In celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, and this year’s theme, #EachforEqual, we are featuring stories from our leaders and employees throughout the week of March 2, across editorial themes ranging from the importance of inclusivity to the power of allyship.

There is a growing acknowledgment of the importance of water worldwide. Nonprofit organizations provide drinking water to small remote villages, allowing women who used to spend much of their days fetching water to use the time saved to engage in empowering activities such as education and starting their own businesses. Access to clean water is crucial to public health, economic security, food security, sustainability and wellness. As women are the primary caregivers in most cultures, we must be aware of the impact that clean water has on our communities and act accordingly for ourselves and those we nurture.

Women also have new career opportunities in water as there is a focus on sustainability and preparing for a warming climate, which is a local, regional and global problem with many solutions. Planning and designing for resiliency, as an impact of climate adaptation, has led to an emerging aspect of the water industry that planners and engineers can explore and develop their careers. Many municipalities, which are focused on the day-to-day needs of their customer base, are looking to current civil servants to learn new skills to help develop forward-focused ways of thinking so utilities can thrive in the future. This is not just an issue for coastal areas. The impacts of climate change are far-reaching and still being studied. The water industry will need to be agile and our solutions will need to be adaptable and scalable in order to be effective. While water itself is a constant in our world, the impact that women will have on the industry is continuously evolving.

One of my personal and professional goals is to encourage every young woman I encounter to appreciate math and science. I want every girl to know that she can understand, enjoy and excel in math and science with proper guidance. I am a firm believer in the saying “If you see it, you can be it.” If they’re having trouble finding mentors, I want to share my story and offer to help them find their path. When I found a mentor that believed in my abilities, my world opened up to possibilities in STEM.

While there is much more access to learning about career opportunities now than there was 20 years ago, women in science and engineering need to make themselves accessible to the next generation of women that will excel in our industry. We need to make more meaningful, long-lasting connections with these young women. One approach I take is by explaining the benefits of tap water to everyone I meet, while also telling young women about my role as an environmental engineer and how I am positively impacting their drinking water. That direct connection between my work and their water is the perfect segue into strategizing how their interests can translate into a career in water and ways to make their careers deeply meaningful and rewarding.

Originally published 03.7.2020

Author: Nicole Brown