It’s hard to be what you can’t see: How to get more Women in Water?

with 🎙️ Ulrike Kelm – Chair of the Women in Water and Sanitation Network

💧 The Women in Water and Sanitation Network is an active ambassador for gender equality, connecting and empowering female professionals, expanding women’s career opportunities, and increasing their visibility.

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What we covered:

🍏 The societal patterns we all grew up with, that might explain the 83/17 gender rate we experience in the Water Industry

🍏 How role models might be the best way to break those patterns, and how this starts with visibility

🍏 How regulations and strong incentives might be the only ways to overcome the gender imbalance

🍏 How networking leverages our social nature to bring the necessary support to every woman water professional to achieve herself

🍏 How the dream to break down gender barriers in water and sanitation might only be one generation away

🍏 How the full talent pool (regardless of gender considerations) will be needed to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals

🔥 … and of course, we concluded with the 𝙧𝙖𝙥𝙞𝙙 𝙛𝙞𝙧𝙚 𝙦𝙪𝙚𝙨𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣𝙨 🔥 


Teaser:


Resources:

➡️ Send your warm regards to Ulrike on LinkedIn

➡️ Visit the Women in Water and Sanitation Network’s Website

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is on Linkedin ➡️


Infographic: Women in Water

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Full Transcript:

These are computer generated, so expect some typos 🙂

Antoine Walter:

Hi Ulrike, welcome to the show.

Ulrike Kelm:

Hello. Thank you very much for having me.

Antoine Walter:

I’m very happy to have you, and let’s start new with our good old traditions. I love to start with the postcard, which is kind of funny when you think of it, because I’m the French guy calling someone, which is not French in France, but you are right now in Paris. So can you give me a postcard from Paris?

Ulrike Kelm:

Oh, and this, this very moment. It is a gray sky, but actually it’s close to April, but this morning it was sunny and beautiful. Now it’s gray. It will rain soon. And I hope that after that we will have sun again, but well, anyway, this helps not much when you are fighting to be insight to the current situation,

Antoine Walter:

Somehow even better. You’re not tempted to go outside because it’s not too sunny or, you know

Ulrike Kelm:

Yeah, yeah. That, that was actually the problem. During the past weeks that people were really happy about spring weather and gathering outside. And then we could see the bat numbers that were raising and giving a very difficult situation to all of us. So we have to be patient sitting inside and hoping that everything will be soon over.

Antoine Walter:

So I’d be interested to understand how your path brought you to Paris. And actually you have kind of a twofold path if I might say so you are on the same time, a professional of the communication world and you are of course, a professional of the water world. So can you swiftly take us through your, your steps?

Ulrike Kelm:

I being honest, I wouldn’t say I’m neither nor my idea was when I left school was actually to save the world to make everything a better place. This is the very normal wish of someone who has no clear professional idea. So I would just thought like, I want to do something international. I want to travel. I want to meet people from different cultures and I want to make this world a better place. And so I started with studies on international relations and this brought me to economic. The economics fair and I worked on social security, which I felt was absolutely key for societies to propel into a policy future. And then after a while a friend told me something about water and I was like, what, what are we have water? What do you mean? And then it turns out that water is everywhere it’s important and any subject you can think of.

Ulrike Kelm wants to see more woman in water, exactly like we've seen more efforts placed in clean water production

Ulrike Kelm:

And so this was really very welcoming for me because I couldn’t really make my mind up of be working on this fair, working on that, being a specialist on development studies or on economic studies or on gender issues or on whatever. So I found out at water was everywhere. This is a cross cutting issue. That’s that buzzword here. So it’s everywhere. You can find it in any subject you wish to work on. And then I found out that communications does exactly the same without being an expert. You can work on all the different topics because as soon as you require experts, you have them at your hand, you train them how they can speak in public, or you publish with them a book, a report, you film a documentary movie on specific subjects. And as soon as you require some deeper insights, you always call the real experts who studied the respective subject.

Ulrike Kelm:

So I think with water and communications, I really cover my broad interest of being everywhere with everything and involved in everything. So this is actually my, my motivation and how I came to Paris. Actually, I started off in Latin America, working for the German development corporation sector, came back to Europe for an assignment for the GIZ working for the international for an international conference. When I got involved in the policy processes, then I went back to Latin America for another assignment. Then I got another job in the United nations working again in shaping policy processes, working for the cause, like advocating for the topic on water and sanitation. This is where we started off the campaign on a sustainable development goals, implementing the sustainable development goals. And then I went further on to work for water utilities, also pushing them into the policy processes, advocating for the cause of safe water and sanitation management. And after that, I worked for the international water association doing exactly the same, but for different cause working for individual water professionals, pushing them into the sphere of international relations, international networking and getting the message out. So actually, and this brought me at the end to Paris, let’s say like this, I moved around following the jobs

The double skillset of Women in Water

Antoine Walter:

Actually still, I see that as a double competence somehow, you know, having this this communication and in the water elements and actually what you said at the very beginning, your friends telling you about water and you thinking we have water. What are you talking about? It sounds to me like as an industry, as a, as a sector, the water words still has much communication efforts to do so that the public opinion gets it, that a there’s the sustainable development goals that, and beyond all of that, there’s an industry which is there to, to provide us with, with drinking water, into, to sort out our wastewater. Is it still an open challenge?

