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Thoughts on International Women's Day from Eileen O'Neill

1. How did you get started in the Industry?

I got my start as a scientist because my Dad, who was an Irish immigrant in the UK, believed in education and also that his daughters could do anything we set our minds to. Getting into water specifically happened by chance when, with three little girls aged 4 and under, I decided I could no longer manage the travel schedule associated with a job in environmental consulting and applied to the organization then known as the Water Pollution Control Federation (now the Water Environment Federation or WEF). It was one of the best decisions I ever made.

2. What accomplishments are you most proud of?

Hands down my proudest accomplishment is my daughters – who have grown into accomplished, hardworking, and kind young women -- each of whom is working in a career that will make a difference in the world. As I said at the opening session at WEFTEC 2019, working in the sector allowed me to support my children on my own when I had to and to be a role model for them, or at least that’s what they tell me and it doesn’t get much better than that.

3. What are your hopes for the next generation of Women Leaders?

It’s been great to see both the number of women executive water sector leaders compared with 30 years ago, and also their diversity. Yet there is still so much to do! I still hear from younger colleagues that they feel conflicted as they juggle responsibilities at work and home and/or that they have to outperform male colleagues in order to advance.

So, my hopes for the next generation of women leaders is that they continue to lead change in the workplace to address issues such as paid leave, flexibility, inclusivity, to allow all professionals to achieve their potential.

I also hope that more women chose the water sector as the place where they can make a difference. It was recently announced women now comprise more than 50% of the workforce but we know that only about 15% of the water workforce is female. Let’s change that!

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