Fellow my lead: introducing CIWEM's amazing female Fellows

The latest data from membership shows that, 89 per cent of CIWEM Fellows are male and just 11 per cent female.

Keen to help redress this balance but not unsure how to make the leap from Member or sector professional to Fellow? Let the inspiring stories of nine of CIWEM’s dynamic female Fellows from all corners of the water and environmental (WEM) sector inspire you.

Water and environment consultant professor Carolyn Roberts

Roberts currently works on a self-employed basis advising the government agency Innovate UK on new environmental technologies. Her career has focused on university research and teaching, alongside running her own small consultancy business. She became a Fellow in August 1997.

Why did you apply to become FCIWEM – and why would you encourage other women to?

Fellowship gave legitimacy to my consultancy work – a mark of quality that showed that I was respected in the profession. Back in the 1990s, it was very much a man’s world, and the Fellowship helped opened some doors.

Tell us a career or professional secret

Grab every interesting-looking opportunity, and experiment. I started assisting the police with murder victims found in rivers, almost as an accident. But it’s been amongst the most exciting element of my work over the years, and I’ve now completed almost thirty cases.

I talk about this work in an episode of The Life Scientific, BBC Radio 4’s science programme (www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07428bk).

Thames Water Environment Agency liaison and business reporting manager Deena McKinney

London-based McKinney has spent most of her working life at Thames Water in a variety of technical roles in wastewater, and most recently in corporate responsibility engaging with students and stakeholders.

Her passion lies with protecting the natural environment, she co-authored a scientific paper with Middlesex University highlighting the presence of plastics in wet wipes. She became a Fellow in July 2021.

Why did you apply to become FCIWEM – and why would you encourage other women to?

As the principal mentor at Thames Water for our CIWEM accredited professional development scheme, I enjoy helping colleagues on their journey to chartership.

There were no other female Fellows at Thames Water at the time, so I wanted to help pave the way.

Getting involved with CIWEM as a professional reviewer has really helped me on my journey and I’d encourage others to get involved too.

Tell us a career or professional secret

Have a rolling five-year plan, be flexible, it may change, it may take a different course but always have goals that you’d like to achieve and have confidence in your own ability.

City to Sea founder Natalie Fée

Fée is an award-winning environmentalist, author of How to Save the World for Free, speaker and founder of City to Sea, a Bristol-based organisation she set up in 2015 to run international campaigns to stop plastic pollution at source. She became an honorary Fellow in September 2021.

Tell us how you became HonFCIWEM – and why you would encourage other women to accept if they’re nominated

I was nominated because of my campaigning work through City to Sea, which is focused on stopping single-use plastic at source. Aside from the warm, fuzzy feeling of having people recognise the work you've been doing, I think it's important to welcome these kinds of opportunities as a chance to have your voice heard.

Tell us a career or professional secret

Before going on stage or doing a media interview, I bring the Laysan albatross to mind – the ones that inspired my change of career to become a plastic campaigner – and I say, 'this is for you'.

Property flood resilience campaigner Mary Dhonau OBE

Dhonau runs specialist independent property-flood-resilience consultancy, Mary Dhonau Associates (MDA), which works closely with the Environment Agency and local authorities to promote the uptake of property flood resilience within communities at risk of flooding. She became an honorary Fellow in May 2017.

Tell us how you became HonFCIWEM – and why you would encourage other women to accept if they’re nominated

I worked alongside then honorary vice president of CIWEM Alastair Mosely for many years and I was delighted when he nominated me for HonFCIWEM.

I was shocked when attending CIWEM’s annual dinners in both 2014 and 2017 at the huge imbalance between the number of men versus women attending.

This was particularly because there were a good number of experienced, knowledgeable, and talented women working in the sector back then, and even more so now.

I would encourage any woman who is approached to seize the opportunity with both hands, as it highlights that you are respected for what you do in the industry.

Tell us a career or professional secret

I’m dyslexic and was told at school I’d never do anything worthwhile with my life. If I’m honest, being dyslexic is a constant uphill struggle. I have to check everything I do, at least three times and even then, I can miss some glaringly obvious grammatical errors or spelling mistakes.

However, it has made me extra determined to succeed in what I do. If anyone had told my teacher at school that I’d write articles for magazines, content for my website, and present on TV I honestly think you’d have to pick him up off the floor.

Liberal Democrat peer Kate Parminter

Parminter has been Liberal Democrat peer in the House of Lords since 2010. She is current chair of the House of Lords Select Committee on Environment and Climate Change and has campaigned for plastic-bag levy, which was successfully introduced by the coalition government. She became an honorary Fellow in May 2017.

Tell us how you became HonFCIWEM – and why you would encourage other women to accept if they’re nominated

I was made HonFCIWEM for environment campaigning in the Lords. We need more women on the frontline improving our environment (which I don’t have the skills to do – I scraped an O’Level in biology) and more campaigners to fight for the cause.

It’s a privilege for me to do the latter, using the platform I have in the Lords and to read in this magazine about all the great work other women are doing in the former.