Ulrike Kelm:

Of course it is a challenge and it always depends on whom to your talk to. So my friend talked to me and I’m from Northern Germany while we have excellent water coming out of the tap and the wastewater flushed away into the wastewater system being cleaned up, the rivers are clean. Now we can swim in rivers. So for me, water has always been like, yeah, it used to be polluted, but now it’s clean people do it. It’s fine. I didn’t spend much thought about what is behind all this process of doing so, but I have worked and lived in developing countries where you have water shortage for days where you don’t have a running water in your home that you have to store water and Dick basins on the rooftop or in your patio where you cannot shower. But you just have the little, how do you call it?

Ulrike Kelm:

Like a little cup, which you can water your body and then soap it up and then water again. And everything is cold. You never I’ve got warm water. So I experienced this, but it’s of course when you’re from a rich country and from a middle-class family, you think like, Oh yeah, that’s fun. That’s exciting. But you never think about what it is to really live with this every single day of your life without having changes on. I just found it always very complicated to where to drink water because you couldn’t drink the water coming out of the tap and certain countries. So all these things, but it’s, it’s a luxury for when you just think like, Oh yeah, I experienced this and I know how it is not, I don’t know. I experienced it. I watched it, I got my awareness got raised on this, but as soon as I got home, I forget because I don’t have this feeling.

Ulrike Kelm:

But then I talked to my parents and my parents are actually world war, second world war refugee children. So they know exactly how it is to carry the water home and to walk without shoes and to carry the water. And when I reported back my experience, I made abroad in difficult situations. My parents said, Oh yeah, we know this. And then they started telling their story. And I thought like, wow, it’s just one generation away that I live in pure luxury and health and without any problems at all. And they experienced the absolute opposite. And so when this friend raised this topic, water is an issue that is discussed worldwide, should be raised more on the international agenda to make it happen on the national and local levels. And you really start thinking like, yeah, how can I contribute to this? What can I do?

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Ulrike Kelm:

I’m not an engineer. I don’t know how to do with chemical stuff. I can count until 10, but I cannot calculate things. So, so these was my situation. And then I found out, but yeah, that’s more than just really be working on the ground. You can pave the way to make things happen because it’s all different parts of societies within a local area or globally that are involved. It’s the users, it’s the decision makers. It’s the public authorities, it’s communities that are involved. It is cultural. So there’s so many ways of getting engaged and raising awareness on this topic. And usually when you do not have to think about it, it means like everything is fine. But as soon as you have to think about it, you know, that things are not doing well.

Antoine Walter:

I’d like now to take it to your, your role today. You know, you’re chairing the women in water and sanitation network. And your mission States that you aim your members to become agents of change. So what is the change you’re aiming at here? I think it’s now besides the topic of water, if I get it right, there’s a change to happen inside his industry. And it has something to do with the women in water, right?

Ulrike Kelm:

Yeah. Well, when we think about women award or we can see them, their role two fold, one is they as users. And usually they are the ones who care for the family, for the households who have the primary burden for looking after the wellbeing of the family members. But the other one is they also have jobs. They work, they are workforce. So what a mind that work women and water and sanitation network does is we concentrate on the workforce on the people who studied, who learned profession and to work in this profession. And we want them to be visible. We want them to be xan equal member of the labor, how you call it labor society. Can we save it of yeah. Of the labor pool? We want them to be equal. We want them to be seen. We don’t want them to be hidden away.

Ulrike Kelm:

We don’t want our women to be shy or to be disencouraged. We want really to encourage them to show ways of, um, professional development, how to achieve, uh, professional goals, how to find role models, et cetera. So we do this actually by first of all, by meeting. So we meet we network. When you ask our members what they want. They always say networking. They want to meet like-minded people from the same background or from a different background, but working on the same topic on water and sanitation. So this is really the first thing they all want. And what we then do is we engage with them. We train them, we support them and trainings and we support them and learning, how do we do this? We have a, for example, a series. Well, I think I have to say we are a young network we’ve been around for two years.

Ulrike Kelm:

So I cannot really talk about a big history. So we have been doing so far a series of engaging talks of meet and greets where people can just meet now online, due to the pandemic, but it really works well where they meet, where they find themselves together in small meeting rooms and they can exchange on topics. They are interested in. This helps them to learn from each other and also to week, this helps all of us to influence. The other thing that we do as an organization is that we partnership and we cooperate with other organizations. So this is why it’s important that we’re not just a loose group of women meeting. Sometimes we are an organization. So this means like we can be addressed by other organizations to cooperate on certain topics. For example, we are working on a report on women in the water sector, a professional women in the water sector. So we got approached by another organization and international organization to work on this report. And we can forward this call to our very knowledge for membership. And then we have our expert members contributing to this report. So this helps us to shed light on, on the female workforce and the sector. And this helps us to advocate for the cause to advocate for female workforce in an unfortunately very male dominated sector,

When you don't have to think about the place of Woman, it means that all is fine. But very often, you think about it, which means that things are not doing well.

There are only 17% of Women in Water

Antoine Walter:

Actually to that specific point, you know, when I was preparing for our discussion, I just had a look at some statistics and it turns out that in the water sector, there are less than 17% of women, which places us slightly better than the taxi drivers, but we are lower than the clergy, which is crazy. When you think that in some religions, it’s simply forbidden to be in the clergy, if you’re a woman, but still there are more women in clergy than in the water sector. So is there any kind of explanation to that? Or would you have a feeling about that?

Ulrike Kelm:

Being honest? I don’t know. I think it’s a cultural thing. It’s we grew up on certain patterns that we separate boys and girls, uh, jobs and the future that we have, or even the work environment. Some is easier for women than for men. You can experience experiences all around. For example, in the police force, there’s this, although we have a lot of women working there, but still they say it’s a very male dominated sector or fire brigade to have the same. It’s a very male dominated sector. Although women can do the same job and in the water sector, it’s, there are so many different jobs in the water sector coming up nowadays that more and more women get also involved because for example water utilities concentrate more on service. So you have a lot of service jobs like client service answering phones or et cetera.

