There has never been a better time to enter the water sector | Talking with The Water Council’s Beverley Ferrara – #womeninwater

On this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8th, German Water Partnership launched its new column “Women in Water”. Together with interview partners from the international water sector, 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 field.

For the fourth issue, we met with Beverley Ferrara, European Representative at The Water Council. Beverley has a background in international marketing and has worked in the US, Middle East and the UK. She is now living in Ireland and working as the first European Representative for The Water Council. In her position, she represents the organisation to international stakeholders, furthers exchange and facilitates personal connections.


As Euopean representative at the Water Council, please briefly describe your role.

Beverly Ferrara (right) and her colleague Karen Frost (left) from the Water Council met with GWP General Manager Julia Braune (middle) at IFAT Munich 2022.

To expand its global reach, in 2018 The Water Council established an outreach office in Ireland, making it easy to facilitate personal connections between stakeholders in the United States and Europe. In simplest terms, that’s my role: I represent The Water Council to European audiences – water hubs, partners and companies – and represent European audiences to The Water Council. By doing so, I connect companies to resources and support them in entering the US Water Sector and exploring opportunities there.
To stay on top of new trends, issues and opportunities, I communicate regularly with European water hubs and groups, speak at European water meetings and attend trade shows, both virtually and in person, such as IFAT in Munich this year, for example.

I particularly enjoy collaborating with our strategic partners in Germany (German Water Partnership), the UK (British Water), Spain (Catalan Water Partnership) and the Netherlands (The Water Alliance), to open new doors to advance business opportunities for our member companies. I have got a lot of trips coming up and I am excited to start travelling and meeting in person again this year, as being able to see a company’s operations on ‘home ground’ helps build a picture of their needs and challenges and how The Water Council might support their entry or growth strategies in the U.S market. Right now, with the new infrastructure act in the US we are seeing a lot of interest from companies, keen to start traveling again, exploring opportunities and meeting with potential new business partners.

You have experienced work environments in the US, Europe and the Middle East. Do you see a different approach to women or gender integration in sectors that are still predominantly male in these countries? If so, how?

Yes, there are definite differences between these regions. However, it is a bit difficult to compare as I was working in different roles and was also at different points in my career. For instance, my experiences in the Middle East took place 20 years ago. Parts of the Middle East are heavily segregated by gender and very conservative, especially when I used to work there – for example when working in Bahrain, I, as a single woman, was unable to visit my client’s project in Saudi Arabia. But that means it wasn’t just my problem – both of us had to work around that, so gender inequalities can cause issues for everybody. I think the bigger point is that I’m the kind of person that doesn’t have much patience for being treated differently – I just want to get work done as professionally as possible, and that’s what I have always focused on.

 From your personal experience, what is your advice to young women who wish to pursue a career in the water sector?

I have become fascinated by the scope, scale and ingenuity of water management activities and encourage young women to take the plunge! I think there’s never been a better time. When I joined The Water Council – just four years ago – I found the water sector to be engineering driven/focused, and at my first few tradeshows it was definitely a male dominated environment! However, the sector is expanding rapidly beyond engineering and going through big changes with the growth of digital technologies, and of course, there is also an increasing focus on climate issues, sustainability and conservation. Attending trade shows after two years, now, it is especially apparent that the industry is changing.

I have also made the experience that many women are really skilled at networking and connecting with one another. At WEFTEC in Chicago and Aquatech Amsterdam, the innovation pavilion and digital hub were buzzing and the demographic was not only younger but also included more women – so it is already happening, I think.

I also think there are great role models in the industry, for example Julia Braun, CEO of the GWP and Lila Thompson, CEO of British Water – both have initiated “Women in Water” campaigns to address gender disparity in the industry and that way, creating a welcoming environment for young women.

Against the backdrop of these developments, does it still make sense to talk about equal opportunities and gender balance in the engineering/tech industry?

I don’t come from a water tech background – I trained as an anthropologist, progressed to a career in international marketing and business development and became hooked on water when I found myself working in economic development in Milwaukee, alongside The Water Council. Having said that, from what I see, I think it’s always worthwhile to pursue equal opportunities and gender balance, in all industries. It is important to have different perspectives in the room, not only gender-wise, but also intersectional, regarding nationality, demographics, etc. – it only adds to the discussion. Diversity of all types only helps us all get to better places, faster.

What is your greatest professional experience?

This is an interesting question!

Thinking about it, I would say there are two highlights – the first was establishing a successful consultancy in Dubai providing outsourced marketing services to international companies operating in the Persian Gulf. In the early 2000’s Dubai was rich with energy and growth opportunities, and an infectious ‘can do’ culture. Interestingly, I was more biased towards hiring women (who were mothers) as I’d just had twins the year before and my time management and organisational skills had improved dramatically!

I am also very proud to be the first water representative in Europe for the state of Wisconsin. I have always loved big ideas, and during my time in Milwaukee, “water” became the signature strategy for the State. I knew that The Water Council was building something important such as programs to encourage innovation and stewardship in water, and I wanted to be part of that. With the work we do, furthering productive initiatives and supporting companies with sustainable technologies, we can really act as an agent of change. Solving the worlds water problem is a big statement to make, but with the value we create working together, we are going to do that.

What does water mean to you?

This is such a big and broad question for me to answer – when I lived in different parts of the world water meant different things. In Ireland I am looking out at flooded fields, but I have also worked in Soweto where people had little access to water supply and sanitation – it was a luxury. In Dubai, a desert city, water was desalinated and tap water tasted horrible, so we bought boxes of bottled water. Thinking back to all that plastic horrifies me now. I am lucky enough to live near the beach, and in the winter, I love walking on the coastal paths and in the summer swimming. Being in or around water changes my mood – I always come back with a problem solved or a fresh idea that no amount of time at the keyboard could solve. There is something magic about water.



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 the column “Women in the water industry – #WomenInWater”, the association enters into an exchange with international industry representatives and shows the everyday working life of women in the male-dominated industry. In the next issue, we look forward to a conversation with Beverly Farrara of The Water Council.

Previously published in this series: