Does gender matter?

bws-women-640x300“Finally a speaker who is not a man! Yay!”

This was an anonymous comment from a delegate in the interactive digital platform at SIWW Spotlight 2017 held in Singapore that brought together water utility leaders from around the world. As the comment flashed on the big screen, more yays were added to it with assenting laughter all around. The comment came in the wake of a keynote presentation by Professor Joan Rose of Michigan State University, who later sat in a panel discussion with five men.

When the question of women managers in the water sector comes up, I am always a conflicted. On one hand, I do want to see capable women in important roles – as engineers, managers, utility chiefs and CEOs, but on the other hand, I do not want them to be chosen merely because they are women. I have seen these feelings echoed by many female water sector leaders. Continue reading