Lessons from the Top Women Leaders in Water

Danielle Mayorga, Program Manager, Value of Water Coalition
December 3, 2015

In November, Global Water Intelligence named the top 20 most powerful women in water. The list featured some notable water leaders from around the world, including Melanie Schultz Van Haegen, the Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment; Gina McCarthy, Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency; and, others from international water development, infrastructure finance, and utility management. We were excited to see that so many deserving Value of Water Coalition members made the list including, Susan Story (4), CEO of American Water; Marie-Ange Debon (7), Deputy CEO of Suez; Jacque Hinman (8), CEO of CH2M; and, Cindy Wallis-Lage (10), President of Black & Veatch Water.

As executives of some of the nation’s largest investor-owned utilities and engineering firms, their influence on national water issues is immense. American Water, Suez, CH2M, and Black & Veatch are all game changers in the water sector, transforming the way our precious water resources are viewed, valued, and managed. Here are just a few ways these leading women are changing water and wastewater for the 21st century.

Incubating Innovation. Jacque Hinman, CEO of CH2M says the nation’s largest engineering firm was built using innovation, creativity, and collaboration to solve the world’s toughest infrastructure and natural resource challenges: values all of our “Women in Water” leaders integrate into their corporate cultures. In 2014, American Water was awarded the US Water Prize for their dedication to water research and development, which deploys and operationalizes new water management solutions and technologies within the industry. A culture of innovation is also instilled in Suez, which was the first to pioneer and adopt automated water meter reading technologies in the United States. By spurring innovation, these women leaders are propelling their companies and the entire industry forward.

Cultivating New Partnerships. No leaders get to the top by themselves. Throughout the careers of our women in water leaders, there is a strong theme of collaboration and partnership – another value they integrate into corporate goals. Whether its collaborating with local municipalities on efficient water management at Suez North America, or developing partnerships across the water/energy nexus at Black & Veatch, partnerships across and beyond the water industry are amplifying the impact these companies have and advancing new solutions to our water challenges.

Investing for the Future. Over the course of her 25 year career in the industry, Cindy Wallis-Lage, President of Black & Veatch Water, notes that she has seen how investments in water infrastructure create jobs, boost the economy, benefit the environment and contribute to our security. From investing in pipe and treatment plant upgrades to designing the newest resource recovery facilities, each of these companies are advancing high-quality, reliable infrastructure for a resilient future under the leadership of these women.

Communicating the Value of Water. As members of the Value of Water Coalition, American Water, Suez North America, CH2M, and Black & Veatch have been leading efforts to bring more public and political attention to water issues in the United States. “Saying you are committed to safe, reliable water and showing it are two different things,” says American Water CEO Susan Story. As a strong voice for water, she has inspired other water leaders on how to walk the talk when it comes to demonstrating the importance of water.

As we look toward a sustainable and secure “one water” future, the business acumen, technical expertise, innovation, collaboration, and philanthropic values these women leaders bring to the water industry will be invaluable for the new wave of water management. Read more about the Top 20 Women in Water from Global Water Intelligence.