The EHS industry is dotted by opportunities of all kinds, and women should explore them. Encamp specializes in environmental compliance and EHS management 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 just 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.)
Many companies in manufacturing, agriculture and farming, healthcare, engineering, and other industries likewise maintain their own dedicated EHS teams, employing environmental scientists, regulatory specialists and other EHS staff. Such teams are responsible for things like EHS operations and planning, hazardous materials management, EHS regulations, EHS compliance, and annual compliance-based Tier II reporting. EHS management consulting is additionally a multi-billion-dollar a year industry.
Right now in the EHS field in the U.S., however, men outnumber women by 4 to 1 — at least according to the 2020 EHS Salary Survey by Safety + Health magazine. Of more than 9,200 survey respondents, just 19% were women. The survey offers one of the most comprehensive reflections of the EHS industry each year and is well-regarded throughout the EHS sector. Results of the survey were published in the magazine’s November 2020 issue.
EHS management ranks, signaling a trend?
Despite the low percentage of women tracked in the survey, 23% reported they are EHS directors, managers, chiefs, or department heads. Another 36% said they directly supervise other staff. The average industry tenure for these women is 13 years. What the numbers tell us is that many women have made their way in EHS circles and are really making waves.
By comparison, 28% of men who answered the survey were in management roles, and 49% supervised others. Their average tenure in the EHS sector is 15 years.
Going by the percentages of women who hold EHS leadership positions and their length of industry tenure, it’s somewhat surprising that more women haven’t made EHS their career — although 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.
“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 the company, 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.”
For more than 15 years, she has specialized in water stewardship, corporate ESG strategy, operational risk assessment, environmental liability management, and environmental compliance. Curious to hear more of her insights? Watch the full interview here.
For other women like Julie who’ve already blazed an EHS path for their career, they know they’re making a difference. They continue to set a broader course for the industry and give it diverse voices and perspectives. But they also know challenges still exist.
Setting an example
Encamp gives businesses a modern, first of its kind software platform to tackle EHS regulations more easily and simplify EHS 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 director of compliance, director of environmental solutions, and core group of senior environmental scientists have all helped make our company what it is.
They’re also the driving force behind Encamp’s Women of EHS initiative.
Women of EHS
Encamp launched Women of EHS last year to give women throughout our industry a forum to tell their stories. In individual video interviews, women who’ve joined the initiative discuss their 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 make EHS their career. 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.
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. 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.” Once she completes her Masters’ degree, she’d like to work as an environmental consultant or for the Department of Natural Resources.
Megan Walters is Encamp’s director of compliance 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 director role at Encamp, Megan’s career has included stints as a senior environmental scientist and an environmental manager. She’s additionally a Certified Hazardous Materials Manager (CHMM) and a Certified Environmental and Safety Compliance Officer® (CESCO).
Other EHS career starting points
What best describes how you entered the EHS field? It’s one of the questions from Safety + Health magazine’s 2020 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.
Breaking down barriers
“We need to stop stereotyping women in our industry and putting them in certain boxes,” said Julie Ragains, director of environmental solutions at Encamp. “For example, the note-taker in a meeting doesn’t always have to be the female in the room. Anyone feel me? We can bring anything that our male counterparts can to the table, and my hope is that we continue to break down these barriers.”
Juile’s advice on barriers? Two things. “When I face a challenge,” she said, “I allow myself to be angry or upset for a certain period, and then I force myself to find a solution. But there have also been times when I’ve had to say ‘it is what it is’ and just move on.”
The trick, Julie said, is being able to recognize when you can make “real change and overcome challenges versus when you’re just beating yourself against a brick wall. In the latter case, find a work around and just do your thing.”
In more than 10 years in the EHS industry, Julie has made sure roadblocks never stopped her. She started as an environmental scientist and has held roles of progressive responsibility ever since. She’s been a project manager, an environmental sales account manager, an account executive, a solutions engineer, and now director of environmental solutions. And she isn’t stopping there.
Julie Mouton’s mindset is similar. We asked what her secret has been to breaking through career walls.
“Either persistence or tenacity (laughter)! I’m not one who takes no for an answer. Especially when it’s so in my core like, I know this is what I need to do.”
