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Speakers inspire Women in Water campaign

Delegates to the second Women in Water conference organised by British Water have embraced the trade association's campaign to support women in the industry.

The event took place at MWH Treatment’s Manchester headquarters on 16 October and speakers shared their career stories along with offering expert advice from direct experience.

British Water chief executive Lila Thompson said: “One of the important things about Women in Water is that it’s not just an event, it’s now a campaign, and we’re building our resources and incorporating other organisations’ actions and events. We’ve already had some excellent feedback from delegates that will help determine our next steps as we build on this important initiative.”

In the spirit of collaboration, Angie Needle (pictured), founder of the Women’s Utility Network, delivered a keynote on empowerment. Setting out the current gender imbalance in stark terms she said only 20% of the half-million people working in the utilities are women; only 23% of those in leadership positions in the water industry are women and only 1% of those in skilled trades.

“I’m absolutely in it for equality,” Needle said. “We need more women because there’s masses of research that says that more women adds to better diversity, which adds to better productivity, which adds to better growth and creates a better company.”

Sharing her own career experience, Needle advised those moving up the ladder to “Go for things you don’t think you can do – the whole point is you’re learning.”

MWH Treatment human resources director Hilary Tew had practical advice for companies wishing to recruit and retain female employees. She said: “We asked whether our benefits are inclusive. We now offer an extra five days holidays you can buy. It’s not just about women, men can share the benefits. If we can help with their family life, it’s a win-win.”

She also had advice for women managing negative comments and sexist “microaggressions” in the workplace: “Be calm, face the reality and address the matter directly with the person giving those comments,” she said. “If it doesn’t get any better, you have to report it.”

For the first time the 2020 Water Industry Awards will feature a Women in Water category. This award will recognise an initiative that helps to redress the balance and encourage more women to work in water. Organised by Water and Wastewater Treatment (WWT) the event celebrates and rewards outstanding achievement and innovation in the UK water industry. It is taking place at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole on 20 May 2020. For further information visit https://waterindustryawards.co.uk/

Author: Alec Peachey,
Topic: Skills & workforce
Tags: Water Industry Awards , MWH Treatment , British Water , women in water

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