CWEA leaders gathered in Oakland for the DEI strategic planning workshop.

CWEA Leaders Gather for DEI Workshop and Program Planning

By CWEA Staff, Wastewater News

What are the big I.D.E.A.s when it comes to increasing diversity in the water profession? 

That was the focus of an October 28th workshop in Oakland that brought together the CWEA Board of Directors, DEI Task Force members and several local section leaders. Twenty-eight volunteer leaders and staff members participated in the workshop facilitated by  Cook Ross, CWEA’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) consultant.

“Instead of saying to someone we’re different, I’d like to say I’m different like you, and recognize our individuality,” said Jeff Tucker, CWEA’s President, during his welcome remarks. “We are part of making this profession a place where individuals want to work. We want everyone to feel safe. This is incredibly important and we have to do this work for the good of our profession.”

The workshop brought leaders together to discuss the research Cook Ross has been gathering over the last six months. The research included 5  focus group meetings; 13 interviews with leaders within the profession; and a survey of 140 members.

Volunteers participated in four work groups – leadership; culture; talent; and the marketplace. Each group represented a different perspective within CWEA. The groups poured over the research and findings Cook Ross’ compiled and developed recommendations on strategies and programs CWEA can implement to achieve DEI goals.

I.D.E.A. is an acronym developed by Cook Ross that stands for:

  • Inclusion – Creating a culture of belonging and value. Everyone is respected and encouraged as individuals. Leveraging diverse skills, experiences, and perspectives to help the organization achieve its mission.
  • Diversity – Our unique characteristics as individuals that identify us. Includes race, gender, religion, ability, sexual orientation, background, education and much more.
  • Equity – The unhindered access to information, experiences, environments, and systems for people of all abilities and  life experiences.
  • Accessibility – The pledge of fair treatment, opportunity, and advancement while striving to identify and eliminate barriers. Ensures everyone has the resources that they need to succeed, or reach full potential.

“I love CWEA because it is about the members, and about the volunteers,” noted Dr. Adriana Rojas one of the consultants from Cook Ross. “Members know if they speak up, a fellow leader will listen and include them.”

Cook Ross has identified three key characteristics of inclusive leadership: connection with individuals, activation within a team, and bravery within an organization. 

“An inclusive leader takes risks, challenges the status quo, and bravely steps up in difficult situations when they see that values of diversity and inclusion are not being carried out,” Cook Ross noted.

Research has found that heterogeneous groups achieve greater results than homogeneous groups and organizations with inclusive cultures have lower turnover.

Watch for CWEA’s list of recommendations, new programs, and training classes coming soon as we continue on our IDEAs journey.