Ulrike Kelm:

And this is very female. I once worked in a big national water commission in Mexico, and it was a high building. Their headquarters was a really high building. I think 14 floors. My department was the communications department, mainly women. And we were located in the 11th floor. So in the morning when you get up into the elevator, the elevator was full with men, but they all left and then lower floors. And the one, two, three, four, five, and then the lessons floor, it was just women, women leaving the elevator, going into the desks and the communication department. So it seems like that was a very female job. And when you visited some of your colleagues in the other floors where the technical development was, or whatever is in or the law department or whatever, suddenly you could see me nearly one or two other women around mainly secretaries or assistants of some head of departments and the others, they were all men around.

Ulrike Kelm:

So it was a very strange atmosphere. And then you got up into the communications department, you had a very nice, colorful carpet, beautiful furniture plants around, and you could see how, yeah, it’s a female style here. It looked so different. And when I have a look at experience that I heard from friends out of the sector, or even my own experience, when you are in this male environment, it feels sometimes strange being there because it’s either they don’t talk much to you, or you have very strange jokes that are not really funny for a woman to listen to. For example, a colleague from Senegal. She told me that, although she was a superior of her partner when she was working in the field, no one talked to her. They all were always talking to her partner and she wasn’t allowed to drive the car. It was her partner who should do this.

Ulrike Kelm:

And he was a man and she was his superior, but the society didn’t understand this. And another colleague of mine and Spain, she was the first woman in a, it was a public entity of a water department. And she was the first woman there. And she didn’t even have a bathroom for herself. And she sat, she was the first day in this office looking and finding her way through. And at the end of the day, she was crying. She was really desperate because she felt so lost. So excluded. And of course, I cannot say, this is a really scientific gender study, but these are stories that you’re here and to hear them a lot. And I’ve never heard any, anything similar from a man, never.

We need more visibility for Woman in Water, more visibility for Femals Water Professionals! That's what Ulrike Kelm shared.

Can success stories bring more Women in Water?

Antoine Walter:

You mentioned the stories, you know, everything you say here relates quite strongly with you know, I’ve been, I’ve been telling it’s already on that microphone in previous episodes, but I am somehow a water kid. You know, my, my parents met in an, a water engineering school. So I’ve been in that sector forever. And I’ve been hearing a lot of my, my mother telling me that she was the head of a department in engineering department. And usually when someone from outside would come and meet her, the first thing you would ask is, can I meet your boss? Because they couldn’t believe that a woman was the boss. So you referred to, to that element of the patterns. And you know, when Amazon was trying to automate everything and to make it so easier to find out the best talents they put in place an artificial intelligence, which was built on machine learning.

Antoine Walter:

And that was there to detect some patterns and pretty fast that artificial intelligence was only recruiting males in their thirties to forties, white, and coming from the same schools. And not because that artificial intelligence had a superior conscience, that it would be a racist or really against woman, but just because the machine was detecting patterns and reproducing patterns. And that is to me, the perfect example who shows what’s we have to overcome, but how can we beat a pattern? Is it with stories? Is it with references? Is it with examples? What would be your take at the beating that that’s pattern? Oh,

Ulrike Kelm:

It’s, I think it’s, it’s very typical. We always stick to what we know and what we know best. Although we consider it maybe not the best solution, but we stick to it. You can witness it in political elections. People tend to elect the same old that experience they made before, but they do not really opt for change. It’s that change is very difficult because it’s really shaking everything through, for example when you have a look for example, at, at research right now with the COVID pandemic, we have the situation that there has been a lot of research done around, et cetera, and that you find out that, Oh, there’s a lot of research going on for men. And then you find out that then the history of medical research, it’s more, more concentrated on men. You find out that, for example, other things, and we deal with, I’ve just learned recently that even a piano is designed for men because men have bigger hands.

Ulrike Kelm:

So they reach each tone easier than a woman who tends to have smaller hands. So even there, we find the male domination in, in our daily life and me being a left-handed person. I know exactly what this refers to because in my daily life, every single day, I find something I have to adapt to and which is not adapted to me. I have to adapt to it because it’s made for absolute different people than I am. So it’s really, I have to be the flexible one. And I think this is what women tend to do. They are the flexible ones. They adapt to situations. But when we have a look back and the development of change in culture, of course, I can always talk for my own culture with, it’s not Northern Germany. I cannot really talk here for others until early seventies, that a woman, when she wanted to work outside the house, she had to ask her husband for permission and the same as when doing a driving license and my country and Norfund Germany.

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17+ hours of tips, technical advice, business hints, entrepreneurial inspiration, and market insights condensed in a MASSIVE 94 PAGES INFOGRAPHIC

20 chapters featuring 19 experts, each one addressing a specific chunk of the water industry cake

An evergreen source of Water Expertise at your fingertips to support you through 2021 and the years to come

Book Cover: Don't Waste Water Podcast, Season 1 in a nutshell

Ulrike Kelm:

And I think this is very strange thing. So I never experienced this, but my mother, that was her use. That’s when she lived. And I grew up in the feeling that I could do anything I wanted to do. And without any limitations, because I had a mother who fought through this. So I had my mother like role model. We can say she fought that we had equal jobs at home. So cleaning, cooking, et cetera, no matter where the father, mother, or children. So we all had our work to do at home. It wasn’t just one providing for all the others. And when you have a look down at the international campaigns that are around, we have me too and equal pay. These are two big hashtags that are around the world at the moment. So we can see that this is definitely a topic that has to change that is, has to raise awareness about.

