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2016 International Women's Day


MWH Pairs Up for Parity

This year, the organizers of International Women’s Day have asked companies and individuals around the world to make a ‘Pledge for Parity’ – to take concrete steps toward helping women and girls achieve their ambitions, challenging conscious and unconscious bias, calling for gender-balanced leadership, valuing women’s and men’s contributions equally, and creating inclusive, flexible cultures.

MWH Global accepts that challenge. We pledge – today and every day – to make a difference for women both inside and outside of our organization.

This is a journey we at MWH embarked upon many years ago, and it’s one that we will continue to support steadfastly until parity becomes mainstream. Inside our organization, we have a variety of activities underway. Most recently, these have included reviews to ensure employees are fairly rewarded, increased opportunities for flexible working, improved leave periods, and management training to support our desired culture.

Outside our organization, we work to inspire a love of STEM fields, particularly science and engineering, in young minds. A number of these activities are aimed at girls – for example, the Girls & Science day in Denver, Colorado, for which we are again the Title Sponsor. We also host STEM workshops where students get inspired by engineering professionals and learn about the water cycle, infrastructure and more through hands-on activities. In addition, MWH is a proud supporter of organizations such as the Women’s Foundation of Colorado and more. Through these events and sponsorships, we showcase our exceptional women and share our passion for what we do in hopes of balancing the ratio of women in our traditionally male-dominated industry.

Please take a few minutes to learn how the men and women at MWH are ‘pairing up for parity’.

Together, we can make a difference.

International Womens Day MWH

Watch MWH colleagues in action discussing the benefits of gender parity

Shawna and Gavin

Shawna Zachman, VP and director of creative services, and Gavin Gilchrist, business development manager, discuss why more girls should go into the STEM fields and the advantages of having a diverse team.

Jennifer and Kevin

Jennifer Van Vleet, VP, Americas communications, and Kevin Villegas, digital communications manager, discuss what gender parity looks and feels like along with the benefits of working with the opposite gender.

Allegra and Nathan

Allegra da Silva, supervising engineer, and Nathan Brown, lead civil engineer, discuss gender parity in the engineering field, in the professional space and across the globe. Watch their insights on recent progress and tips to close the gender gap before 2133.

Read pledges, insight and ideas from MWH employees around the globe

Joe Adams, President of Energy and Industry, Broomfield, CO, USA

Joe Adams with John Duque and Michael Newbery at the Panama Canal

  • I pledge to continue to advocate for talented women inside and outside of MWH Global.
  • I pledge to continue to serve on the board of the Denver Women’s Foundation Colorado STEM coalition.
  • I pledge to remain active in EWB-USA as many of these projects benefit poor women in global communities.

What does parity mean to you?

I have two talented daughters and an immensely capable wife. When I look at them I can’t imagine any one of them being denied access to something, be it equitable pay, a promotion, or otherwise because of their gender. Parity is about equivalency and having equal access. Unfortunately it doesn’t happen or we wouldn’t have days like International Women’s Day that are not only a celebration of women but also about the advocacy for them, and a reminder about the steps we still need to take as a society.

What will we gain by achieving gender parity?

According to many business journals, companies which include women in the board room and at senior levels in the company are more profitable than those that don’t. So, certainly the business community has much to gain. Beyond business, we will achieve greater perspective and understanding. Women are naturally relational and true relationship can often bridge divides that exist in society. We see that evidenced around the world, most especially when girls are given parity in the access to education and how that then elevates whole communities where they reside.

What progress have you seen toward parity already?

As I look back across my career in this industry, there are certainly more women in this profession. Yet, just because there are more women doesn’t mean parity is achieved. However, I think it demonstrates that steps have been taken.

What easy steps could everyone take to support parity?

We’ve talked about this as a company, but stop and exam what kind of unconscious bias you may be holding in a situation where men and women are concerned. What is subconsciously influencing you to regard an individual in a certain manner that may not be fair? If you are judging a behavior, action, or statement that has occurred – stop and ask yourself, would I have this same reaction or view this situation in the same way if what just occurred had happened by someone of the opposite gender. You’ll be surprised.

Jeannie Edwards, Director of Human Resources, Warrington, United Kingdom

Jeannie Edwards MWHI pledge to offer the same opportunities to all, working to remove all unconscious stereotyping and the bias that stereotyping brings.  It is difficult to get people to see their bias when they don’t acknowledge its presence.  I want people to be respected for their knowledge, skills, viewpoints, experiences and not have filters of stereotype blocking such capability.

What does parity mean to you?

Parity means building up the company’s ability to deliver outstanding service to our clients by using all the skills, experience, viewpoints, notions, and attitudes that will enrich our service offering. It means giving an opportunity to the right person. It doesn’t mean giving an opportunity to someone to make numbers look good. By developing a deep and lasting attitude to varying methods of thinking, viewpoints, attitudes, perspectives, we can build a far more robust offering to clients, and we make our company all the better for it.