In her Women of EHS interview, Julie tells a story from an early career crossroads and wanting to work more closely with clients. “One of my former regional managers told me ‘Julie, you’re not in marketing and business development. You’re a project manager for remediation projects.’ I was like, No, wrong answer. I did what I had to do and I’m successful because I listened to my intuition and just kept going on the path I knew was right for me.”
The early hurdles for Jennifer Collins were different. Since 2016, she has served as manager of Pollution Prevention and Compliance Assistance for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM). But in a career that spans more than 20 years, she’s also been supervisor of IDEM’s Air Compliance Branch, and branch chief of Pollution Prevention and Recycling at IDEM. Prior to IDEM, Jennifer was administrator of the Bureau of Environmental Services for the City of Indianapolis Department of Code Enforcement.
“Early in my career, I worked in air quality and nothing else,” Jennifer said. “So that’s all people thought I knew. I had to learn to see EHS holistically. Land uses, water uses, multimedia. Once I learned how to apply regulations in multiple areas, it opened more doors for me.”
That’s also Jennifer’s advice to other female EHS professionals. “One thing women should do is own their own skills. Make yourself invaluable to the people around you.”
Or maybe Ivy Miller had the best perspective about starting a career in a male-dominated field like EHS. Ivy is a principal engineer at T&M Associates, has worked in the environmental and civil engineering industries for more than 20 years, and is our newest Women of EHS contributor.
“Sometimes women come into fields (like EHS and engineering), see mostly men, and think ‘How do I fit in?’,” she said. “I’ve never looked at it that way. I’ve always viewed it as ‘This is my work, and this is what I need to do.’”
Among women working in EHS, a common word of wisdom is to align with good mentors — men as well as women. “Find mentors who are willing to spend time with you to get to understand what your goals are and put action plans in place,” said Julie Mouton. “The greatest value (at the Antea Group) has been having a mentorship program internally. But I’ve also always looked to people externally who were where I wanted to go, doing what I wanted to do.” Many of those people, Julie added, were ones she met through networking events.
Ivy Miller agrees about networking. “I’ve benefited from joining industry associations and attending conferences,” Ivy said. “I’ve been able to build several connections to other women who work in EHS to reach out to if I need help with something.”
Another common viewpoint is elevating more women to decision-making roles at the corporate levels of EHS. “We still need more women and diversity in the industry and in executive roles,” said Jaime Geil, a senior environmental scientist at Encamp and one of the initial contributors to the Women of EHS series. “Women should be a part of decision making. We have to give them a seat at the table and space to excel in this industry.”
Again, the EHS industry is slowly but surely moving in that direction. Women need only look at someone like Lisa Perez Jackson and her leadership at the EPA. Or look at the increasing number of women entering the EHS field in just the last few years, including more women moving into executive positions and being given a say in critical decisions. (Encamp is to be applauded for this approach.)
And here’s to Julie Mouton for this inspiring final thought.
“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.”
Just a note that Encamp is always looking for the best and brightest women to join us. Keep an eye on our Careers page for positions we have open. We’re growing!
For as long as Encamp helps businesses manage environmental, health, and safety (EHS) regulations and EHS compliance reporting, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be central to what we do.
Therefore in honoring Black History Month, it’s only appropriate that we recognize Lisa Perez Jackson, the first Black administrator in the EPA’s history. The Environmental Protection Agency was created in December 1970. Jackson led the agency from 2009 to 2013.
According to her profile on the EPA’s online archives, Jackson was born in 1962 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but was raised as a “proud resident” of New Orleans, Louisiana. She is a summa cum laude graduate of Tulane University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering. Jackson also holds a master’s degree in Chemical Engineering from Princeton University. In 2012, she received an honorary doctorate degree from Tulane and was also later awarded an honorary law degree from Pace Law School.
Storied career in the environmental sector
Soon after joining the EPA as a staff-level engineer in 1987, Jackson moved to the EPA’s regional office in New York City, where she spent the majority of her 16-year EPA career. In 2002, she joined the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection as the assistant commissioner of Compliance and Enforcement and assistant commissioner for Land Use Management. New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine appointed Jackson the state’s commissioner of Environmental Protection in 2006. She also briefly served as Corzine’s chief of staff in late 2008.
In December 2008, president-elect Barack Obama nominated Jackson to serve as administrator of the EPA. She was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on January 23, 2009 and took office that same day.
