The Ontario Chapter of the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA Ontario) and the City of Toronto recently hosted a webinar entitled Women in Waste. The purpose of the webinar was to showcase inspiring women in the Ontario waste industry.
Featured speakers for the event included the Betsy Varghese (Waste Management Technical Group Strategist at Dillon Consulting), Charlotte Ueta (Project Director, Business Transformation EPR, City of Toronto), Daina Conley (Manager, Community Recycling Centre Operations, Region of Peel) and Sherry Brotherston (Operations Team Lead, Halton Region). The moderator for the webinar was Eileen Chen (Household Hazardous Waste Operator, Region of Peel).
During the webinar, each featured speaker shared their experiences in various sub-sectors of waste management and discussed the challenges they faced in male dominated work places. The women shared their daily life routines and their motivations. The discussed who their mentors were and how they were able to overcome the challenges they faced.
One motivation shared by the majority of the panelists was the excitement of working in an industry that is constantly changing. They shared their passions on working in an industry where their contributions help improve the environment. They also described the great feeling they get when they are working on a project that results in environmental improvements.
Each panelist agreed that having a trusting and supportive mentor helped them grow their passion in the industry. One panelist talked of a mentor that helped put wings to her dreams and provided her with opportunities to expand her abilities. Another panelist added that her mentor’s communication style and guidance on different approaches to difficult situations was magical and fueled her passion. To this day panelists still network with their mentors in the industry.
Another key point raised in the webinar was balance between work and personal life. Panelists admitted that family commitments made for challenging times are work and that they had to say no work opportunities on occasion. One panelist described the initial difficulty of working late-night shifts after coming back from maternity leave but soon adapted to it.
Panelists acknowledged that it important as professionals to recognize that no person can do it all and that it is important to acknowledge one’s own feelings and to be kind to yourself and appreciate your best efforts.
For each panelist in the webinar, overcoming the obstacles of work in the waste industry wasn’t easy. Each relied on the help and advice of their network and mentors. It helped that they have a passion of the industry and are confident in what they can contribute to the sector. Getting recognized for a doing a great job certainly helps build confidence and motivation for further success.
Panelists acknowledged that the waste industry profession is not seen by the general public as glamorous work. It can be messy and require hands-on attention. However, it is also an industry that needs professionals to work on policies and procedures, budget and plan, and to manage and lead. The profession needs scientist, engineers, researchers, and planners. In all facets of the waste industry, women can be found that have made great contributions.
The mission of Women in Waste is to promote the synergic involvement of all genders in the sector and appreciation of their work.