Ulrike Kelm:

And we definitely need to do something similar for jobs that to say that women can do the same job says, man, I don’t want to say that women are better in shops that different people with a different background, a different perspective and feeling full life because we are different. We are not all the same. We come from different backgrounds, we have different genders. We have different wishes. We have different cultures. So embracing all of them really helps the overall society because we are not just one male white male between 30 and 40 is as your AI from Amazon wanted us to be. So it’s very interesting to have a look at this and really make a look at your own, the own surroundings, what you see around everyone’s yourself,

Adressing all the talents, regardless of their gender

Antoine Walter:

If I pick into what you just said. Two elements that I see a big element of hope, which is that it took one generation to go from something which has granted like this to your perception, where a woman could, do much more than what’s a, your mother was allowed to do somehow. So that is the positive thing. Now, the, the challenging thing, it’s the role model aspect, because to have a role model, of course, if you are at home in your role mode, that is issue your father, your mother, you always have it in clear sight. And I guess that’s the easy role model puts easy between between brackets, of course, but still, still easy. How can we ensure that withinthis water industry, which is desperately looking for talents, which is missing talents, and somehow who forgets half of the talents by letting a lot of talented woman, aside of the road, how can we ensure to create those role models,

Ulrike Kelm:

How to create role models, especially showing them it’s the visibility it’s so obvious just to really make them be seen, to ensure that we have not just for example, on the conferences male only panels, because you always can find a good woman on the same job as a man. And if you really count through, then you have to say, we have six panelists and we don’t want all of them being white male. We want them to show what the workforce office, and if you show more of them on stage, if you show more of them as capable women, as they are as professionals, then you might influence even society. Then you can really change the, the aspiration of young girls in school that they might get interested into achieving this very demanding career. Because being honest, the water sector careers are very, very difficult.

Ulrike Kelm:

It’s high profession it’s really study. It’s hard, hard to study. It’s not an easy going thing. So when a woman really manages to be there, she is absolutely a professional. She, she can, she can do the same as a man and the man can do the same as the woman. So I, that shouldn’t be any difference and we should make this visible. And this is actually what my network wants to push. We want to push women onto the forefront. We want to make them see, we want to make them hurt. We really want to advocate for women in the sector and to be seen and respected and to be seen as a very normal professional as they are

How do you break a pattern of gender inequity? We are all grown to male and female stereotypes, visibility shall be in for the save. So speaks Ulrike Kelm!

Antoine Walter:

Talking of this visibility and awareness. I remember when we had our, our first discussion together preparing for that call. One of the things that you mentioned, one of the first thing you mentioned is that it made a change when Diane d’Arras became president of the international water association, because it was for the first time that there was a woman leading somehow the leading organization of that sector. Could you see that as a turning point? Or is it more of an anecdote?

Ulrike Kelm:

I hope it’s not an anecdote because, because I’m at turning point is when you start changing the inside of an organization too. And with Diane d’Arras she made a lot of changes. She had a super payor with her executive director and the board of directors where they all supported change. So it was the moment. It was a moment she wasn’t there before the moment was for her. And she is actually very experienced and pushing through big goals and a very male dominated environment. So she’s very experienced and starting change, pushing change and having a vision of change. And I hope this is long lasting.

Can Women of Power act as role models for Women in Water?

Antoine Walter:

You know, you mentioned also CoVid, which was there at the beginning of our conversation. What COVID has shown somehow as well in a surprising way, is that, I mean, there was the negative. I remember that the first week of lockdown, almost one year ago, where all the experts, which were invited on the TV were all male. And then people started to raise their hand and say, Hey, come on. They are not only male experts that that cannot happen. And what the long run has shown. And it’s a comparison, which is, I mean, comparing is not necessarily the best way to show things, but steel, that countries that did the best within this crisis are countries like New Zealand, like Germany, and which happened to be here.

Ulrike Kelm:

Don’t say this now. People are very unhappy in Germany with the current trends.

Antoine Walter:

The latest month have a bit, yeah. In Germany were harder. But when you look at New Zealand, New Zealand is the Paragon of the country where everything, now they are back to a new normal. I mean, they, they have masks drop everywhere. Everybody has their vaccine, everything. And it’s a female led country. That could be an inspiration when, when the next election comes around in the next country to say, Hey, if a woman can do it, can we just forget that there’s men and women and just look at the people, you know? So I don’t have really a question here. It’s more, you know, I’d wish for more gender half for, for more brilliant role model. It’s brilliant in the sense that they have this visibility so that everybody catches it and say, Hey, yeah, by the way, gender is an afterthought.

Ulrike Kelm:

Yeah. Well, I wouldn’t say that women are better than men because women haven’t had the chance to prove. So it’s now a first time a first-generation. So it’s really Novell. It’s a new thing that we have so many women leading countries, but when you have a look around women, haven’t had until now really the power to show that they are better. Maybe they are the same as men at the long run. And we just see some very extraordinary examples here, but nevertheless, in society, societies, people should not be excluded and women are half of the population. So why, why should they be excluded from the jobs? Why should they be excluded from having a professional career they want to have, why should they get stuck in the middle somewhere? And we see where these examples that you just mentioned, these very powerful women, and they really fought hard for this. And they are not, not very, it’s not easy, no easy job that they are doing. So it’s really extraordinary personalities that you just mentioned. And what I would like to say is we are 50% of the population. Nobody should be excluded one year. We are not a minority. We are half of it. We are part of it. We are the society. No,

Shall regulation push for Women in Water?