Significant accomplishments at the EPA
During her 4-year tenure as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Jackson focused on seven priorities for the agency’s future. Those priorities included addressing climate change; improving air quality; cleaning up communities; protecting America’s waters; assuring the safety of chemicals; expanding the conversation on environmentalism and working for environmental justice; and building stronger state and tribal partnerships.
Now several years later, Jackson’s emphasis on chemical safety, cleaner communities, and state and tribal partnerships while she led the EPA continues to impact the EHS compliance and reporting efforts of businesses throughout the U.S.
In December 2009, Jackson announced an endangerment finding on greenhouse gases, setting the stage for more aggressive EPA action on climate change. Under her leadership, the agency issued clean air standards designed to reduce emissions from large facilities without burdening small businesses, amending the National Ambient Air Quality Standards to set stricter smog pollution limits as part of the EPA’s clean air initiatives.
Jackson similarly outlined the principles to modernize the country’s then 30-year-old chemical management laws, many of which were updated and remain in effect for EHS compliance reporting today. Also under Jackson, the EPA introduced its clean cars program in collaboration with the Department of Transportation and the auto industry to make American vehicles more fuel-efficient.
Jackson additionally authorized the recognition of carbon dioxide as a public health threat, granting the EPA authority to set new regulations regarding CO2 emissions.
In response to the economic downturn in 2009, Jackson led the EPA’s efforts to invest in job-creating environmental protection projects across the country. The investments led to cleaner communities that were in the race to attract jobs at the time, while also encouraging the development and use of innovative environmental technologies.
As the first Black person to serve as EPA administrator, Jackson further made it a priority to expand outreach to communities that were historically under-represented in environmental action. The EPA stepped up protection for vulnerable groups including children, the elderly, and low-income communities that were particularly susceptible to environmental and health threats.
While she was the EPA’s administrator, Jackson was named one of Newsweek’s “Most Important People in 2010,” and was featured on Time magazine’s 2010 and 2011 lists of the “100 Most Influential People in the World.” She also was listed in Essence magazine’s “40 Women Who Have Influenced the World,” and profiled in Oprah Winfrey’s O magazine for her work to protect the nation’s air, water and land from pollution that threatens human health.
In December 2012, Jackson announced she would step down as EPA administrator, ultimately leaving the agency in February 2013.
Today, Jackson is Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, reporting to CEO Tim Cook. In that role, she oversees Apple’s efforts to minimize its impact on the environment by addressing climate change through renewable energy and energy efficiency, using greener materials and inventing new ways to conserve precious resources. She is also responsible for Apple’s education policy programs, its product accessibility work, and its worldwide government affairs function.
She additionally serves on the boards of Tulane University, SF Film, Conservation International, and Emily’s List.
For Black History Month and beyond, Lisa Perez Jackson remains one of the most influential Black leaders in the environmental sector.
Since 2016, Jennifer has served as Pollution Prevention and Compliance Assistance Manager for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM). She was previously Supervisor of IDEM’s Air Compliance Branch; Branch Chief, Pollution Prevention and Recycling at IDEM; and Administrator of the Bureau of Environmental Services for the City of Indianapolis Department of Code Enforcement. She is a graduate of Indiana University, where she earned her B.S. in Public Affairs with a focus in Environmental Science.
You’ve spent more than 20 years in the EHS realm. Any pointers for other women? “One thing women should do is own their own skills…. Make yourself invaluable to the people around you.”
Experience speaks volumes. Watch Jennifer’s video to hear what else her experience has to say.
Sarah started her career in EHS in 2017 as an Assurance Technician and Assurance Intern for Belmark, where she’s now a full-time Quality Assurance Compliance Specialist. She earned her B.S. in Environmental Science (and Spanish) from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, and is currently working on a Masters’ degree in Environmental Geology from the University of Kansas.
Words of wisdom for other women just starting in the EHS field? ““Be confident in yourself and your work. Eventually all your hard work is going to pay off.”
Watch Sarah’s entire interview to hear how she started in EHS, and where she wants to go.
Julie Mouton is a dedicated environmental engineer and sustainability practitioner with more than 15 years of experience supporting clients in the food & beverage, technology, oil & gas, retail, and mining industries. She specializes in water stewardship, corporate ESG strategy, operational risk assessment, environmental liability management, and environmental compliance. She lives with her husband and two children in the greater Austin area and enjoys hiking, camping, gardening, water and snow skiing.
