Embracing the theme ‘make safety seen’ on International Women in Engineering Day 2023

23-06-2023 Member news

Embracing the theme ‘make safety seen’ on International Women in Engineering Day 2023

A little over a year ago, Fugro launched an employee-led, Women-Centred Safety Initiative. Our goal? To address the structural barriers that hinder gender diversity among our teams. Today, on International Women in Engineering Day, we are thrilled to share the promising early results in our ongoing efforts to ‘make safety seen’.

It’s an undeniable fact that women remain significantly underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. For instance, the 2021 Global Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum notes that women account for a mere 20% of engineers worldwide. Fugro’s employment numbers are comparable, with women comprising 22% of our global workforce.

We may be on par with industry, but we refuse to accept the status quo. Multiple studies, as well as our own experience, demonstrate that gender-diverse teams are more creative, innovative and successful. That’s why we’re committed to increasing the number of women working across all levels of Fugro, including leadership. By 2025, our goal is for women to hold at least 25% of the company’s senior management positions.

To achieve these targets, we’re critically examining industry- standard systems that have historically hindered women’s entry, retention and advancement in STEM fields. One key area we’re addressing is safety.

Recognizing the Safety Barriers

In 2022, the International Hydrographic Review published a research paper titled ‘Empowering Women in Hydrography: Safety First!’ It identified three categories of structural safety challenges faced by women in hydrography: inadequate personal protective equipment, insufficient accommodation and, more broadly, unsuitable equipment design.

Documenting the origins of these challenges and offering practical solutions to them, the paper called for institutional change in dismantling the barriers to entry and success in the male-dominated field. For lead author Helen Stewart, a certified hydrographer and long-time Fugro employee, this meant embracing our corporate value of ‘we do what’s right’.
“When I finished writing the initial white paper, I thought to myself, ‘You know what? Let’s put our money where our mouth is’. That’s when I reached out to Darren,” Helen said, referring to Darren Male, Fugro’s Regional Head of Health Safety Security and Environment (HSSE) in the Americas. For his part, Darren offered immediate and unwavering support.

The 60-Day Challenge

To prove that safety challenges can and should be swiftly tackled, Helen and Darren created a 60-day challenge. They began by reviewing Fugro’s existing HSSE policies and identified items disproportionately affecting women. Then they set about implementing tangible and meaningful safety improvements within 60 days.

Early actions taken during the initial challenge included:

  • Providing coveralls designed for female colleagues

  • Enhancing vessel-based facilities to  accommodate women’s hygiene needs

  • Addressing ambient temperature issues in office buildings through HVAC adjustments and thermal barriers

  • Arranging contracted transportation instead of ridesharing services during travel to ensure driver accountability and background checks


We’ve all been conditioned to accept implicit bias in the workplace, regardless of gender. But when you know better, you can do better—and that’s a major takeaway from the 60-day challenge.“

Addressing safety issues is about dignity and respect as much as our physical well-being,” Helen said. “We deserve safe working environments and personal protective equipment that protects us, and to be treated and respected as valued members of the team.”

Indeed! If we want to encourage women to join and lead in STEM fields, we must show that they are not only welcome but that their safety and well-being will not be compromised. The 60-day challenge is proof that swift change is possible. So, let’s all play our part in ‘making safety seen’ to achieve our shared goal of creating a safe and liveable world.