Women's History Month: Triumvirate Environmental's Inspirational EHS Icons
The EHS field is challenging in all aspects—from handling hazardous waste, to enforcing rules, to needing to be innovative and solve tricky problems. This field has historically been male-dominated—in fact, of the almost 6,500 EHS specialists in the United States, less than 28% are women. On top of this, in 2022, women earned only 82% of what men earned on average across the board, a statistic that hasn’t much changed in the past 20 years. In this field, women and men must work together to get the job done—this Women’s History Month, we’ll highlight some of the inspirational women meeting EHS challenges head-on and working to even out this gender gap every day at Triumvirate Environmental.
Meet Our Women in EHS
Assistant Lab Services Manager
Gina has been with Triumvirate Environmental for four and a half years, working her way up from being an Environmental Specialist (ES) in the field every day. At the beginning of her journey, she faced challenges as a woman trying to break into this field—including when, at her physical before starting the job, the male doctor commented on her body type and doubted her ability to lift heavy objects. Not only that, but one of the memories that sticks with her from her years as an ES is being snubbed by a male client who only gave attention and respect to her younger, less-experienced male counterpart—even though she was the project lead. Since then, there have been multiple instances where she felt that she needed to demand respect in situations that should be equal.
Because of these experiences, she has made it her goal to prove people wrong when they think she needs help or she can’t handle something because of her gender. While the work can be simultaneously unique and gritty, interesting and overwhelming, and even at times “grungy”—she is proud to show up and be there and thinks it is important that women are involved in these types of jobs. She is proud to be paving the way for equal opportunities in the EHS field, to prove that women can do just as much as men. She tries to be a mentor for women to do the same, and to show them that they have big futures in the industry. Gina offers some advice to any woman wondering if work in the EHS field is right for them: “It may be challenging, but stay strong and be confident in yourself. Know that you are not alone—together, we are paving the way for amazing things to come!”
Environmental Specialist Manager
Paige firmly believes that women shape the EHS field, mostly with their cooperative social skills—as they can use these skills to build crucial, real relationships and communicate well with people across the many departments, industries, and groups one connects with as a professional in the EHS space. She is especially glad to be a woman when it comes time to enforce the rules—in her experience, people respond well to a woman who knows what needs to be done and can tell it like it is, like she can—with compassion, understanding, and strong communication skills.
In her five and a half years at Triumvirate Environmental, Paige has been mentored by many strong women paving the way for her success, whom she thanks and credits immensely. She has since positioned herself to be that same resource for everyone—especially women trying to succeed in this field. She loves being the “jack-of-all-trades” who gets things done in the best possible way—giving advice and having people truly listen to what she is saying. Not that it has always been this way, however. Similarly to Gina’s experience, when Paige first started as an ES, male clients on site would ignore her in favor of talking to her male colleagues—even when she was the job lead. Ultimately, she urges women considering EHS to “not be afraid to get their hands dirty, and strive to be the source of hard, honest, boots-on-the-ground work that gets results.”
Kay Peat, ASP, MPH
Kay Peat takes a different perspective—and explains that the challenges women face in the EHS field can sometimes be in one’s own head. Especially as a woman, it can be tough entering a field where people have been doing things in a certain way for a long time. This can lead to a lack of confidence or a feeling like you can’t change anything—even though changing systems and programs that are not working is a key part of being in EHS. She recognizes, however, that one of the benefits of being a woman in the field is the “props” you get for sticking it out in a tricky environment—as well as the ways you can use these accolades to get in the good graces of people and make meaningful, realistic, and important change.
And things are getting better for women in the EHS field. Kay is glad to point out that in the seven years since she began her journey, she has seen a huge influx of women into the field—some even moving up into managerial roles across the industry. She also recognizes that this is such a diverse field, with many overlapping and mismatching yet collaborative disciplines—and she encourages women to find a niche they are interested in and explore the ways this intersects with EHS. She advises women to make waves the way she did when she started at Triumvirate Environmental as a Technical Services Assistant (TSA): “Dive into it, head-first, and appreciate being in an environment where people love to learn from each other.”
Regional Higher Education Director
For Melanie, the best parts of working in the EHS field are that she never has a boring day, she is always learning, and she is continually surprised by her great clients—and the best part of being a woman in the field is puffing out her chest and saying: “I got this.” Seventeen years ago, she entered the field with a long 17-hour day and quickly learned to carry herself as a strong person—and emphasizes the importance of this, especially when there are few strong women around and you are surrounded mostly by men.
Over time, she has seen the field change. More women are entering the field, and as she sees it, bringing with them fresh perspectives on how empathy, communication, collaboration, and follow-up skills have a place in the field. She is glad for this, because as more women enter into this field, she recognizes the need for both men and women to remain strong and stick out a helping hand. She enjoys solving the problems that present themselves every day, and loves being in a position where people recognize her strength, regardless of her gender. She encourages women just beginning an EHS career to take “small, incremental steps and find different ways to attack solutions, because we are all going after the same goal.”
General Manager – New York
Alicia remembers many times throughout her 17 years at Triumvirate Environmental when she was the only woman in the room. In fact, she says that she’s never had a female boss and doesn’t think she ever will. She doesn’t necessarily see this as a challenge, however, as she stresses that within the EHS field, everyone is like a family: working together toward the same goals of bettering the community and the environment. She is excited to see more and more women entering the EHS field, but also understands that being a woman in a leadership role brings its own speedbumps—in a managerial role in a field that requires near-constant decision making and rule-enforcement, it can be hard to find the right balance of empathy to bring without sacrificing safety and efficiency.
And she acknowledges how weird the EHS field is: “If you do all things right, nothing is going to happen!” This may seem a little anti-climactic to some, and she encourages women to analyze the rewards of the role they are interested in and be willing to accept those specific rewards. To be successful as a woman in the EHS industry, according to Alicia, never shy away from dirty or hard work. Make sure you have thick skin, and find a way to stand out as a source for inspiration and authority.
Finding Inspiration in Powerful Women
We hope that you can take inspiration from the stories and advice shared by these powerful women of EHS, not only during Women’s History Month but throughout your life and career as well. It is crucial that women and men work together to create a better, safer, and stronger EHS field.