Achieving gender balance in water utilities

by Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA)

(Other)

A Global Compact member

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The inclusion of women at all levels in the water sector is a priority for Australian water utilities and the Australian Government, this case study showcases work by the Australian urban water industry to achieve gender balance.

Project goal

Boost inclusion and diversity in the workforce with women at all levels in the water sector.

delivering on

why is this project important?

The Australian Government has outlined case for women in water through the High-Level Panel with the Women for Water Initiative. The Australian Water Partnership’s recent paper Gender & SDG 6 The Critical Connection outlines the critical role of women in achieving the clean water and sanitation goal.

impact to date

50%
Victorian board appointees that are Female
8/19
Female chairs increased from three to eight of the 19 Victorian boards

Better gender balance on water utility boards

Increases in the proportion of women in roles traditionally held by males

Increased focus on inclusion and diversity, including gender equity

Utilities recognise that having an inclusive work environment and diverse workplace is recognised as a way to sustainably respond to industry challenges, including growing customer expectations, climate change and technological capability. Many water utilities are undertaking specific action to support gender equity including targeted leadership programs for women.

Water industry efforts for inclusion of women at all levels in the sector is outlined in the WSAA paper Tapping the Power of Inclusion and Diversity in Urban Water. Actions being undertaken by water utilities around Australia to help achieve gender equity include:

  • Communicate the value of gender equity to the organisation
  • Feature profiles of men and women in non-traditional roles, and of employees utilising flexible work practices.
  • Include an explicit diversity commitment in job advertisements.
  • Request that shortlists for management roles include at least one woman.
  • Ask ‘if not/why not’ in selection decisions to achieve gender-balance across all leadership levels and monitor the pipeline for women leaders.
  • Set targets (for example, Sydney Water has a target to achieve 40 per cent female representation of leadership roles by 2020).
  • Encourage participation of high-potential women in internal and industry-wide leadership programs.
  • Train all leaders to recognise unconscious gender bias and to promote inclusive leadership behaviours.
  • Provide reverse-mentoring and sponsorship program for women.
  • Promote gender equity in community engagement activities.

The Women in Water Leadership Program offered by the Peter Cullen Trust is an example of a water industry program designed to support women in leadership roles

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