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Podcast – Supporting women in water

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In the latest episode of the Accelerating Action podcast, Maria Gatica (Project Engineer), Dalia Adam (Commissioning Engineer) and Caitriona Ledgewood (Senior Community Engagement Manager) from Downer sit down with host Jo Taranto to discuss supporting women in the water industry.

Many companies and water utilities today have strong diversity and inclusion initiatives aimed at supporting and retaining women in the industry. This is a far cry from decades past when promoting women in the industry was seen as ‘niche’. Maria, Dalia and Caitriona discuss the progress made to better include more women in the sector and the lessons learned along the way.

“One of the most notable changes is female participation. When I started my first role in a civil engineering company, I was the only female embedded in the project team, we had one other female and she was a receptionist, so for me, it was quite daunting to be the only female on that team”, said Caitriona.

“When I look back to how far the industry's come, I guess that change hasn't been a quick change, it's actually been quite a long duration”.

Caitriona points to the AWA Mentoring Program as an example of how other initiatives can also create spaces for women to feel valued, supported and to work together to achieve progress.

Cross-collaboration and communication

Maria is from Chile, which has added an extra challenge to being hired as a woman in the water industry.

“It has certainly been a challenge, settling from one country to another, getting used to the new culture and when it comes down to being on the field, you certainly feel different”, said Maria.

“I look different, I speak different, so when it comes to talking to people and getting around the accent, you're trying to get your job right. If I must ask two or three times, I'm going to make sure I ask it because my goal is to do my job right. Communication is key, we all have different accents as well which is also the beauty of this diversity”.

A supportive work environment is crucial to determining the progress for how far women have come in the industry. Being able to ask the right questions and feeling comfortable enough and valued enough is pivotal.

Dalia is new to the water industry and has expressed how having supportive managers and environments is beneficial.

“Coming into the downer team, with all the engineers and especially the females around me are just so comfortable”, said Dalia.

“[I feel that I can] ask questions a million times just to get that answer.

Inspirational women in water

Maria, Dalia, and Caitriona discuss the importance of visible women role models and who has inspired them to pursue a career.

“For me it's not just one person, it's a village, it's my mother, my siblings, the aunties in my community, it's my cousins and ancestors. Being the first civil engineer in my family is a real roller coaster but I've always had that support from my family and my community so that's something that I highly value”, said Dalia.

“I owe this to my mother. From when I was very little, she empowered me and made me aware that there's no challenge I cannot overcome. My mum was the first woman to go to university among seven siblings in a countryside family” said Maria.

“At work, I encounter women that have taken me to the next level, so they see my will to learn, they see my curiosity”.

Mentoring and future steps

Mentoring can be a powerful tool for women to connect and work with other women in the industry. Mentoring creates visibility in the space and allow for flourishing projects between women. For Caitriona, being part of the AWA Mentoring program allows her to build confidence in fellow women professionals so that ‘being the only female’ in the company is no longer a present reality.

“I was determined because I didn't have that support so for me when I progressed under a leadership role, I really wanted to be the manager to my team that I felt that I never had.” Said Caitriona.

“I wanted to be a mentor, support my team and give them the tools that they needed to progress as well, and I've watched many teams members progress in their career. I definitely draw my inspiration from my team.”

Season 8, Accelerating Action is proudly sponsored by Downer

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