For she’s a jolly good fellow

Becoming a CIWEM Fellow is a professional and personal landmark – but women are heavily outnumbered by men at this grade of membership. CIWEM president Niki Roach wants to change that

CIWEM Fellows are the backbone of our institution, exemplifying our profession at its best. The challenge we face is to ensure that CIWEM Fellows represent our entire community of brilliant and capable individuals across the water and environment sector.

The latest data from membership shows that at year-end, 91 per cent of CIWEM Fellows were male and just 9 per cent female. I don’t believe this represents women’s capability and contribution to our sector. We need more female Fellows.

One obstacle – I truly believe – is that you can’t be what you can’t see. So here, to inspire more women to rise through CIWEM’s ranks, are some of CIWEM’s fantastic female Fellows. We hope these senior industry professionals will inspire you or a colleague to work your way up from Member to Fellow – or to join CIWEM as a direct-entry Fellow.

West Sussex County Council team leader, sustainability Catherine Cannon

Cannon joined Southern Water as a graduate management trainee, working in clean water and in wastewater treatment. She then joined the Environment Agency, working to improve water quality in the southeast and taking a lead in ecological appraisal and biodiversity, recreation and fisheries. She leads West Sussex County Council on climate resilience and natural environment and became FCIWEM in 2011.

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

It was a natural step; I’d been a student member since my time at Bradford University, and had benefitted from supportive mentoring at Southern Water and at the Environment Agency. Returning from my first maternity leave, I felt Fellowship would boost my professional credibility and confirm my commitment.

Tell us a career or professional secret

Being flexible and part-time has opened doors to a portfolio career, as a volunteer trustee at Chichester Ship Canal Trust and as an education guide at Goodwood Estate, all contributing to inspire community leadership for our natural environment.

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology senior manager, health, safety and environment May Chan

Chan spent 14 years as an engineer specialising in contaminated land for UK consultants Arup, Atkins and Stantec, having studied engineering at Downing College, Cambridge. She is a member of the CIWEM Water and Environment Journal editorial board. In 2019, she returned to Hong Kong.

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

It’s a way to improve your career progress and balance your understanding of the environmental, economic and social aspects of our work. It supports exchanges of knowledge between industry and academia – something particularly useful to me now – and highlights your commitment to sustainability.

I’d encourage other women to become FCIWEM because construction remains very male dominated.

Tell us a career/professional secret:

Whatever your background, don’t feel you are different. We face the same environment and mostly common problems – to which there are many solutions.

JBA technical director Hannah Coogan

Coogan returned to JBA as technical director in 2017, having switched after eight years with the consultancy to flood-risk management roles in local authorities – Staffordshire, Nottinghamshire and Walsall.

As of August, she is seconded to the Environment Agency, as a senior advisor on flooding and coastal risk management. She also leads national JBA strategy on diversity and inclusion and on stakeholder engagement. Coogan has a geography degree from Aberystwyth and became FCIWEM in 2019.

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

Broadly, a man may just go for an opportunity, whereas women tend to think why they shouldn’t. But having promoted CIWEM as chair of the West Midlands branch and as a mentor with the FCERM panel, I reached a career point where FCIWEM felt like a badge I should wear.

Women, Black and minority-ethnic professionals need role models – it’s harder to be what you can’t see. CIWEM has given me access to very senior women, including women with children, across our industry – an opportunity to watch and to learn.

Tell us a career/professional secret:

Learn from more senior men and women, formally and informally. It’s why I’m so open about the pressures of parenting and mental health – to have that visibility, even if it helps just one person. And don’t be afraid to take risks. I owe my professional network to saying yes to things.

Waterman Aspen technical director, water Kerry Foster

Foster discovered a passion for flood-risk modelling during her degree in environmental geology. She spent 16 years specialising in fluvial hydrology at Capita, moved to Richard Allitt Associates, where she cowrote new urban drainage industry guidance then joined Waterman Aspen on the eve of lockdown. She became FCIWEM in 2020.

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

When I pictured a Fellow, I didn’t imagine someone like me. But my sponsors – particularly CIWEM chief executive Terry Fuller – convinced me I had the skills and experience to go for it. Fellowship is also for those of us working quietly to support the industry.

Tell us a career or professional secret

Write everything down. Track your continuing professional development, experience and achievements. It all counts.

Severn Trent chief executive Liv Garfield

Garfield became chief executive of Severn Trent in 2014 aged 38, the youngest female FTSE100 boss, joining from BT. Before that, she was a management consultant specialising in communications and hi-tech. She is a non-executive director of Water UK, chief executive of the Council for Sustainable Business and a member of the 30% Club. She was appointed an honorary FCIWEM, 2019

Why would you encourage other women to become FCIWEM?

Sometimes we get so focused on our own areas of the business – for me, that’s water and waste water – but there are other interesting areas in environmental management. CIWEM helps to jolt your perspectives, offering the opportunity to engage with those of others. You also get interesting, really engaging articles with the publications, that test you and make you think.

Tell us a career or professional secret

Female leaders must create the footsteps in which future generations can follow, so that it’s no longer unusual to see a woman a senior position in any company.

Public health engineering and independent WASH consultant Sarah House

Leicester-based House has worked in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) for development and aid organisations, universities, the United Nations and consultancies in more than 25 countries. She has career-long interest in vulnerability and gender-based inequalities in WASH and public health. A freelance consultant, she holds an honorary Doctor of Letters from Winchester University for services to social justice. She became FCIWEM in 2005.

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

I felt I needed to take that step for my own self-confidence – and as a woman working internationally, in what is still often considered a man’s world, having the letters after your name boosts your credibility.