Antoine Walter:

Now, you know, there are two ways to take that is to try to move the sushi and to convince everyone. And the other approach would be to say, maybe we have to force it a bit at the beginning. And once we’ve entrenched that in the habits, probably we can release these enforcements. And I remember on that microphone, I had the discussion with Walid Khoury and he was mentioning that when he was hiring, when he was in his former role at attack, he would always take 10 candidates, five guys, five women, and really taking it on gender. And once he had done that, then it would simply take the best candidates out of the 10 and forgetting about a woman or, or male. That is one way that I would call it an internal rule. But above that, there could be an additional step, which would be to say, why not regulate. Why not say by law, there must be so much persons of each gender, at least in a board, at least in a company, at least in an engineering department. Do You think change can happen without that regulation. And you think regulation could bring something or I’m fully French with this vision of everything should be regulated.

Ulrike Kelm:

Well I think when I just have a look at data, for example, from the world bank report from 2019, it says there that in utilities, an average of 23% of female engineers and managers are 23% of the engineers and managers off female. This is not many. And when you say an average, this means that there are utilities without any woman engineer or any woman manager. So it’s, it’s really when you have a look around it’s and you see these low numbers, then you really think like, yeah, we have to force it. We have to push it because from itself, it doesn’t work. We see it because the workforce is there, educated people are there. Why don’t they hire them? Because they stick to old ideas that they cannot get rid of. And to push these ideas, you often need to have strong incentives to change company cultures, to change the mind of a hiring department, for example, or to change the mind of career paths.

Get Season 1's Summary!

17+ hours of tips, technical advice, business hints, entrepreneurial inspiration, and market insights condensed in a MASSIVE 94 PAGES INFOGRAPHIC

20 chapters featuring 19 experts, each one addressing a specific chunk of the water industry cake

An evergreen source of Water Expertise at your fingertips to support you through 2021 and the years to come

Book Cover: Don't Waste Water Podcast, Season 1 in a nutshell

Ulrike Kelm:

So when you think about whom to engage into this change, it is definitely national laws or constitutions or labor laws that need to be changed. And at the same time, cultures and traditions, that public awareness needs to be changed. So you have to tackle all at once, whether that is a quota for women in the board, or whether it is something else. I think this should be really, really be seen by each company or each country or each culture itself, what works best. I think it’s very difficult to say this from my point of view, it’s very difficult to say this. The only thing that I can say is there’s an awareness gap, and we have to really put advocate for a change, how the saints is managed. It’s up to the ones who need to manage it. We cannot make the decisions for them, but the quota is definitely an tool that has been used for a while in several countries. And in many countries it has worked and maybe that’s something, that’s an idea.

How to network between Women in Water

Antoine Walter:

We’ve seen the role model aspect. We’ve seen the potential regulation aspect. So we have here the visibility elements, but we also have the potential enforcement aspect, but you are heading a network. And you alluded to at the, at the beginning about this networking element. I remember from my times in Suez, I remember some, some female manager who were, were saying they wanted to be the change that they would have loved to see before they stepped in, in those roles. And they were actively pushing women to be working with them, to be close collaborators to them. And that encapsulates this networking element, what’s the strength of a network. How can you develop a network? And how can you leverage a network to achieve better gender diversity in the workplace, in the water sector?

Ulrike Kelm:

Well, that’s the question it’s networking is actually what we are all made of. We are societal animals. Let’s say like this, we always live together in a structure. We always support each other. And if we say we are in network for a certain type of our societies, which is in our case, the woman working in the water and sanitation sector, then it helps them to exchange to see, to share the pre-qual patient or the SP ration ideas. For example, when I was, it was many, many years ago when I was 30 news, still very new in the sector. I was in a conference somewhere. I think it wasn’t a stumble. Yeah, it wasn’t Istanbul. I was in a conference and I share the taxi with four other women, one very senior women who was a name and the sector in that time and us, we were three young women and we were sitting there and the taxi driving.

Ulrike Kelm:

So the heavy traffic of Istanbul, and then this woman, the senior woman, she was talking on the phone with her 91 year old mother and talking to her about medicine, medical, examinations, results, et cetera, et cetera. And when she stopped this call with her mother, all of us three, we were asking her how she was doing arranging family life to, with her professional life, because she had a very professional life. She was full-time professional. I would say a thousand percent engaged in her, her job. And we asked her how she could do this. And she sat down, well, I have to, my husband doesn’t do it. And I thought it was very, very interesting that actually after this conferences, us, this young woman, we met with the young woman in this conference and we started not a real network. It was more like friendship networks.

Ulrike Kelm:

We are from work from different countries, different organization, but we started to network to talk to each other, to write mails, to have group codes, et cetera. Yeah. To, to exchange because that is this need. We felt kind of lonely. There was something that we were missing in our work environment with our colleagues around us, with our male colleagues around us. And so actually we are still all friends with each other. We still support each other, but this was a small, very private network. And when you find out that you can mobilize women, when you just talk to them on international conferences where you meet them or on work meetings, where you meet them, you find out you have something in common. It’s very nice to share. It’s very nice to build something up and supporting each other on the career path means. So I don’t know whether this is the same for men, but for women.

Ulrike Kelm:

It also means that we support each other on, on family issues because still, well, we have very engaged with our, all our families. So the balance to find the balance between profession and passion for the job, and then to have the other tasks around us, still very female. This helps a lot. When you talk to like-minded women who are facing the same situations who have gone through this situation, and you can ask them, how have you done? So tell me, what are your, your advices to the, I can overcome a difficult situation. This is very, very valuable. So, and when we have a look at our network, we find that young women, women who are still students over to middle management professionals to seniors, we have them all there and they all get something out of being connected with you, each other. So the elderly ones, they get from the very young ones that new influences, the new passion, the vision, and the enthusiasm for everything.