How have you gotten to where you want to be on your EHS career path? “I listened to my inner voice and intuition, and just kept going on the path I knew was right for me.”
Julie has more to say about her rise in the EHS ranks. Watch her video to hear how she’s done it.
Encamp has launched a campaign we call Women of EHS, and I’m honored to be one of its first contributors. The campaign’s aim is to highlight women in our industry who’ve accomplished amazing things — and who continue to do so.
Are we “trailblazers”? Perhaps, although most women in this industry don’t view themselves that way. For other women like me, we simply believe the environment must be protected, and that what we’re doing to protect it is important. That’s why I made environmental science my career. It’s also why I came to Encamp.
For Tier II and EPCRA reporting, Encamp developed a first of its kind Software as a Service (SaaS) platform for compliance management “end-to-end.” To date, the Encamp platform has made us the largest third-party filer of EPCRA Tier II reports in the world.
More than that, however, Encamp has put women in some of our company’s most strategic roles. Senior Environmental Scientist (there are two of us). Director of Compliance. Solutions Engineer. In an organization of just 30 people, we might not be trailblazers, but we are certainly cornerstones.
And within the EHS industry, we’re not the only ones.
For our Women of EHS effort, several other women have already agreed to share their stories. We also invite you to tell yours. Here’s mine.
How did you get into the environmental space? A passion / fell into it?
Like many in the industry, I’ve always had a passion for the environment and a love of animals. I began my journey in college at Texas A&M (whoop!) wanting to become a veterinarian, but after two years, I realized that career path wasn’t my true calling. I shifted my focus on studying Environmental Science and haven’t looked back since. I knew immediately I had found my niche. I started my career at an environmental consulting company shortly after graduating.
Did you have any mentors along the way? Anyone you looked up to? Other women in your field or at the company you work for?
I’ve had the honor of working with some incredible, smart, inspiring women over the years. I now get to work with quite a few of them again at Encamp!
Find the right mentor…
Source: npr.com, The Right Mentor Can Change Your Career
If you have one trait that makes you excel in your position, what is it?
I’ve found that being a good multitasker and careful with details has helped me the most. In EHS it’s a battle to stay on top of everything, with the constantly changing daily scope of tasks. So being able to switch gears on a dime and re-focus my attention has been very helpful for me.
Any challenges you’ve faced? How did you overcome them … or are they still a challenge?
I’ve faced many challenges throughout my career; starting in this industry as a young woman proved to be very difficult. My opinions and thoughts were often overlooked and undervalued. But by working hard, learning to speak up and educating myself on the regulations, I found my own sense of value and self-worth, which inspired me to be an advocate not for only women in EHS but for everyone who deserves to be heard.
Organizations led by male-dominated management teams often lack the fresh perspective needed to tackle certain projects. (This definitely applies in EHS circles.) A mix of different genders and backgrounds leads to greater diversity and overall “better decision-making.” Most companies further admit that women offer more “creativity, innovation, and openness.” So, yes, make your voice heard.
Source: Inc. Magazine, The Hidden Advantage of Women in Leadership
What are your thoughts on the future of EHS? Technology or tools … challenges?
The future of EHS is technology and that’s why I’m so excited to be a part of Encamp. I’ve seen so many people in EHS struggle with tracking and organizing information on spreadsheets or using archaic programs that aren’t efficient and prove to be a struggle for team collaboration. Being at Encamp I can see how technology will be an extremely powerful tool to help EHS managers be more efficient and break away from a lot of the struggles they face today.
How can the EHS space improve for women?
We need more women and diversity in the industry and in executive roles. Women need to feel like they can speak up and should be a part of decision making. We have to give women a seat at the table and space to thrive and excel in this industry.
In a 2019 International Labour Organization survey, nearly 60% of businesses said involving women in decision making “improves business outcomes,” including profit gains of 5% to 20% when more women are in management positions. EHS isn’t necessarily about profits, but making better decisions could sure help avoid a lot of fines.
Source: ilo.org, Women in Business and Management: The Business Case for Change
If you could give another woman advice on how to get where you are today, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself and your opinions. Set boundaries and learn to say no if you have too much on your plate, your time is valuable. Work hard, learn the regulations and know your value.
If you could give your “past self” advice, what would it be?
Stick up for yourself and speak up. Trust your intuition.
We’d love to share your Women in EHS story.test