Conference Agenda

Overview and details of the sessions of this conference. Please select a date or location to show only sessions at that day or location. Please select a single session for detailed view (with abstracts and downloads if available).

Session Overview
Session 02B: Workforce Development - Livestream
Monday, 13/Sept/2021:
1:15pm - 2:45pm

Location: 120AB

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1:15pm - 2:00pm
ID: 207 / Session 02B: 1
Main Technical Program
Topics: Leadership, Social Equity, Workforce Development
Keywords: Diversity, equity, workforce, leadership, culture

Be the Catalyst: How Individuals Can Shape an Organization and Transform the Water Workforce

Shelby Smith, Vicky Hollingsworth

Brown & Caldwell, United States of America; ,

Virtual Speakers

The water industry is undergoing a significant cultural transformation in response to social equity challenges and a rapidly evolving workforce. The future workforce has different priorities, backgrounds, and drivers from that of the past and present. Workforce retention challenges emerge due to organizational cultures where employees feel unsupported, disconnected, and inauthentic. Companies that do not evolve to foster inclusive work environments are less competitive and innovative, struggle with recruiting and retaining talent, and ultimately face obsolescence in the water industry. But individual actions at all organizational levels can break down barriers to inclusion and build more desirable work environments.

In 2018, Brown and Caldwell (BC) employees sought to create a more inclusive, open, and diverse work environment that provided them with a space to connect, be authentic, find community, and learn. Out of this movement, employees formed the Women at BC Employee Network Group (ENG), which created an inclusive and safe space for women to share their stories. This first ENG sparked broader conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion. New ENGs quickly followed – each centered around different BC employee experiences and challenges. BC leadership listened and advocated based on these conversations. The company established the 10 Commitments to Balance and Belonging, which set the long-term plan to transform, operationalize equity into business and hiring practices, and challenged the organization to go beyond current industry limitations.

This presentation will dive into the story behind some of the individuals who became the spark that accelerated a cultural transformation in the workplace. Organizations that create space and establish platforms for employees to be authentic and vulnerable will drive allyship, diversity, and inclusion. These key ingredients create resilient organizations where employees can thrive, innovate, and better serve their communities.

Brief Biography and/or Qualifications
Shelby Smith is a professional engineer with 9 years of experience in program and project management for the municipal wastewater sector. She has supported numerous PNW municipalities with capital investment planning, design, and delivery, stakeholder engagement, alternative delivery methods analysis and procurement, public outreach, and permitting. Shelby has answered a personal call to action to take more responsibility for addressing racial and social inequities. She is a member of Brown and Caldwell’s PNW Diversity and Inclusion Team, Vice Chair of the PNCWA Racial and Social Justice Subcommittee, and actively engaged in Brown and Caldwell’s Community of Color and Women at BC ENGs.

Vicky Hollingsworth is a professional engineer with over 13 years of experience in the design and construction of wastewater treatment and conveyance. She is one of BC’s pumping systems subject matter experts and provides her expertise on projects across the company. Vicky is originally from Nicaragua and moved to the US to pursue an education and a purposeful career. A few years back, Vicky realized that she had a seat at the table and was not using it to make the space more inclusive. Instead, she was too busy trying to fit in. Since then, she has been on a mission to be more authentic and create safe and inclusive environments for those coming after her. In 2020, Vicky co-founded the Community of Color ENG, which focuses on the unique challenges faced by people of color in our industry. She has a sense of urgency and responsibility to make things better for generations to come.

2:00pm - 2:45pm
ID: 308 / Session 02B: 2
Main Technical Program
Topics: Leadership, Social Equity, Workforce Development
Keywords: Diversity, Equity, Racial Justice, Social Justice

Sharing Your Privilege – the Criticality of Advocacy in Diversifying the Pacific Northwest Water Industry

Rob Lee

Leeway Engineering, United States of America;

Virtual Speakers

The face of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) movement here in the PNW has largely been women and people of color, and rightfully so in many cases. But this can and has led to cases of fatigue, frustration, and even challenging accusations such as “self-promotion”.

As the topic of diversity has become more prominent and as the numbers are starting to be documented about the genuine benefits of diversity, a challenge that has become evident is the critical role that must be played by those who have privilege and the power to enact change.

This session will begin with an introduction of the importance and benefits of diversity and a brief introduction to the ways that PNCWA, as a volunteer organization, is taking steps to advance Racial and Social Justice. The remainder of the time will be given to a panel discussion by advocates in the industry and representatives from several municipalities including the City of Boise, the City of Portland, King County, and Seattle Public Utilities. This panel will provide numerous viewpoints regarding privilege and how anyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or orientation, has an important role to play in progressing our industry for positive change.

Brief Biography and/or Qualifications
Rob is a graduate of Cornell University, a licensed Environmental Engineer, the founder of Leeway Engineering, currently President-Elect for PNCWA’s Board of Directors, and the inaugural chair of the Racial and Social Justice Committee. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest as an Asian-American, Rob has a unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities facing the water industry, and Rob is passionate about being a change agent to better represent our rapidly changing communities.