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New initiative asks the water industry to contribute stories of inclusion and diversity

The Australian Water Association, in collaboration with the Australian Water Partnership, has launched a new program focused on increasing equality and diversity in the water sector.

The Channeling Change program’s goal is to lead by example and show how encouraging the right behaviours can galvanise support for a more diverse and inclusive sector.

Success will be measured in terms of three outputs:

  1. Diversity of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age and disability, to name a few;
  2. Inclusion, which is the promotion of behaviours that welcome and embrace diversity; and
  3. Empowerment, especially in terms of empowering women in developing countries in the Asia Pacific Region.

“You can’t be what you can’t see,” as the saying goes, and Channeling Change is taking this message to heart by asking individuals within the water sector to contribute stories of success in diversity, inclusion and empowerment.

“We want to spread the message across our national and international networks to share success stories of diversity in the water sector,” Association Chief Executive Jonathan McKeown said.

This will be done through the Association’s digital channels, which reach a combined 15,000+ people working in or around the water industry.

The Association’s website will have a page dedicated to showcasing the stories of diversity and inclusion that people in the industry share, and everyone is invited to contribute.

The program was officially launched at Ozwater’17 in Sydney by Association President-Elect Francois Gouws, and members of the water industry shared their stories of struggle, but also success.

“Change does not happen by itself; we need help and guidance if we want to make this world a better place, and that’s not possible if there are people who do not feel included for whatever reason,” Gouws said.

SunWater CEO Nicole Hollows revealed how her organisation has turned a corner in terms of women’s representation in the organisation.

“Driving change means talking about it and setting targets,” she said.

“You can’t enter a conversation about inclusion and diversity thinking that you have all the answers – you need to be sure to ask people what they really need and want.”

One question this raised was the issue of tokenism, but Hollows said that as long as merit underpins every hire, this won’t be an issue.

Kaye Schofield, the chair and interim CEO of the Australian Water Partnership, agreed, adding that diverse hires are out there, “you just need to go look”.

She pointed out that one key benefit of an initiative like Channeling Change is that it creates a body of evidence for these practices.

“Evidence on what works in water governance broadly and more technical fields is less developed, so this is an opportunity to build a more inclusive suite of case studies and stories that can apply to the water sector in different ways,” she said.

The Association has also entered into Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) with counterpart water organisations in most countries across the APAC region.

This network has been leveraged in the past for business, trade and knowledge transfer, and is therefore ideally suited to drive more empowerment of women’s participation in the international water sector.

Do you have a story about diversity, inclusion and empowerment that you would like to share? Register your interest to take part in the Channeling Change program here.