NEHA April 2024 Journal of Environmental Health

sented in leadership positions, we were not able to account for all variables that could be driving the associations between gender and job level. Future analyses should include qualitative research with women working in retail food regulatory positions to better understand their experiences and to iden- tify whether there are barriers to their career advancement due to issues such as gender discrimination in recruitment or retention practices, di•culties with work-life balance, or gender-based disparities in compensation (Yassine et al., 2022). Additionally, the response options for gender presented within the Training Needs Assessment might not represent all relevant gender identities, and thus additional analy- ses should include a more detailed set of options that match comparable workforce datasets. As our sample included few nonbi- nary respondents, it was not possible to ana- lyze their representation or job levels. Future studies should focus on a more comprehen- sive understanding of gender diversity within the retail food regulatory sector, including the potential e˜ects of gender identity on hir- ing and retention practices. Moreover, this work reports on results from a convenience sample. Even though our sam- pling method allowed us to collect data from a specific target population and our sample size was larger than that required to achieve a power of 0.8, these data might not be fully generalizable to all retail food regulatory pro- fessionals. Thus, these preliminary results should be considered exploratory. Further studies that include intentional recruitment of jurisdictions that might be smaller, under- resourced, or more di•cult to contact should be prioritized in the future. Conclusion Our findings suggest that the retail food regulatory workforce is highly educated and remains up-to-date on food safety training. There remains, however, a strong need for continued evaluation of whether the work- force is receiving the appropriate training at the right time. Continued training will also be necessary to support appropriate responses to emerging public health issues and to retain a diverse workforce. Additionally, our results showed a large percentage of retail food regulatory profes- sionals who are ≥40 years. Given this age

distribution and the fact that more than one half of the workforce has been employed in the field for >10 years, it is likely that a large percentage of the current workforce will retire in the near future. Thus, train- ing should be designed to account for the unique needs of an aging workforce and to address potential skill gaps when veteran employees leave the workforce. While there is more racial and ethnic diversity in our sample than in previous stud- ies of the EPH workforce, Black or African American and Hispanic or Latinx individu- als might be underrepresented among retail food regulatory workers. Future workforce capacity building e˜orts should consider how to recruit, train, and retain a diverse workforce that is more representative of the U.S. population as a way to advance health equity. Additionally, future training should incorporate cultural humility and contin- ued leadership training to ensure equitable access to career opportunities. Although most survey respondents self- identified as female, our analyses indicated that female respondents had lower mean job levels than male respondents—even when controlling for age, education level, and years of experience. Although women are clearly being recruited into retail food regulatory positions, future e˜orts in workforce capac- ity building should include considerations of gender equity in promotion and retention practices. There is also a need for targeted leadership training to support the advance- ment of women in the workforce. Insights gained from this demographic analysis should be paired with our future research on the relevance of and exposure to key knowledge areas for retail food regula- tory work. We hope that this information will facilitate the development of strong work- force training programs to improve working conditions, organizational functioning, and retail food safety overall.

Further analyses will be necessary to iden- tify how well the racial and ethnic composi- tion of the retail food regulatory workforce reflects the communities in which they work. Moving forward, retail food regulatory train- ing should incorporate cultural humility and support the specific training needs of under- represented populations to ensure retention and career advancement of a diverse workforce (Kreuter et al., 2011; Zemmel et al., 2022). Although the majority of respondents to our survey self-identified as female, female respondents had lower mean job levels than male respondents—even when controlling for age, education level, and years of experi- ence in retail food regulatory work. While previous research has shown a disparity in women’s attainment of leadership posi- tions and annual salaries in the state gov- ernmental public health workforce, there are fewer data available on gender dispari- ties in EPH specifically or in the retail food regulatory workforce (Chapple-McGruder et al., 2020). Our study provides insight into potential gender equity issues to be aware of when developing future food regu- latory training and leadership development programs. Additional research is needed to understand gendered experiences in the food regulatory workforce. Limitations Our study revealed a disproportionate num- ber of individuals who self-identified as White in the retail food regulatory profes- sion. The numbers of professionals from other racial or ethnic backgrounds, however, were too low to conduct a thorough statis- tical comparison regarding their job levels or other demographic attributes. To gain a clearer picture of racial and ethnic diversity in this field, further research with a larger sample that is more representative of the U.S. racial and ethnic demographics as a whole is necessary. The categories chosen for race and ethnicity in the Training Needs Assessment also limited our ability to make strong infer- ences about the racial and ethnic composi- tion of the workforce. Future surveys should include more specific questions that separate ethnicity from race and align with U.S. Cen- sus Bureau categories to make strong com- parisons to national demographics. While our analysis shows that respondents who self-identified as female are underrepre-

Acknowledgements: This work is supported by FDA under award #U2FFD007358.

Corresponding Author: Samantha Streuli, Senior Research and Evaluation Coordinator, National Environmental Health Association, 720 South Colorado Boulevard, Suite 105A,

Denver, CO 80246-1910. Email:


April 2024 • our9-l o2 9@5ro9me9>-l e-l>4

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