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Published on 2nd October 2023

Women on Water Conference.


Women on Water Conference organised by WUN Partner British Water.

With tickets being sold within what must have been minutes, this year’s Women on Water Conference & Reception organised by British Water & hosted by Jacobs was destined to be a success. The event was opened with a great speech of Lee Pitcher, Director Water & Environment at Jacobs, stating his purpose in life ‘I want to leave the world a better place than it was when I came in’. A few personal anecdotes and stories captured the audience before Lila Thompson, CEO at British Water, officially welcomed everyone & started the event off.

The first panel “What does success look like from the top” was hosted by Sarah McMath, WUN Director & Chief Executive at MOSL. Kate Jarritt, Amy Bentley, Tania Flashk and Dr. Jun Zhang all shared their experiences on stage. It started off with the realisation, that Sarah was used to and comfortable speaking to an ‘a sea of grey suits and white hair’, while the present audience is something only happening in the most recent years. There is still a long way to go & the change can be influenced by all of us. As a leader, it is necessary to carry your responsibility as a role model, people will look up to you and WHY you are doing something, not just HOW or WHAT. It is necessary to create an inclusive culture & surround yourself with great minds to allow & when an opportunity comes up, take it.

The second panel “Overcoming Challenges & Imposter Syndrome” was hosted by Lila Thompson herself. Wendy Brooks, Louise Parry, Yvonne Ryan, Natasha Wiseman and Joanne Rands joined Lila on the stage and spoke about their challenges and when they experienced imposter syndrome. Our WUN Director Louise Parry, Director of People & Organisational Development at Energy & Utility Skills, was part of the panel and she highlighted the importance of calling out inappropriate statements & behaviour – which takes some courage but will make sure that people will not just walk all over you and your feelings. When we feel like we do not belong into a room, it is not that we actually don’t belong, but our self-doubt takes over. Believing in yourself & building resilience is the key to overcome challenges.
Women can sometimes feel they don’t belong into a certain role / position, however that’s not true and we need to overcome the feeling. Mentors, which is a successful part of the WUN, are a good way to have someone to talk to & get a second opinion. Many women have heard of imposter syndrome and especially recently it’s become a topic that is discussed more openly. It helps when we speak about it, because most of us have in some form experienced it and sharing it with others makes it less daunting.

The event concluded with a fantastic keynote speech of Liv Garfield CBE, CEO of Severn Trent Water. Her infectious personality made it easy and entertaining to listen to her story & how she overcomes imposter syndrome in her role. Being the youngest ever appointed CEO in the water industry, she has faced some criticism but says that anyone in such a position needs to be aware that it comes with the negative side of press. It was grounding to hear that she herself said for the first couple of years, she needed guidance and advice from her team around her for any technical decisions.

My key take aways from all the fantastic speakers & panelists was – to be your unapologetic self! Most of us at some point in life struggle with trusting our own abilities & having to overcome challenges & imposter syndrome, but if we have someone we trust to talk to and believe in ourselves, we can do anything.

I would like to end with one of my favourite quotes – “To all women: If you have a seat at the table, open the door and let 10 more in” (Jessica Alba).

Julia Stichling, WUN Advocate.

If you are interested in hearing more about imposter syndrome – why not catch up with the WUN For ALL session hosted last year by Emily Howell, Learning Culture Manager , EDF and Mike Allen, Innovation Challenge Manager, EDF.