Just 20 per cent of the workforce in the UK water industry is female* – an imbalance the sector is working hard to correct. British Water is leading the way with its second Women in Water event, taking place in Manchester in October.
Tania Flasck, director and head of UK infrastructure at Turner & Townsend, the global professional services consultancy, will be among the speakers.Turner & Townsend is also event sponsor.With over 25 years’ water and utilities experience, Flasck is passionate about supporting women in the sector. Here, she shares some insights and tellsus why Women in Water is so important.
Q: Why do we need events like Women in Water?
TF: Events like this are hugely important because they provide a safe forum for women to be open about challenges, share their experiences and learn from others. They also provide an opportunity to make good connections, seek out support and grow your network. All of this is valuable for personal development and building confidence.
Q: What do you hope the event will achieve?
TF: I’m expecting some really positive outcomes. We’ll be sharing stories and insights and people should come away with some tools to help them manage their career and balance multiple demands. The previous event was very well received, and this will build on that. We’ve looked at the feedback and requests from the earlier event and will be drilling into some specific topics, such as career goals and confidence building.
Q: What can we expect from the presentations and workshops?
TF: All the speakers are aiming to make the event hands-on and engaging. The day won’t just be one-way dialogue, it will be mainly workshop-style, so fast-paced and hopefully fun. We’ve got a lot to pack in. We’ll all be talking candidly about our experiences and learning and sharing. Inevitably, there will be some great connections made, as there were last time.
Q: What advice would you give women about to enter the water industry?
TF: I’ve got three bits of advice:
- Don’t try and be something you’re not – be your authentic self. Leverage your strengths and focus on what you can do well. Don’t dwell on your weaknesses.
- Take pride in what you do. Water is a really amazing sector; it truly sustains life. You’ll be making a real difference and I’ve found being part of that so satisfying.
- Be open to new challenges. You might automatically think you can’t do something, when you actually can. I see this a lot in people. If you have an opportunity presented to you, always consider it and try to take it. You will always get help and support along the way. Don’t be afraid.
Q: And what would you say to women who don’t feel they’re getting the right career support?
TF: One of the most common things I see is people not asking for help, not reaching out to others. Talk to someone you trust and tell them about the situation, to get an objective view. It’s easy to jump to assumptions about people’s intent but this is often misplaced, so a fresh perspective can be important. If you still don’t feel supported, think through your options, talk these through, create some space to think – clear your mind by going for a walk or doing something different. Think how you can turn the situation around. Think carefully and don’t jump to conclusions or make snap decisions. Nine times out of 10, the real issue is communication, or a lack of. Positive intent is normally there.
Q: What is being done to address the gender imbalance in the water industry?
TF: I’ve noticed that there is a real desire for change with a lot of sharing between companies. The gender imbalance is not going to be fixed overnight but the intent is there, as is a real commitment, from what I can see in most organisations. We need to continue to share approaches across the sector. I sit on the Highways England Supplier Diversity Forum, which includes contractors and consultants, and collaborating in this way is very powerful.
Q: What can be done to encourage more young women to take up STEM careers?
TF: I’m passionate about starting to engage as early as possible. Role models are so important. I was lucky to have a great role model in my mum, who was a forklift truck training instructor. She had a great career in a massively male-dominated world and she loved it. There should be obvious focus on primary and secondary education, and key is normalising all careers with no gender bias or stereotyping. Subtle messaging from teachers and parents makes a real difference, and storytelling can be very powerful. Social media can help with this.
Finally, organisations like ourselves have a huge role in outreach. At Turner & Townsend, we actively encourage all staff to take part in corporate responsibility community work to help with role model visibility. Even if you influence one person, it’s been a success.
Q: What kind of support have you received that has made a difference to your career?
TF: Coaches, sponsors and mentors have all been critical to my career. The late Dr Stephen Bird, who we sadly lost recently, was managing director of South West Water and was one of my first bosses. He intimidated me initially, but I respected him hugely. He was an absolute rock and would always challenge me in a constructive way to think differently. I would not have been able to address some of the challenges in my career without his sage advice.
Q: Finally, what do you hope to get from Women in Water?
TF: I’m really looking forward to learning, sharing, getting involved and making some new connections.
Tania will lead workshops on networking and confidence building at Women in Water.
When: Wed, 16 October 2019, 10am-6pm
Where: MWH Treatment, The Soapworks, Colgate Lane, Salford Quays, Manchester M5 3LZ