different safety management approaches in workplaces with different gender mixes?  

When people talk about workplace culture, could there be a male culture and a female culture?  (We certainly refer to a macho culture in some industries)  In other words, is there a Mars safety and a Venus safety?

Workplace safety tries hard to be generic but has variations based on industry types.  Perhaps we should be looking more closely at the demographics of these types and varying our safety management approaches?

Kevin Jones

2 thoughts on “Is there a Mars safety and a Venus safety?”

  1. I always find this so strange as westerners are so fond of telling my friends in the developing world how to run their gender relations. Stern \’advisers\’ in suits and laptops running endless gender (usually meaning women) awareness courses, little understanding the subtleties of gender related power and influence. OK that is my life and I wonder what would happen if Asians did the same to Aussies.. might be a bit like Iraqis having bases in Minnesota.
    The risk to women is often determined by the gender segregation of labour, and as I wrote in my book so long ago, on various physiological factors.
    I agree that neurobiochemstry is only beginning to explore sex differences following on from issues like sex based spatial differentiation and perception. Women put different value loadings on some things, and that may influence safety.
    We are the products of evolution and ecology and thus havesome degree of sex based specialisation. I get so bored with those who try to quash the discussion. Its not about equality (tho I do not want to be equal to men and die young) but about difference.. C\’est la vie!

  2. I do think that a good \”safety leader\” (safety manager/ supervisor) need the skills to manage people of many different personality and groups types, some features of some personality types may be stereotypical of either males or females.

    I personally think that sensitivity surrounding discussions on gender traits prevents much further discussion on the topic and direct use of the research. Although, I assume this not the only research findings that could be applicable to safety management?

    As a (still learning) safety practioner, I am interested in the percieved challenges or advantanges for female and male safety practioners when educating the opposite sex, same sex and mixed. It cannot be denied that a female or male manager is frequenetly percieved differently in workplaces predominantly of the opposite sex.

    Admire your bravery Kevin

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