What will we gain by achieving gender parity?

We are likely to attract curious, inquiring minds. As we grow and develop in our miscellany of peoples, what was once unusual will become business as usual. In the U.K., the year of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody was the same year that Women got equal status in the work place. That isn’t so long ago. We have come so far, but there is a long way to go yet. A really important point is that parity doesn’t mean that we all have to think the same things in the same ways. True parity is in equivalence – being equivalent – in being respected for talents, viewpoints, and not shunned for thinking differently.

What progress have you seen toward parity already? 

Women are gaining in numbers at MWH, and as generations come through that have grown up accepting all aspects of gender, ethnicity, disability, we see a far stronger marker in people being selective not on grounds of gender or ethnicity but on ability to undertake a role. Colleagues’ intellect is under scrutiny, not their gender or ethnicity. Disability is no longer taboo but a fact of life, and while some disabilities have limitations, many disabilities bring advantages. People are accepted for their ability to contribute, rather than their gender, ethnicity or disability.

What easy steps could everyone take to support parity? 

Don’t make this about one gender or another…or one ethnic group or another. Work towards making opportunities for everyone. Where one minority needs more flexible working – make it more flexible for everyone. Analyse reasons for people joining and leaving and learn from what we discover.  Really challenge attitudes that unconsciously discriminate. Be brave.

Vanesa Campos, Regional Talent Management Leader, Lima, Peru

Vanessa Campos MWHI pledge to contribute to an inclusive MWH culture by talking to leaders about the impact of an inclusive work environment. For instance, some signals of reinforcing this kind of culture are having a nursing room and being flexible when a woman is transitioning back to work and learning how to manage her new motherhood. It was highly important to me to be supported in the middle of one of the biggest learning phases in my life.

How do you plan on executing this in your office or region?

Meet with SH&E and HR leaders to talk about the importance of implementing this initiative (nursing room) as part of an inclusive MWH culture.

What does parity mean to you? 

To me parity is about acknowledging our differences at all levels and understanding how these differences complement us. It is about understanding that those differences add value and build genuine relationships when we understand our own limits, establish and develop trust with another human being who is probably as vulnerable as we are. Equity vs. Equality?

What will we gain by achieving gender parity?

We will gain a bigger spectrum of who we really are if we develop our insight by understanding differences and stopping the thought that we are know-it-alls. We will let other thoughts, cultures, preferences, differences be part of our conversations and, consequently, part of our decision-making processes. Parity is also about breaking hierarchical structures that privilege male, senior-experienced people and also about dominant personalities – this last one regardless of gender.

What progress have you seen toward parity already?

In my country (Peru), I have also seen more Nursing Rooms and there is a new generation – not only females – focused more on building balance between their personal and professional life, without disregarding the importance of reaching important professional goals.

What easy steps could everyone take to support parity?

When we are in a meeting (personal or at work) we could practice the following:

  • Observe carefully if there are some conversations that create bias by not letting a different opinion be expressed – Reinforce an environment oriented to listening.
  • Be mentally prepared to listen and humanize the speaker.
  • Put our egos on hold – so we don´t try to defend ourselves from another´s point of view.

Diversity is not in the skin, gender itself or race; it´s among our conversations and, therefore, in our mindset.

Olivia Williams, Supervising Environmental Professional, Colorado Springs, CO, USA

Olivia-WilliamsI pledge to help women and girls achieve their ambitions with positive actions, experience sharing and compassionate support.

Small moments of needed encouragement at pivotal times can make all the difference in our personal and professional journeys.  And learning to appreciate the quiet, subtle moments as well as the challenges and opportunities in the often-energetic chaos is KEY and worth sharing!

Why is this pledge important to you?

I remember taking my first geology class in college and receiving such enthusiastic encouragement from our Teaching Assistant that it literally shaped my future—I have a Master’s degree in Geosciences and I’ve worked for nearly two decades as an environmental scientist.  And I LOVE what I do!  I sometimes wonder if that TA realizes how much of impact she had on my life, by just pointing out how much I liked geology.

How do you plan on executing this in your office or region?

I think there are opportunities everywhere, in our everyday lives, to keep such pledges.  Being empathetic and compassionate takes just a moment!

What does parity mean to you?

There are many definitions to parity, depending upon perspective:  social, economic, political.  Many focus on education, opportunity and pay.  All very valid.  I think it depends on your world view and I think I’m fairly lucky here in the US, BUT I also think that we still have a way to go in changing behaviors.  For individuals to be truly VALUED equally, it means that everyone must embrace that vision.

What will we gain by achieving gender parity?

I’d like to think that by learning to value one another and offering everyone opportunities to participate equally, we’re creating a more dynamic, amazing world.

