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Looking back at 5 Years of Empowering Women in Industry With Dianne McMaster

My Charli Story: Becoming part of Empowering Women in Industry, I had the very good fortune to meet Charli many years back as both of our companies are very involved in the water and wastewater industries. Each year we would have some time to talk at the national conferences we attended.

As our careers grew and expanded, we lost touch for a while. But in 2019, we once again found each other at a conference and Charli and her team shared their vision for starting a new group focused on empowering women and handed me a business card to get things started.

The conference was focusing on women, led by women, and going beyond typical topics for affinity groups by providing a well-rounded agenda for the meeting.

Additionally, the Empowering Women in Industry team provided the ability to recognize women in a variety of areas: Mentor of the Year, Industry Advocacy, Marketer of the Year, Saleswoman of the Year, Leadership in STEM/STEAM, Leadership in Reliability & Operations, Innovator of the Year, Tradeswoman of the Year, Engineer of the Year, Leadership in Manufacturing, Emerging Leader of the Year, Empowering Woman of the Year. I was very excited to hear of this recognition and was excited to be considered for an award in the Leadership in STEM category the first year of the event.

I was very enthusiastic to attend the conference but also apprehensive because, beyond Charli and Bekah Mechtensimer, I did not know anyone at the conference. Those worries melted away as soon as I arrived by the staff taking care to provide table assignment and I met several women that day that I still see at conferences and follow their careers to this day.

At that first conference, I was inspired by the main session topics and speakers who shared their knowledge (and often a book - Change Intelligence by Barbara Trautlein). The breakout sessions gave us a change to gather on topics in smaller groups but equally effective. What I did not know at the time is that so many of these speakers would provide good advice, inspiration, as well as several I would see time and time again as they continued to share with this group and grow their careers.

The initial event ended on a high note with a high energy Awards Gala. While at the Gala, I was able to network with additional women and supporters. I was really blown away by the women who won during that first year. Hearing their varied backgrounds, how they used their skills and shared them freely, and made real change in our worlds were incredible.

After that first year, I was energized to continue the connections to this group, listening to informative podcasts and attending virtual monthly gatherings and looking forward to our next annual gathering. Of course, COVID changed those plans, but Empowering Women pivoted quickly into a virtual platform and delivered several successful and compelling virtual only versions of this conference. Yes, we were not all in the same room, but many connections were made, speakers continued to inspire, and our positive energy continued to move forward. Empowering Women continues to grow and expand my world!

I met women at different stages of their careers, one who was starting up a business as it began and we had the opportunity to participate with her, network outside my smaller working area to include women of diverse backgrounds and abilities and grow in many ways. And as a return attendee, I have been happy to introduce new members to this community and connect them as those before helped me get involved. I continue to be energized at every touch with this team and their connections and look forward to many, many years of growing with this team.

I have heard of people talking about their “personal board of directors” – I feel like I have met a “conference board of directors” from this group. Early on, from those I have sat next to (Megan Livak and Mary-Francis Klimek at the first conference), speakers at the conference in person and virtually (Shannon Bumgarner, Mel Butcher, Lauren Dreher, Cindy Smith, Emily Soloby, Della Ray, Nicole Calhoun, Karen Laos, and so many more), it has been inspiring to meet many virtually, some in person, and many I follow socially. I continue to gather these ladies into the “board” and learn from them in many ways.

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