Ulrike Kelm:

So you feel, yeah, that’s why I wanted to join it. When I, when I started and the middle ones, they get career pals advices, et cetera. So it’s it’s helps everyone. And when we think about advocating for women in the sector, actually, I always think about a very, as I started off internationally and Latin America, I think about a very Latin American slogan, which was actually a very revolutionary slogan. And it’s means like El Pueblo or nasal Hamas set up in CDOT, which means like together, we are strong and that’s it together. We are strong. That’s why we are together. That’s a encapsulation. Actually.

We always stick to what we know. And this does not help Woman to find a place in the Water World - despite the Water Sector desperately needing those talents, as Ulrike Kelm explains.

Antoine Walter:

You, you mentioned this senior lady, which was somehow a lighthouse when you met her in the taxi, do you have other cool stories or cooler could profiles that you could share us right now?

Ulrike Kelm:

Cool profiles. Actually,

Antoine Walter:

Sorry. Yeah. A path something would share, which can be, you know, use this as a target, to, to replicate, to to get inspired.

Ulrike Kelm:

It always depends on what you really looking for. For example, I get very much inspired by women who, how can I say, who are still humans who do not get absorbed by the, by this follow up? I’m sorry. I don’t know how to say this, then a wonder

Antoine Walter:

Woman. There they are. Yeah.

Ulrike Kelm:

Yeah, because the wonder woman’s, they’re just two or three in the world and the others are normal people. And when you ask them, I, I really think it’s extremely interesting to have a real person behind all this. And you ask for the past for example, we have in our network, we have a mentor mentorship program where we bring exactly these together, the really big stars of the sector who have won prices, who have discovered new things who work on topics of high importance, who were the first women in the sector doing this. And they meet with the very young ones of our network. And they just say, Hey, my career path has been that. And then I remember that in Stockholm, two years ago, the Stockholm water prize, when she said she was a biologist. And she said that, I don’t know why the people didn’t listen to me.

Ulrike Kelm:

Maybe it was because I was a biologist and they were all water professionals, or maybe it was because I was a young woman. So, and when you hear this from a woman who just won a big price and hearing that she was confronted with such difficulties and could overcome these difficulties, then you really get inspired. So right now, I really think about all these big award winners who did a lot of research, who pushed companies through. You already mentioned Diane who let the big water company in South America and Argentina, there are a lot of women now doing first research work on water. And COVID for example, which is now a very hot topic in these days. And this year, and this past 12 months, and being honest, I’m really overwhelmed by, by thinking who to recommend it. I couldn’t, name-dropping, it’s just too many. When I started with one, I think like, Oh, that’s another one. There are really good women out there.

Do Women face a Glass Ceiling in the Water Industry?

Antoine Walter:

When I was in engineering school, in my promotion, there was 55% of women. So somehow it sounded to me like, no, this is not a problem. And probably if you had asked to the girls in, in my promotion, they would say the seminar way, look at men and women. It’s okay. We are half, half, apparently we were all wrong. Unfortunately. So when would you recommend a young professional to start engaging with your network, for instance, or with similar organizations? When is, is the right time, is it’s from the beginning to see what’s the outcome. Is it maybe even earlier to get inspired by about your career within the water world? Is there absolutely no wage and you should be joining at any age, which I guess is probably the best answer, but what’s your take there?

Ulrike Kelm:

I would say it’s always important to look out for inspiring people to be open and to us. But now I feel really like an old woman giving advice to the very young, no, but it’s, it’s really true. You are not alone. That’s the thing. And that’s actually the slogan of my network. We are not alone. We are there together. We can support each other together. We can make us yeah. Help and we can shine together. And that’s not by still being individual and not being just one among many. But I think, I think when you choose a career, you usually have an idea of what you can do with this. And then finding out the way you wish to go. And networking is definitely something very important. And I hope, I hope that in the future, we do not need female only networking a hope in the future. We can have networking for all. But I given, given the current situation of our cultures and of our sector, thinking about this 23% female engineers and managers in utilities on average, given that, making this, that some utilities don’t even have female engineers and managers, I think then the sooner, the better, whenever you feel like you want to make up your mind for a certain profession, look out for other people and get, seek, help, seek support, or seek advice.

Antoine Walter:

And for the woman that might be listening to us right now, how can they join your network? What would be your advice?

Ulrike Kelm:

We are very accessible on social media. The most frequented one is our social media group. On linked in the show. You can find us with women in water and sanitation network, WW S N or an our website, which is currently under construction. So don’t be afraid to find old data that soon it will be shine and shiny and new and beautiful, or you can find us on Twitter or Facebook also. But LinkedIn is definitely the platform where we exchange with our network, where we are most present and yeah, looking forward to meeting new people that,

Antoine Walter:

So obviously if you have a look at the episode notes, all the links will be, will be present there. And WWS Sen is pretty easy to type in to find the on LinkedIn only. It’s a, it’s been a pleasure of discussing with you in this deep dive. I have to be cautious of your time. Nevertheless. So I propose you to switch to the rapid fire questions.

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Rapid fire questions.