What progress have you seen toward parity already?

Having women achieve success and recognition in fields traditionally or formerly dominated by men helps pave the way for new opportunities for everyone.  It truly opens doors.

What easy steps could everyone take to support parity?

Recognizing gender biases early and dismantling them!  Accept and value people equally for what they can do, what they contribute and always offer encouragement!

Sabine Karam, Human Resource Business Partner, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Sabine Karam MWHI pledge to value women and men’s contributions equally. Gender parity is important because it is about fairness and justice.

How do you plan on executing this in your office or region?

As part of the HR team, my main initiative is to make sure our value of workforce diversity is implemented in the Middle East region. We are working mainly towards gender diversity by making sure our pool of candidates is well balanced between males and females and equal opportunities are given to all. We are building an environment where everyone’s talents and skills are valued equally.

What does parity mean to you? 

Parity to me simply means equality; equality between women and men, mainly with regard to opportunities provided, status and pay. For me, parity exists when both sexes enjoy the same opportunities, protections, responsibilities, rights and access to resources.

What will we gain by achieving gender parity?

Gender parity is crucial to keeping our employees motivated and happy, ultimately enhancing their individual wellbeing and job satisfaction. When employees work and contribute in an inclusive environment where they are considered and valued equally this leads to increased productivity, improved motivation and retention. Gender parity has a major impact on our organizations performance and ultimately, the bottom line of our business.

What progress have you seen toward parity already?

  • Acknowledgement that specific measures must be designed to eliminate inequalities between women and men
  • Commitment to modify our behavior to eliminate inequalities between men and women or commitment to create equal opportunities, unhindered by gender stereotypes
  • Recruitment practices
    • Candidates are required to provide only job-related qualifications
    • Elimination of discrimination on the basis of gender, particularly in relation to family and caring responsibilities for both women and men

What easy steps could everyone take to support parity?

  1. Increased awareness
  2. Educate themselves to recognize what constitutes discriminatory behaviour
  3. Make a conscious effort to analyze factors (social, economic, environmental) that are discriminatory
Michaela Martinengo, Human Resource Consultant, Milan, Italy

International Women's Day MWHI pledge to help women and girls achieve their ambitions. As a mother of two girls, I feel the necessity to look ahead and think about future generations. I commit myself to achieve this objective in the communities where I live and work.

How do you plan on executing this in your office or region?

Chiara is a 16-year-old student of a secondary school in Milan who chose MWH to spend her two-week internship program. Chiara is studying scientific matters and is fascinated by technology. Getting to know MWH project technical leaders, she realized she is attracted to technical projects. “I see myself finding technical solutions to solve problems,” she said. The international environment is essential for her as she is going to attend a U.S. college next year.

Every day, I want to train myself to recognize bias, especially unconscious bias over which we have little control, to eliminate it and have all the managing team committed to this pledge.

What does parity mean to you?

Parity means respect for equal rights and the courage to have them respected at all levels, because parity is still a conquest to be achieved. Parity is for me another way to look at sustainability of our complex environment where differences grant the life on Earth. Women are those who generate, care about children and elderly parents. Flexible and smart working are solutions introduced in our office to allow women to be engineers and mothers, engineers and daughters at the same time and successfully. Fifty percent of our management team is women. We benefit from the contribution of different backgrounds: engineers, geologists, environmental scientists, psychologists, political scientists, economists, human scientists and more.

What will we gain by achieving gender parity?

Richness. Different points of view generate potential endless ideas to foster sustainable innovation.

What progress have you seen toward parity already?

Inclusive leadership vs. competitive leadership. This means: listen to others, give honest feedback, be accountable, respect and trust colleagues and act in the interest of the team.

What easy steps could everyone take to support parity?

Understand and overcome our own unconscious bias, sponsor great ideas, sustain flexible and smart working, mentor the young and choose a mentor, find and share best practices, assess if they are applicable in your environment and if yes, go for it!

Beth Knackstedt, Industrial Business Unit Leader, Chicago, IL, USA

Beth Knackstedt MWHI pledge to value women’s and men’s contributions equally by providing opportunities for everyone to be heard. This is important to me because I believe that we are each individuals with different strengths, experiences, and viewpoints, regardless of whether we are male, female or from other diverse backgrounds. In order for us to be successful, and continue to solve our clients’ most difficult problems, it’s important that we promote and take advantage of the best that we each have to offer.

How do you plan on executing this in your office or region?

As a business unit leader and and office manager in Chicago, I plan and facilitate different types of meetings and events. This allows me to provide different types of environments for meetings and gives me the ability to identify when we need input from those who typically are not given the opportunity. I will continue to find ways to draw ideas out of everyone!

What does parity mean to you?

Everyone has equal knowledge and ability to take advantage of every opportunity. By achieving gender parity, I believe we will all be challenged to perform better.

