Celebrating International Women's Day 2020: Women in Water with Claudia Castell-Exner
To mark International Women's Day on 8 March, we asked EurEau President Claudia Castell-Exner to talk about her experience as a woman working in the water sector.
- You’ve been working in a traditionally male-dominated sector for over 20 years. What is your experience with this? Have you seen things change?
In the beginning, as a young professional and at around 30 years of age, it was not so easy. I was more likely to be mistaken for the new secretary than the new technical manager, and I had to prove myself professionally. When I look back, my position and reputation were built up over the years with patience, good performance and personality.
While women had managerial roles in the 1990’s, more women hold these at all levels in water service providers today. Nevertheless, there is still room for improvement at top management levels.
- Are there many women working in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) side of DVGW or its member organisations and in Germany? How does DVGW ensure a level playing field or equal opportunities for women in the workplace?
Yes, there are women working in the STEM side of DVGW and our member organisations.
For example, in my team on water resources, water management and domestic installation, four colleagues, plus myself, out of a team of seven people are women.
Basically, the organisational structure at DVGW is very permeable, i.e. there are good professional development and career opportunities for women.
We are also considering building a women's network in water and energy services - but we are still at the beginning of this project.
- Does your organisation or sector do anything to encourage women to pursue a career in STEM?
We actively promote exchanges between experienced members of DVGW and students - regardless of whether they are women or men. These DVGW university groups benefit from the network at the start of their professional life.
With its funding program, DVGW targets engineers in the fields of energy and water. The support they receive from the mentors during the course motivates them and results in well-trained young people in the industry. The DVGW university groups are not only financially supported, but the students trained in them also have the opportunity to participate in DVGW events. They also benefit from excursions, internships in industry, professional networks and exchanges with experienced DVGW members from the energy and water sectors.
- What advice do you have for women interested in a career in water or STEM?
Strive for your goals! Follow your strengths and interests as this will keep you motivated throughout your professional life. And always stay curious and dare to do things.
When I took over the chairmanship of a committee at EurEau, the European federation of water services for the first time in 2011, I was nervous. Now I have been the president of this federation since summer 2019, and I thoroughly enjoy working with my colleagues from all over Europe and organising our tasks, projects and participation in European policies to achieve an effective and efficient protection of our water resources as well as providing safe, sustainable and resilient drinking and waste water services 24/7.
We are on the right track. Let us continue to encourage and champion women - particularly in STEM sectors - and create workplaces where they play their parts with positive energy and passionate commitment to a future for the next generation.