Tell us a career/professional secret:

A male interviewer once told me that women usually underestimate their skills and knowledge, whereas men often over-estimate. As a woman, have confidence in your own abilities; you are probably so much better than you believe you are – don’t let people put you down.

Environment Agency team leader Nicola Hyslop

Hyslop started her career in renewable energy, then moved into hydraulic modelling for wastewater networks. She progressed through consultancies from graduate modeller to senior engineer, joining the Environment Agency in 2017 to advise its partnerships and strategic overview team. Now a team leader, she became FCIWEM in 2019.

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

Becoming a Fellow provides professional recognition of your career achievements and competence. I’d encourage others to apply; it’s a natural stepping-stone from chartered member.

Tell us a career/professional secret:

Only you know what is right for you.

Severn Trent network-optimisation specialist Kath Norgrove

Norgrove has worked her way through the ranks at Severn Trent, from leakage inspector to managing clean water distribution. She chairs Sustainable Bridgnorth, which campaigns against single-use plastics in town and to clean the River Severn, and is a former Environmental Professional of the Year finalist. She became FCIWEM in 2020

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

I was mentoring team colleagues and CIWEM members but hadn’t considered my own membership position until a mentee pointed it out, which shows how mentoring can support both ways. So few Fellows are female – go for it; what do you have to lose? The worst case is you don’t attain it on the first attempt. But the feedback will show you where to improve and focus your development.

Tell us a career/professional secret:

Don’t live to regret what you haven’t done. If it feels like the right thing to do, go for it.

Wood plc associate director Susan Robinson

Newcastle-based Robinson has specialised in designing and delivering capital projects for the water industry. Starting as a graduate trainee at Severn Trent, she worked for Stantec and United Utilities, then joined Wood Environment and Infrastructure International (Wood EII). She became FCIWEM in 2003.

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

Professional development and recognition has always mattered to me. On leaving university I joined IMechE as my discipline institution and CIWEM as my profession institution. As I gained technical and managerial responsibility and became more involved with engineering institutions, becoming FCIWEM demonstrated my commitment to the profession, despite being a mother. Having FCIWEM in my email signature and on my CV enhances my credibility as an environmental professional – and gives me a sense of achievement to see it.

Tell us a career/professional secret:

It’s always a lovely surprise how generous people are with their experience and advice; just ask.

Environment Agency NEAS operational unit manager Clare Rodgers

Rodgers studied geography at Cambridge. She joined Northumbrian Water, then Yorkshire Water, then a consultancy, advising on water management and quality. She then joined Royal HaskoningDHV to work on river restoration. Having enjoyed team leadership, she grabbed the chance to lead an Environment Agency team. A mentor and professional reviewer for CIWEM, she became FCIWEM in September.

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

I always told myself I’d become FCIWEM by the age of 40. But getting this job convinced me to apply much earlier. At the last minute, I started to doubt myself. Which is when Clare Dinnis, my mentor, said: “Just put your big-girl pants on and do it.” That’s great advice for anyone – what’s the worst that could happen?

Tell us a career/professional secret:

Don’t limit yourself to one sector to find work. Spread your net further – think what other sectors also need the skills and interests you can offer.

Jacobs associate director hydrology Claire Samuel

Samuel attained a doctorate in hydrology from Imperial College. After a stint with the Environment Agency, she joined Halcrow, now part of Jacobs, then Peter Brett Associates (now Stantec), rejoining Halcrow in 2013. She became FCIWEM in 2019.

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

When I turned 40, CIWEM invited me to apply for FClWEM. Maybe because Fellowship conjures up images of grumpy old men in smoking jackets, it took ten years to get round to it. After becoming part of Jacobs, I wanted to get noticed – having been a homeworker for several years. The application process allows you to pause and reflect on your own achievements. As women, how often do we blow our own trumpets? And having senior colleagues support your application is a boost.

Tell us a career/professional secret:

Having been quite ambitious, I sometimes felt quite frustrated in my early career. Now, job satisfaction matters more than moving up the hierarchy. I am happy with my work and comfortable in my own skin.

PhD candidate and Chippenham Town Council climate-emergency advisory group member Karen Simpson

Simpson is studying for a PhD in water efficiency and behaviour change at University of the West of England, analysing student showering habits. Before this, she worked on water-efficiency campaigns at Thames Water, joining from Mouchel in 2010. She became FCIWEM in 2010.

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

It coincided with redundancies at work, during the downturn after the financial crash. That seemed a good opportunity to update my CV and continuing professional development. It turned a negative into a positive, to reflect on my achievements 20 years into my career. Attaining FCIWEM is a great confidence boost.

Tell us a career/professional secret:

I keep reinventing myself, having flexibility to move between sectors and specialisms and now exploring sociology and psychology through my PhD. Not being pigeonholed is how I’ve avoided being made redundant at least once.

Your institution needs you

Attaining FCIWEM is the ultimate recognition of your career achievements, creating a step change in the opportunities available to you, writes Sophie Dunajko, CIWEM head of membership and professional standards

Our highest grade of membership is designed for professionals with significant experience in a senior role. CIWEM Fellows are highly respected, having attained demonstrable professional excellence and achievement in sustainable management of our environment.

If you can demonstrate career progression and leadership skills to a senior level, there are three distinct routes to FCIWEM; direct entry (C.WEM FCIWEM), transfer to Fellow (C.WEM FCIWEM) and nominated Fellow (FCIWEM).

Direct entry is for applicants not chartered with CIWEM; applicants undertake full chartership application including a professional interview. Transfer to Fellow is for chartered members seeking to transfer to Fellow grade, based on a short written application.

Nominated Fellow is a direct route to FCIWEM without requiring candidates to hold C.WEM; again based on a written application. All applicants require at least three sponsors – current CIWEM Fellows – to support the application.

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