Tell us a career or professional secret

If you want to drive initiatives forward gathering the appropriate evidence to support them is key. But so too is forming connections with those you are seeking to persuade and conveying to them your passion and commitment in relation to the issue concerned.

AECOM Water UK and Ireland lead, flood and public infrastructure Ruth Goodall

Goodall started her first graduate job in September 2000, just in time for flood risk to shoot up the political agenda following the October 2000 floods.

Since then, she has worked in consultancy initially delivering projects and then leading teams and projects that deliver flood modelling and mapping projects and flood-risk management for infrastructure development. She recently become a member of the CIWEM NW and North Wales regional committee. She became a Fellow in March 2021.

Why did you apply to become FCIWEM – and why would you encourage other women to?

I feel fortunate that my chosen career is recognised with a Charter, and strongly feel the membership should support the institution to flourish and grow. I was encouraged to apply for FCIWEM by a colleague and hope I can be a role model for others in this industry.

Tell us a career or professional secret:

My degree was in geology and geography and although I love my job, I’m still a geologist at heart.

Environment Agency project team leader, major projects and programme delivery Sarah Burtonwood

Burtonwood has been with the Environment Agency since 1999, and now leads a team of project managers and other professionals to deliver the Capital Programme in West Yorkshire.

Burtonwood is a CIWEM professional reviewer, something she's done for 15 years now. Surprisingly, at the age of 50, she's still usually the youngest and only female member of the engineering review panels; diversity is still a work in progress. She became a Fellow in November 2010.

Why did you apply to become FCIWEM – and why would you encourage other women to?

I applied for FCIWEM in 2010, just before I went on maternity leave for my second child – I recognised that I wouldn't have much time to do something for myself and my professional development for a while, so I seized the moment.

I thoroughly recommend Fellowship – it's professional validation and recognition of your skills, knowledge, and experience. Go for it and be a role model.

Tell us a career or professional secret

Don't always play things safe with your professional development – sometimes we all need to push ourselves beyond our comfort zone and say yes to something that scares us.

I have plenty examples of doing just this in my career. As an example, I applied for and won the 1997 CIWEM Tyne and Humber Young Authors Award which included giving a presentation at Leeds University.

Royal Academy of Engineering and Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering Foundation chief executive Dr Hayaatun Sillem CBE

Sillem completed a PhD in biochemistry before moving into engineering and science policy. She was appointed RAEng chief executive in 2018. She became an honorary Fellow in May 2019.

Tell us how you became HonFCIWEM – and why you would encourage other women to accept if they’re nominated

I was so surprised to find out I had been nominated for honorary Fellowship of CIWEM soon after my appointment as RAEng chief executive but had no hesitation in accepting.

CIWEM is a professional body with such a clear sense of purpose and commitment to making an impact on some of our most pressing shared challenges. It’s also a very supportive community.

Tell us a career or professional secret

The best leaders inhabit all the corners of their identity – people respond to authenticity, and it gives them permission to bring their whole self to work too.

Stantec technical director and market sector lead, water treatment Lisa Barrott

Barrott started her career at the Water Research Centre before returning to university to undertake a PhD in water treatment for developing countries. There she studied disinfection systems for potable water supplies, which included field work in St Lucia.

After a brief period as a research fellow, she took a break to have my family before joining MWH (later Stantec) initially as a process scientist. She became a Fellow in March 2020.

Why did you apply to become FCIWEM – and why would you encourage other women to?

Becoming a CIWEM Fellow was a recognition of my professional contribution to the UK water industry over the years.

I encourage other women to apply as achieving Fellow status celebrates the contributions you make in the historically male-dominated WEM sector.

The application process felt huge to begin with, but colleagues advised breaking it down into manageable chunks and it was quite straightforward in the end.

Tell us a career or professional secret

My career secret is that I once had 60 litres of water from the River Jordan delivered to my front door so I could carry out tests to establish how to treat the water.

Environment Agency deputy director Kate Marks

Kate gained a doctorate in flood modelling from the University of Bristol and after a stint with Symonds Group (now Capita), joined the Environment Agency. She has worked in a variety of strategic and operational technical and managerial roles in flood warning, forecasting, mapping, modelling and incident management and currently leads the Digital Services team in Incident Management and Resilience. She became FCIWEM in July 2020.

Why did you apply to become FCIWEM – and why would you encourage other women to?

I’d been a Graduate member since 2002, served on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Flood Risk Management, supported the Faith and Environment Network and had encouraged others in gaining their membership. But despite being ‘CIWEM’ through and through I had never got round to finishing my own membership journey! With so few women Fellows, I would encourage others to apply to help normalise it as professional recognition that’s both visible and attainable.

Tell us a career or professional secret

Your unique set of skills, knowledge and experience are all more transferrable than you might first think. Find a team and leader who will value what you bring.

Interested in becoming a Fellow? Visit www.ciwem.org/membership/ for details or email the membership team at membership@ciwem.org

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