Professional women’s networks are essential

Enabling women to progress their careers in the water sector through strong networks were highlighted by speakers including AquaFed’s Criselle Alejandro at the 4th Global GWOPA Congress this week.

At the discussion ‘Enabling Environment for Female Operators’, panelists gave a clear message that one of the keys to increasing gender equality is helping women to help themselves.

Creating and supporting networks of women professionals both within their organisation, but also with others in their local area and even internationally, are a proven way of achieving a gender balance in the water and sanitation sector.

And underlying these initiatives are the need to tackle the inequality issue at school and further education level, with much greater encouragement and support for girls to take on STEM careers with greater internships and mentoring.

Alejandro, who is Senior Vice-President of Balibago Waterworks in the Philippines and a member of AquaFed’s Executive Committee, highlighted the wide range of ways her company supports its women employees to flourish in the careers and become leaders. These include:

• Compensation schemes are determined by job position and qualification. No discrimination on salaries whether the person being hired male or female.

• Training programs and job promotions are open for all, no matter what the gender.

• Employees are allowed to leave during working hours if they need to attend to important family matters.

• Flexible working hours and target-based performance are offered to employees whose physical presence are not required in the office.

• Employees are encouraged to use their vacation leaves to spend time with their families.

She said: “We know that women provide a high attention to detail and are creative in thinking of solutions. They have high emotional quotients that benefits dealing with difficult employees, customers and other stakeholders.

“We also are aware that women are sometimes the breadwinners of their families thus they have a strong ambition to succeed and gain financial stability.”

In Balibago, 57% of managers and 74% of the accountants are women.

The event was organised by the Women in Water and Sanitation Network and can be seen here. The messages at the panel echoed those given by AquaFed representative Nerea Plaza at the recent EU High Level Conference on Water and Gender Equality.

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