Masculinity and risk-taking

Improving men’s safety. Working with worksite teams and crews to help them reflect on how gender affects their safety.

Research into gender and safety shows that men often take risks to prove they are strong or to show they are capable of completing a task. In some cases, the need to maintain a particular masculine image overrides safety policies and procedures. Men often reject the need for training or education because they believe this implies they are not already capable.

In many male-dominated workplaces, we see that management practices can promote a particular model of masculinity that encourages risk-taking. Women too can be encouraged to behave this way when they are working in male-dominated or hyper-masculine workplaces.

The Gendered Behaviours Mentor Program is a focused way of helping individual crews or work teams understand how gender affects their safety. The program seeks to discover if there are any gender-related behaviours that are encouraging members of a specific work crew to take risks. And, if there are, what can we do about these behaviours?

An experienced researcher works alongside a crew, chatting to them about their work, and spending downtime with them in the mess hall and/or camps. The researcher is trained in how to understand and interpret the relationship between gender and behaviours. They are there to look, listen, and learn. They will seek to identify how quite normal gendered behaviours may in fact be encouraging risk-taking.

As the researcher spends time with the crew, they will ask questions, hold group and one-on-one discussions, make some suggestions and comments, take note of any feedback, and integrate the responses of the crew members in the research. At the end of each shift, there will be a debrief session during which the researcher will give their thoughts on what they have observed, listen to any additional responses from the crew members, and help plan out activities to address any particular issues the crew members want to work on.

We call this approach “action research”. This method has proven successful in helping develop changes in attitudes and behaviours in hyper-masculine contexts (e.g., workplaces, sports and communities).

1

Discussions with management and team leaders.

2

Introduction of research aims to the team.

3

Observations, interviews and focused discussions to explore the links between gender and safety.

4

Review of findings and action planning.

5

Training for team members and safety personnel to sustain a focus on gender in their management of safety.