Building a diverse employee base can provide a better future for your utility.
An aging workforce is something a lot of utilities are struggling with. So many seasoned professionals are putting their work boots away and moving on to the next phase of life, and with them, an incredible volume of institutional knowledge is walking out the door.
It’s not always easy to bring enough young, career-minded individuals into your utility to build on past successes and push beyond. The pool of candidates is often shallow, but you can add depth.
This month’s Human Side column discusses the value in mentoring high-potential female employees. Wastewater may not be a career field that draws throngs of over-qualified women, but beyond mentoring, it makes sense to take a closer look at providing more opportunities to women.
We’ve all heard about the glass ceiling women are up against. I certainly understand the concept and how it legitimately plays out in the workforce. And I understand the utility field, how it’s historically been extremely male-dominated, and how that can sometimes lead to a fear of altering the workplace dynamics. I hope you’re not among those who feel this way, but certainly some do.
Now let me tell you a little bit about my experience. I grew up in a single-parent household. My mom worked extremely hard and put three kids through college on her own. I always just knew she was capable of doing and providing anything the family needed. My sister, the oldest of my two siblings and me, graduated from college before I reached high school. She has been very successful throughout her career.
I didn’t grow up with any kind of notion that women were less capable. In fact, the women closest to me were incredibly strong and successful people.
The Human Side column points out that evidence shows organizations benefit from increased gender diversity, but the vast majority of female workers keep knocking their heads squarely into the metaphorical glass ceiling.
My point is less about that ceiling specifically than it is about the need to recruit and hire good people, especially as an aging workforce cycles out and new talent is necessary. In the coming years, with our national infrastructure facing massive issues and as people increasingly recognize the importance of clean water and protecting our resources, the need for a strong and dynamic staff will continue to grow.
Given that need, it only makes sense to expand the pool of potential employees. By doing so you’ll raise your own ceiling. And as Human Side points out, making an effort to mentor female employees and prepare them for leadership roles can bolster your upper ranks. If you need any more evidence, read this month’s profile on Spartanburg Water System COO and WEF Fellow Rebecca West.
Good leadership will play a huge role in moving your utility forward. Embrace all avenues to get there.
I hope these stories can help you and your utilities.
Enjoy this month’s issue.