Antoine Walter:

So here in that section, the ideas that I try to keep the questions short, and you can try to keep the answers short as well, but I’m never cutting the microphone. So my first question would be what is the most exciting projects you’ve been working on and why

Ulrike Kelm:

Every project I work on? I think it’s very exciting. So right now I would say it’s my latest project, but it’s the networks, the WWF and network where I’m a founding member among a group of wonderful women. We met some years ago and we decided to group us to form a formal network two years ago in 2019. And now we are having over 200 members in all regions of the world in Asia, Africa, Europe, North, and South America. It’s just amazing to see how it’s worked, it’s working, how it functions and that people are interested in joining and supporting the structure and using our network to propel their own ideas and careers and visions. It’s I think right now, of course, this is my super, super exciting project I I’m having at the moment. So I’m very, very happy being there and working for them.

Antoine Walter:

So I had guests that would give us a taste about your next answer, but let me ask, nevertheless, what’s your favorite part of your current job

Ulrike Kelm:

Meeting people? I wouldn’t

Ulrike Kelm:

That’s yeah. That’s how I slogan meeting people. And it’s well it’s meeting people means you learn on a daily basis about how people function, how they think, how they work, what they do. And when I have a look around even our founding members, which is just a handful of people, what diverse backgrounds we have and where live and what our people do. So we have someone who is mixed culture, lived in India, living in Germany now doing international work in companies and having experience in entrepreneurship. We have an American living in Africa, working on really on the ground, influencing local authorities on, for example, building toilets and public buildings, which is something extremely revolutionary. And when you see the background of these people, they have chemical engineers. We have engineers, we have social scientists just talking to them is really an eye opener talking to these people. It’s I can’t stop saying how awesome they are. I really enjoy this. And when you have a look further on in our network, every single person has a unique story, and it’s fascinating to learn. What about what they do when you just ask them, what do you do in your daily life? What is your job? You can just sit there and enjoy what you’re here. It’s incredible. They are S yeah, I’m amazed by them. Wonderful people.

Antoine Walter:

I think we can feel that you transported pretty well. So, yeah. Thanks a lot for that. What is the, the trends to watch out in the water industry?

Ulrike Kelm:

Oh, it always depends where you are, where you live, because it’s a different thing being in Northern Europe or being in Sub-Saharan Africa or somewhere else. So what I think was, is really impressive for me. And of course it’s been around for a while, but it became really, I would say headlines during the past year is tracking waste water and wastewater. You can really find the house of the city of the area where you live in. You can really track what is going on with the people. And they did track. They tracked COVID-19 that tracked the virus that could work on virus outbreaks even before population got tested, just because they could see it in a wastewater. And there were people involved that did microbiology that, that wastewater engineering, that biologists, epidemiologists I’m not worried about my English,

But it’s impressive to see what work they did. And I think for me, this was the most trending during the past 12 months. And I would leave it with this because I think with news trends, latest trends in the water industry for me, this is the most impressive, I would say,

Antoine Walter:

Can you take the opportunity to place here an anecdote and sorry, because that is not going to sound like, like, you know, mansplaining, but you know, I recently re-read Laila miserable from Victoria and there’s two full chapters around the life and the sewer and Victoria go is, is really developing a full theory about the fact that the sewer is the best reflection of the sushi, because you really see everything and you can track everything from the behavior of people from the sewer. And that was two century ago. And now it’s true that with what you alluded to this wastewater base, DPD immunology and the, and the COVID tracking and everything, maybe Victoria was a great water treatment specialist. And he didn’t know it. So, so yeah,

Ulrike Kelm:

Late 19th century, actually, this is where my hometown Hamburg became important for the water sector, because they did track wastewater because they had a cholera outbreak and the city, and didn’t know what to do against this. And then they could really analyze where the wastewater came from, where did it pollute the freshwater Wells, and they could start treating the water. So this is where it was actually born. It was the water and wastewater treatment. And Hamburg was born out of a pandemic and not, not a pandemic. It was an epidemic, I’m sorry, a cholera outbreak. And because they took care of the water, they saved lives and they were really strict with us. They closed Wells. People were not allowed to take water from worlds. They had to educate the people. It was a really big campaign how to do it. And so actually it feels like we are back to Holland to, to the 19th century, no, only with new and modern technology for me, this is definitely one of the most fascinating things, the dirty, dirty sewer wastewater, all of the people.

We are not all the same. We come from different backgrounds, we have different genders, wishes and cultures. Embracing all of that is what really helps the overall society!

Antoine Walter:

Yeah. You know, in a podcast called don’t waste water, I’m not going to contradict you.

Ulrike Kelm:

Okay.

Antoine Walter:

Do you have sources to recommend, to keep up with the water and wastewater market trends aside from, of course, and again, the link is going to be in the episode notes, but the, the women in water and sanitation network, but all the sources,

Ulrike Kelm:

I really can’t recommend a source. I think I’m not the right person, to be honest in this. I’m not, as I mentioned in the beginning, I studied something different. I studied international relations and communications management. So I think really the technical technical questions, shouldn’t be really my questions. Yeah. But, you know aside from

Antoine Walter:

Technical topics, and I’m sorry, because now I’m sidetracking you, but I know that for instance, I have some, some people in my junior world where, when there’s a specific topic, which comes in the news, I have no understanding of that topic at all, but I know that if I go to those people, they’re going to be able to, to break it down in something that even the stupid, so me can understand, and I don’t need to grasp the topic. I just know that those are my go-to, those are my proxy to understand something happening out there. And within the water words, I have these kinds of people, but I know that when there’s something popping up on a specific topic, if I try to get my head around that, I’m just gonna have a huge headache when instead of what’s, I can just give them a call and they’re going to explain it to me. So, yeah, that’s a, I mean, there’s all kinds of sources just to say that

Ulrike Kelm:

