Women in Water: Empower, Attract and Retain

One of the challenges shaping the water sector is the discussion around the vital role that women play. Even though the water sector recognises that gender matters for water and that women are critical to achieving sustainability, the engagement and involvement of women face a series of barriers that result in their under-representation in diverse areas linked to the water sector.

To mark International Women’s Day 2022, IWA is hosting a webinar focused on empowering women in the water sector in partnership with the Management Committee of IWA’s Specialist Group on Sustainability in the Water Sector. Following on from last year’s webinar, which featured speakers from Liberia, Malaysia, Albania, Ecuador, South Africa and Australia and was viewed by almost 700 participants, this webinar will highlight perspectives from Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region. The webinar will address the gender gap in the water sector and advance the discussion, setting out specific proposals to increase and support women’s representation in the water industry. It will be held on 8 March at 15:00 GMT and registrations are now open. The webinar will have live Spanish translation to ensure a wider outreach and participation from the Latin American region.

The list of speakers ranges from younger to senior women professionals working in different areas of the water sector in Central and South America, providing their experience, insights and suggestions to empower, attract and retain more women in water. The webinar will be moderated by Diana Ulloa and Norhayati Abdullah. Diana Ulloa works as a consultant and part of the Coordinating Group of Red Agua Ecuador, she is also a member of the Governing Council of IWA Ecuador. Norhayati is Associate Director at the UTM International, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The webinar will have Blanca Jiménez, Martha Orta Zambrano, Sharon Archie, Juanita Ayala and Malena Galmarini among its panellists. When questioned about the  importance  of discussing the role of women in the water sector, Blanca Jiménez, Mexico’s Ambassador to France and a well-known professional in the water sector, replied that water has an intrinsic gender perspective. According to Blanca, “we need to create better strategies to reduce the labour inequality gap and generate inclusion and non-discrimination in the sector”. Furthermore Malena Galmarini, Pesident of the Argentine Water and Sanitation Company (AYSA), adds that the discussion around water and women raises issues of equity and equality since women represent half of the world’s population and “there is no possibility that this world or the water sector will be more egalitarian if women are not included”.

According to Martha Orta, “today’s women, with their dedication and passion, have demonstrated their knowledge, leadership and resilience is a key part of the change that humanity is experiencing, within a framework of sustainability and innovation”. Finally Juanita Ayala, a Young Water Professional, adds that “pressing challenges such as achieving SDG6, implementing climate change adaptation and mitigation actions, and strengthening WASH governance are not gender-neutral issues. We experience the impacts of these wicked problems differently, making us key agents of change at all managerial and advocacy levels. Purposefully including women in addressing these issues is a win-win situation”.

Besides the webinar, IWA and the Management Committee of IWA’s Specialist Group on Sustainability in the Water Sector launched a survey on this topic, underlining the Association’s commitment to gender issues and its desire to expand its outreach in the LAC region. The survey is available here. Complete the short survey and contribute to the discussion! Responses will form a key part of the 8th March webinar. We look forward to reading your responses and we hope to see many of you at the webinar!

Isabela Espindola

Senior Officer (YWPs and Water Policy & Regulation) - Strategic Programmes & Membership Engagement
Dr Isabela Espindola is a Senior Officer at the International Water Association (IWA), where she leads the engagement of the Young Water Professionals (YWPs) Community and the Water Policy and Regulation agenda. She has over 10 years of experience in... Read full biography