What easy steps could everyone take to support parity?

One easy step that everyone can take to support parity is to respectfully listen to each other.

Slaven Maitland, Human Resource Business Partner, Santiago, Chile

Slaven Maitland MWHMy commitment to parity lies in the equal working conditions, opportunities and development for all employees, regardless of gender, age, religion or disability.

How do you plan on executing this in your office or region?

Through standard processes that promote equal opportunity, fair and equal wages and benefits that are applicable equally to all employees. Generate recruiting selection standards that promote equal gender opportunities, in which each candidate will be selected for their actual capabilities.

What will we gain by achieving gender parity?

Parity means simply avoiding gender as an impediment or barrier, but seeing it as a strength, in which both men and women work in mutual cooperation.

Gender parity creates value in work teams, managing to complement the strengths of men and women in achieving the objectives in short- and long-terms goals. We achieve greater efficiency when we work on mutual cooperation.

Equal opportunities and conditions for men and women in terms of work life, also open an opportunity to work as teams in caring for their families and thus better balance personal and work life.

What progress have you seen toward parity already?

MWH, in our office in Chile, has seen marked improvements in working conditions and development equality for both genders. Two of our senior managers are women. This has been basically because the selection process has only seen the professionalism and not gender matters.

What easy steps could everyone take to support parity?

Create and raise awareness of the value of gender parity, recognize personal prejudices related to gender in order to neutralize them, get involved and promote gender parity in the day-to-day life, and be aware of all benefits.

Rachael Bisnett, Senior Geotechnical Engineer, Chicago, IL, USA

Rachael working on the Panama Canal Expansion Project

I pledge to help women and girls achieve their ambitions by mentoring students and younger engineers. It is important to me to pay it forward because my own mentors have been invaluable to my personal and professional growth.

How do you plan on executing this in your office or region?

I plan to give presentations and offer project site visits to student groups. Taking time to get to know our interns and new engineers.

What does parity look like to you?

Gender parity will be when women are equally represented in technical and operational leadership positions. By achieving gender parity, I believe we’ll gain a greater appreciation for other viewpoints and maximize utilization of varying skill sets.

What progress have you seen toward parity already?

At MWH, there is recognition that gender parity is important, and the implementation of some initiatives such as modification of hiring policies are a good step in the direction of parity. Outside of work on the soccer field, the guys no longer take it easy on me.

What easy steps could everyone take to support parity?

Everyone has an opportunity to support parity by making intentional efforts to be inclusive. This could range from consideration of the diversity of an organizational chart to actively sponsoring high-potential staff for senior leadership.

I pledge to value women and men’s contributions equally as well as challenge conscious and unconscious bias. I will look to do this by expecting and encouraging equally as I raise my sons and daughters, teaching them to treat individuals as the people they are, not the gender they are.

Shawn Oullet

IT Project Manager, Broomfield, CO, USA

I pledge to mentor through Denver Urban Scholars and serve as a role model for the next generation of women!

Nicole Lang

Senior Communications Specialist, Broomfield, CO, USA

I pledge to get more women engineers to volunteer and participate in events to encourage the younger generation to become engineers.

Shaikha Al Shaikh

Civil Engineer, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

I pledge to create an inclusive and flexible culture and environment by adapting daily schedules to give my team members what they need to succeed in both their careers and personal lives. They work together from all different timezones and respect that it’s part of their job so the least I can do is respect that they may need to attend to personal lives during typical working hours.

Maura Horn

VP of Global Talent Development, Broomfield, CO, USA

I pledge to continue to support diversity discussions at all levels of MWH. Our gender diversity conversations include: providing a diverse pool of candidates for positions, sponsoring high potential staff for leadership roles and exploring and eliminating reasons for turnover.

Meg VanderLaan

Chief Communications Officer, Broomfield, CO, USA

I pledge to focus on identifying women and girls with great potential that need a little encouragement and support to realize how capable they are. I’ve seen so many times that an extra minute or gesture to show that someone is noticed can make all the difference in helping with confidence to do more.

Carrie Sabin

Global Leader, Environment and Social Responsibility Program, Steamboat Springs, CO, USA

I pledge to work toward global gender parity by respecting value and difference (and value in difference) and by committing to challenging workplace bias.

Megan Couture

Graduate Planner, Auckland, New Zealand

MWH employees around the globe from the Netherlands to Peru met up to discuss gender parity

MWH Global hosts Girls & Science

MWH is proud to sponsor the second annual Girls and Science event at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Girls of all ages come and are inspired by women in science. They visit science clubhouses, gaining hands on experience of those in professional STEM fields. Young women will leave with a passion for science and inspiration to be a professional women in the STEM fields. This year, there was more than 11,500 participants in the event.

Watch the girls in action!

2015 International Women's Day


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2014 International Women's Day


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