To celebrate International Women’s Day on the 8 March, IOSHs First Female President, Daphne Linton, tells us what it was like to break conventions across OSH.
Stepping into the Presidency in 1996, after a 20-year career in senior positions in the manufacturing industry, Daphne has seen the change in gender equality across OSH industries. However, it’s not always been an easy route for women in a historically underrepresented profession.
After leaving university, unclear about which route to take in her career, Daphne got her foot in the door when she began working at the Ministry of Labour in 1956.
The lack of gender equality in the profession acted as a catalyst for Daphne’s successful career as a factory inspector.
“To be quite frank, I got into the industry by accident. Well, not by accident - but as the result of a bet.
“During my time at the ministry, a position became available as a factory inspector. I was curious about the role and when I enquired my colleague bet that they’d never hire a young woman in her 20s.
During the 1960s Daphne became one of the few women to hold senior positions in the manufacturing industry, let alone OSH.
“There weren’t many women in managerial positions in manufacturing. The ones that were, tended to be un-married women from the First World War who were older, and incredible role models.
"It was wonderful, because you were your own master and treated with great respect - you weren’t patted on the head.”
Despite the industry beginning to acknowledge women in senior roles, Daphne knew there was progress to be made as the demand for factory space grew exponentially.
In 1974, that change started as the Health and Safety at Work Act passed, marking the first piece of legislation to regulate occupational safety and health in the UK.
With this new legislation in place, Daphne started to notice changes in the manufacturing industry.
“When I first started the infrastructure of factories was poor. It was really after the Act passed that we saw things continually improve. But often extensive work was needed to improve the infrastructure of sites to keep up with demand.”
Over this time of change, and with increasing demand internationally, Daphne’s work saw her travel across the world to improve standards across the industry.
"My work took me through Europe and beyond to America and Australia. I quickly learnt that a good factory wasn’t about the infrastructure, it was about good management."
Having seen first-hand how quality management can transform a workplace in mind, Daphne set her sights on a new venture, one that would be pivotal for IOSH.
1996 would see IOSH’s membership reach over 19,000, as it moved from being run by volunteers to a professional team.
Daphne led the Institution through a time of tremendous change, as IOSH gained the interest of organisations in South East Asia, and began the development of its Hong Kong Branch.
Working to break conventions in OSH worldwide, Daphne refocused the Institution's focus to become a more inclusive body as it secured its petition for Royal Chartered Status.
“I found that people like me got into the industry can find themselves alone; what IOSH offers is a corridor of experts and support. That is so valuable.”