EHS Compliance: A Timely Career Path for Women

The Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) industry is dotted by opportunities of all kinds, especially in areas like EHS compliance, and women should explore these potential EHS careers.

Encamp develops environmental compliance software, for instance, and nearly half of our staff are female. Agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) also employ thousands of female EHS professionals.

For Black History Month, in fact, Encamp celebrated Lisa Perez Jackson as the first Black administrator of the EPA. She led the EPA from 2009-2013 and is now Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives.

Opening EHS Career Doors

With EHS compliance as the commonality, many companies in manufacturing, agriculture and farming, healthcare, engineering, and other industries likewise provide rewarding EHS careers. These companies maintain their own dedicated EHS teams, employing environmental scientists, regulatory specialists and other EHS professionals.

Such teams are responsible for things like EHS operations and planning, hazardous materials management, EHS regulations, environmental and general EHS compliance, and annual compliance-based Tier II reporting. EHS management consulting is additionally a multi-billion-dollar a year industry.

“If you’ve ever wanted to get into the EHS and environmental compliance field, women are going to be more and more needed. We’re a hot commodity right now, which is only going to intensify as we move forward.”   – Julie Mouton

Right now on the EHS careers front in the U.S., however, men outnumber women by 4 to 1 — at least according to the 2021 EHS Salary Survey by Safety + Health magazine. Of 399 survey respondents, just 25% were women, which was actually up 6% from the survey’s 2020 results. The EHS Salary Survey offers one of the most comprehensive reflections of the EHS industry each year. Results of the latest survey were published in the magazine’s November 2021 issue.

Long-term EHS careers for women, signaling a trend?

Of the percentage of women tracked in the 2021 survey, 23% reported they are EHS specialists, directors, managers, department heads, and even chief executives. The average industry tenure for women in the survey is 13 years. Those two statistics remained the same as the 2020 survey’s results. However, along with more women entering the EHS field from 2020 to 2021, the numbers tell us women overall are continuing to make inroads in EHS circles.

By comparison, 28% of men who answered the survey were in management roles. Their average tenure in the EHS sector is 15 years.

Given the percentages of women who hold EHS leadership positions and their length of industry tenure, it’s somewhat surprising more women haven’t enjoyed EHS careers — although, again, that appears to be changing. Many of the women in EHS we’ve spoken with have said they’ve noticed more females entering the field… and succeeding.

“I think the EHS space has been improving for women,” said Julie Mouton, a sustainability and environmental consultant with the Antea Group. “Since I’ve been with Antea, we’ve grown to the point that 50% of our staff is female or identifies as female. I think that speaks strongly to the trend that more women are getting into this field and being given opportunities to pursue long-term EHS careers.”

For more than 16 years, Julie has specialized in water stewardship, corporate ESG strategy, operational risk assessment, environmental liability management, and environmental compliance. You can hear more of her insights in the video she did for Encamp’s Women in EHS series. Watch the full interview here.

Women of EHS

Encamp launched Women of EHS in 2020 to give women throughout our industry a forum to tell their stories. In individual video interviews, women who’ve joined the initiative discuss their EHS careers, how they got where they are, and environmental and societal issues they’re passionate about. And as we say on our Women of EHS web page, their stories are candid, compelling, illuminating — inspirational.

Another aim of our initiative is to encourage more women to look seriously at EHS careers, no matter where they are on their path of career and personal growth.

Of the women who’ve joined our Women of EHS effort thus far, they talk about how and why they got into this field — and why other women should, too. They discuss some of the hurdles they’ve faced in their positions and how they overcame them. And they offer their thoughts on how the industry can improve for women who choose EHS as their profession.

Setting an example

Encamp gives businesses a modern, first of its kind software platform to tackle EHS regulations more accurately and simplify environmental compliance reporting. Our technology has already disrupted the EHS industry and continues to transform how environmental compliance works. It has also made Encamp the largest third-party filer of EPCRA Tier II compliance reports in the country.

Beyond technology, though, we have to thank the women who occupy some of Encamp’s most strategic roles for our success. Our VP of compliance and customer success, director of customer success, and most of our senior environmental scientists have all helped make Encamp what it is.

A passion for the environment

Not surprisingly, these women all share a passion for the environment. It’s why they got into the EHS industry in the first place. That was especially the case for Sarah Gundrum, who holds a B.S. in Environmental Science and is now working on a Masters’ in Environmental Geology. She’s currently a quality assurance compliance specialist at Belmark, which manufactures sustainable packaging products for various industries.

“I believe we need more advocates for the environment.” Sarah said in explaining what drew her to an EHS career path. “We need more people who understand the actual science of what’s going on with climate change, and I’m just trying to make any contribution I can.”

Megan Walters is Encamp’s VP of compliance and customer success and has taken a similar path. She started by getting her B.S. in Natural Resources and Environmental Science from Purdue University — although an EHS career wasn’t her initial choice.

“I was in the pre-med track (at Purdue), majoring in Biology,” Megan said. “But I realized environmental science was more interesting and that it aligned with my passion for the environment.”

The change in course was a good decision. Along with her VP role at Encamp, Megan’s career has included successful stints as a senior environmental scientist and an environmental manager.

EHS careers… starting points

What best describes how you entered the EHS field? It’s one of the questions from Safety + Health magazine’s 2021 EHS Salary Survey, and the responses tell us people get into EHS via different avenues. (A couple caveats: This part of the survey does not distinguish between female and male respondents. It also encompasses the health and safety aspects of the EHS equation, not just environmental. Still, it’s a good snapshot.)

In general, nearly a third of the survey’s respondents said they entered EHS after they got their degree in the field. Other respondents said their employer had asked them to “handle EHS matters,” or that they “volunteered” to do so. Other respondents said they simply applied for an open EHS position in their company even though they had little or no experience.

There also was this. “A friend or colleague worked in EHS and encouraged me to pursue this field.” In our own Women of EHS orbit, we’re hoping to see more women become such ambassadors.

Join us

Encamp is always looking for the best and brightest women to join our company. Keep an eye on our Careers page for positions we have open. We’re growing!

Transforming the way enterprises stay in compliance 

Encamp is on a mission to create a world where good for business can equal good for the environment. We help enterprises transform compliance programs and human processes into a technology-driven system that lays the foundation for accurate and ongoing environmental compliance through a blended method of intelligent high-tech solutions and high-touch expert support.

Julie Ragains

With over 12 years of experience in the EHS space, Julie has done everything from crawling on top of tanks on a hot summer day in Texas to managing full compliance programs from behind a desk for Fortune 500 companies. As Director of Customer Success at Encamp, Julie translates her real world experience into leveraging Encamp's solution for our customers and creating those Happy Encampers!

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Additional Environmental Compliance Resources