It’s, I’m being honest, I’m it really would need to be the really precise question because I’m very general it’s. I get my information from both from technical sources, like people or journals over to international organizations. And there’s always some good look out for data. For example, when I work on my topics, I really love to, as I cite cited before the world bank reports or United nations as an overarching topic, and then I can take deep down into the expert journals and expert publications, but to GI, for example GI water is definitely something or Bluefield research or water leaders and RFS. So many,

Antoine Walter:

That’s a hell of sources. See,

Ulrike Kelm:

It’s, it’s, it’s, it’s really, it’s, it’s there. People, as people are very academic in the sector, they tend to publish a lot. So we don’t run out of new latest research and results. So people are really academic and they really appreciate good education. So for example, if you really want to look into sanitation, my first source will always be the Delft university because they have a sanitation school where people from all over the world come and study on the specific topic of sanitation. And then they go back into the countries and change, because that is something I do some advertisement for this university now, but it’s really wherever you travel, you find people from this university and key positions on this is something extremely interesting to see, to observe,

Get Season 1's Summary!

17+ hours of tips, technical advice, business hints, entrepreneurial inspiration, and market insights condensed in a MASSIVE 94 PAGES INFOGRAPHIC

20 chapters featuring 19 experts, each one addressing a specific chunk of the water industry cake

An evergreen source of Water Expertise at your fingertips to support you through 2021 and the years to come

Book Cover: Don't Waste Water Podcast, Season 1 in a nutshell

Antoine Walter:

Gives us a hint into the strength of, of networking. Just do do to put things in perspective as well. But of course, networking comes for a reason and that it’s the chicken and the egg who was there at first, the technical knowledge or the network. So, yeah,

Ulrike Kelm:

It’s the power it’s really. And because we deal with societal stuff, it’s not just that we deal with isolated issues. Water is really touching everything. It’s touching all our lives. It’s touching the environment, it’s touching the, every living, being on earth that touches us, our societies, our cultures, and our economies. And so we have to do it together.

Antoine Walter:

Well, I think you have a last question on my list and I don’t want to put too much pressure on you, but that’s really the one where I expect a brilliant answer from you. Oh my God. Would you have someone to recommend me that I should definitely invite on that same microphone and to give you a bit of time to think, because you don’t have to be limited to one and please for the one listening to that, it’s not because your name is not going to be cited here that only could doesn’t think of you and does doesn’t want to recommend you. But you know, when I was publishing for it was this this word woman day, somehow I have a problem with the word deal of something, because word, woman day somehow means to me that the other day of the year are not women day, but okay. That’s I’m not sidetracking you here again to do that topic, but I realized that on my podcast where I try to bring this gender diversity topics, I try to bring them forward because I’m the son of a feminist. And if I wouldn’t do that, my mother would simply kill me, but I had only 14% of female guests, which means I’m in a terrible industry. And I do worse than that terrible industry. So to me, it was really painful to see that. So with this long introduction, that’s why I expect you to

Ulrike Kelm:

Have asked me, she should have asked me, I could have recommended you thousands.

Antoine Walter:

So let’s go for the thousands

Ulrike Kelm:

Where to start. I think I being honest at this moment, I really would like to not look too far. I would definitely recommend my co-chair at the women and water and sanitation network, Emily Woods, because she is a very young entrepreneur in the sanitation sector in Kenya. And she’s an American living in Africa and she’s influencing with her work, the community she lives in. And I think being an entrepreneur abroad and Africa is which is not your country, where you look different and you do such a fantastic work. I think it’s definitely more than one story you get out of her. You can learn a lot about how the, for the company is in the sector and the sanitation sector. I would definitely go for her. I can just to name one,

Antoine Walter:

Thanks a lot for this effort to limit it to one, because I do get the feeling from what you were explaining, that there would be thousands. So I’d start with her. And then of course, I might come back to you for further suggestions. All the, it’s been a pleasure discussing this, a very important matter with you. I’m really glad you took some time to enlighten us and to, to show a bit why that matters. So thanks a lot. And I’ve touched you where people can, can reach you outline again, it’s going to be in the episode notes, but there’s your, your website on the progress WWS Sen and there’s your, your LinkedIn group. And I got that. You’re you? You’re also on Twitter probably sooner on tick-tock.

Ulrike Kelm:

Yeah, that’s, that’s another challenge. We, we don’t have staff, so we all do this on a voluntary basis and we need to fill in the continuous communication, but Tik TOK is definitely on our list too. Yeah. And other channels. So that’s more, but yeah. Thanks a lot. It’s been really fun talking to you and with you and answering all your questions. And may I suggest

Antoine Walter:

One follow-up, which I wish to be as soon as possible in the future, but don’t get me wrong a up the day that you dismantle your network, the data to say, okay, we’ve achieved it. So we don’t need to have a specific women in water and sanitation network. And because we are there, we are at 50 50, and people don’t look at gender anymore. I wish that they coms really. Yeah,

Ulrike Kelm:

Me too. Me too. Definitely. I wish this netbook wouldn’t be necessary.

Antoine Walter:

Oh, our agenda. What, what you do next year? Come on now

Ulrike Kelm:

Being honest. I think we need some, several generations. It’s not so easy. We’ve been stuck in situations and the world is facing so many different crisises and global changes. I don’t, yeah. I don’t think cultural changes can be really achieved within short period of time, but we are, we are on a good track having a look around what women do, what they can do, how confident they are. I think that’s the most important thing. Confidence we can get there that makes perfect within this lifetime. Hopefully. Yeah.

Antoine Walter:

So thanks [inaudible] and see you as soon as possible.

Ulrike Kelm:

Yeah. Thanks very much. Thanks for listening to don’t wastewater.

Other Episodes:

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