We're celebrating International Women's Day at SES Water! - 08/03/2017

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Sutton and East Surrey Water -

Today on International Women’s day we heard from our Leakage and Demand Analyst, Tanya Dady who is also an Amateur Boxer for England and Quality and Compliance Director, Nicola Houlahan to give us their take on being a woman in male dominated industries;

Tanya told us; “Straight from university I applied for a job with Atkins; a large Engineering Consultancy based in Epsom. I didn’t necessarily know that I wanted to work in the water industry, but I knew that Engineering as a whole would suit me as I’m a numbers person and a very logical thinker.

My team at the time was made up of around 35 people and I was the one of three women within the team. Working in a male dominated industry has never bothered me, nor hindered me. There have been some occasions where I have felt that I need to prove myself, but in general I feel that I have always earned the respect of others through proving to be good at what I do.

In my boxing career, I have found most people to be supportive but there are a narrow minded few who feel quite strongly that women should not box. The reason for those views can vary – some just don’t like to see women get hit, some think it’s not lady-like, some think that women are not physically capable of elite level boxing, most just don’t like the idea of seeing two women fight … Personally I will always describe what I do as ‘boxing’, not ‘fighting’. I tend to correct people who talk about having ‘fights’… I have ‘bouts’, not ‘fights’. Anyone can ‘fight’ but very few can ‘box’ and there is a distinct difference. If people can understand that, often their perception of women’s boxing will change. In general, when they see the level of commitment and dedication to training, diet and lifestyle it takes to reach an elite level, people start to see my boxing as sport.

I really enjoy working here at SES Water. I have a great team around me, and yes, they’re all men. I like that my job doesn’t pigeon hole me into one role. It is certainly hard to juggle things sometimes but I like that my role varies so much. A large amount of what I do requires some real in depth analysis and problem solving, but I enjoy the additional leadership responsibilities and the chance to be strategic in planning for the mid-long term future of the network. I also really like being at the sharp end of operational day to day decisions.”


We also heard from our Quality and Compliance Director, Nicola Houlahan and how she rose to Director at SES Water.

"I graduated from Cambridge University with a degree in Natural Sciences and knew that I wanted a career that enabled me to make use of my education in science, rather than going off to work in the city as an accountant as many of my fellow graduates did. I didn’t purposefully go in to the water industry, but one of the local water companies was having a recruitment drive for graduate scientists at the time and I was fortunate to get a job in their research and development team. This role gave me the opportunity to apply science in a varied working environment that included treatment sites, pilot plants and laboratories. I was lucky to be supported by my employer to gain further education relevant to my new career, and I completed a Master of Science in Water Pollution Control Technology at Cranfield University. This training encouraged me to apply for new varied roles, and despite some initial set-backs, including being asked “why as a woman would you want to move from the clean water side to a role on the waste water side?” by one of the people giving me an overview of one new job role, and an interviewer once asking me (but probably not the other male applicants) “do you have any plans to get married and have children?”, I successfully moved to a role in the water quality team.

The mix of previous practical treatment knowledge alongside the knowledge of water quality regulation gave me all the attributes I needed to apply for the role of a Process Scientist here at SES Water in 1996 and just five years later I took up the role of Water Quality Director with responsibility for the Company’s Sampling, Laboratory and Water Quality Scientist teams. Contrary to my previous experiences in the early 1990’s, SES Water actually offered me the role of Director knowing I was about to have a baby, and they held the role open for me to take up on my return from maternity leave as they truly believed I was the right person for the job. They have been supportive of my ongoing development throughout my 20 years in the Company and I recently added Health and Safety and Compliance and Assurance to my list of responsibilities.

Although I am the only woman Director at the Company, the senior management team here is reasonably balanced and as scientists rather than engineers, my department is also well represented by women, something that is mirrored in the industry network groups that focus on water quality. At SES Water I have never worried that large parts of the business are still male dominated – I believe the Company recruits, promotes and gives equal opportunities to all who want to progress and are prepared to work for it."



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