Promoting gender equality in the water sector – #womeninwater
On the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8th, German Water Partnership launches the new column “Women in Water”. Together with interview partners from the international water industry, the association shines a light on the role of women in the still predominantly male water supply and sanitation sector. The interview series aims to make women more visible in the industry and encourage young professionals to pursue a career in the water sector. In our first interview we talked to German Water Partnership’s General Manager Julia Braune.
Before taking over the GWP management, Julia Braune already had many years of professional experience in the field of environmental services. After obtaining a law degree, she first worked in the recycling industry before embarking on a career in the water sector. Since 2017, she has been General Manager of German Water Partnership. Her reasons to focus on the water were the following: “The environmental services sector as a whole is playing an essential role when it comes to protecting our environment and shaping our lives as well as those of future generations. The water sector in particular is often underestimated in terms of its impact on health, nutrition and economic development. However, it offers great potential in a wide variety of areas, whether it is energy saving, flood protection, irrigation in agriculture or the early detection of pandemics. The diversity of topics and the immediate effectiveness of improvements in the water and sanitation sector on the quality of everyday life fascinated me from the start.”
With regards to the new GWP column #womeninwater, she explains the significance and background of gender equality: “Although there is a large number of competent and well-trained women, management and decision-making positions in particular are primarily occupied by men. This does not only apply to Germany but can be observed all over the world. Nevertheless, decisions in the water and sanitation sector have a direct impact on women and their life. Therefore, their perspective on these topics must be taken into consideration. With the interview series and its launch on International Women’s Day, we want to draw attention to this issue. At the same time, we generate more visibility for women who are already active in the water sector by presenting their everyday work and sharing their experiences.”
In this context, it is important to represent as many different perspectives as possible – including not only German, but international interviewees, as well. To this end, GWP draws on its extensive network in the water sector: “As this is a topic of cross-national importance, it was important for us to include women from all over the world. Among others, we are excited to announce Leticia Ackun, gender specialist at our partner organisation African Water Association (AfWA), or Beverley Ferrera, European representative at our US partner The Water Council.”
The aim of the campaign is, however, not only to share the experiences and working life of various women in the water sector; the format also aims at generating role models, thus making the industry more attractive to women in general: “In terms of promoting young professionals in the water sector, we would be happy if our interview series motivated more women to take this career path.” Julia Braune also expresses this wish looking back on her own experiences: “I was lucky enough to have the chance to take on responsibility in a management position and perform at a young age. Unfortunately, this is still not a matter of course for many women today.” Nevertheless, she continues, more and more opportunities are created to pave the way for women to excel in male-dominated industries – including at German Water Partnership: “The will to bring more women into management positions in companies and to support them in their professional growth is increasing. Advantages of mixed management bodies are obvious, and I am very pleased to see how the number of women in management positions in the water sector is steadily growing. But there is still room for improvement. At GWP, we too would be very happy to see even more women from the membership engaged as active participants and leaders of our committees.”
However, she points out, personal preferences should be considered first when making career decisions. “My advice to young women is to look for a job that they can identify with and that really sparks their interest. As in all matters, you are most successful in your professional life when you don’t count the hours but enjoy the working process and the results. You grow with the tasks you take on and should dare to achieve ambitious goals. Along the way, it is also important to find companions and supporters to build up a network for the job of tomorrow. This can be achieved, for example, through involvement in associations and organisations such as GWP. Active networking is a career factor that should not be underestimated.”
To Julia Braune, the joy in her work especially lies in the global dimension of water and the positive impact of international cooperation: “For me, water is a topic that unites internationally – both on a human and professional level – and can thus also bridge cultural and political borders. Building a network in countries on such the base of a common theme,even if there might be diplomatic tensions, is of great value and perhaps particularly important today.”
German Water Partnership e.V. (GWP) is a network of around 300 companies and institutions from German industry and research in the water sector. With its column “Women in Water”, the association enters into an exchange with international industry representatives and shows the everyday professional life of women in the male-dominated sector. In the next issue, we look forward to Leticia Ackun, Gender Specialist at the African Water Association.