Driving diversity and inclusion in the water industry

African Americans are currently the most underrepresented group with respect to the percentage of the population who are pursuing careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) – the main driver behind my interest in supporting the WEF InFLOW Program.

When I first heard that the Water Environment Federation (WEF) was planning to launch a new program called WEF InFLOW (Introducing Future Leaders to Opportunities in Water) – and the program’s objective was to expose underrepresented minorities to professional careers in the water industry as part of their workforce development strategy – it made me immediately reflect on my own experience as an engineering student attending Howard University, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU), and the limited exposure I had to careers in the water industry while in school.

Although I have been in the water industry for more than 25 years, at times I am still amazed at the lack of diversity in the workforce. African Americans are currently the most underrepresented group with respect to the percentage of the population who are pursuing careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) – the main driver behind my interest in supporting the WEF initiative.

In addition, WEF’s strategy is very much aligned with Arcadis’ mission to build and leverage a diverse and inclusive workforce and workplace that offers all employees equal opportunities for professional development and career advancement. When the idea of Arcadis supporting the WEF initiative was brought forward, both John McCarthy, president of water of Arcadis North America, and Brian Kundert, executive vice president of human resources of Arcadis North America, enthusiastically supported our participation. Arcadis became a leading sponsor of the program, as they both saw the importance of the initiative and Arcadis’ role in the industry.

Engaging with future talent in the water industry

Through WEF InFLOW, I had the pleasure of meeting and interacting with some of the most dynamic students from Howard University, University of South Florida and Tuskegee University. Almost all the students relayed to me that they were unaware of the vast number of opportunities for careers in the water industry, and they were all extremely grateful for the opportunity to gain this exposure.

One of the highlights for me was participating on a panel at WEFTEC with other African American leaders in the industry such as Kishia Powell, Commissioner of the Department of Watershed Management for the City of Atlanta, and David Gaddis, CEO and President of DC Water, and providing insights to the students about our own career paths. This experience has really highlighted the importance and need for programs like WEF InFLOW in the water industry to increase diversity and inclusion in the workforce.

I was extremely pleased with the outcome of the program, and it has inspired me to build on this success by expanding my engagement level with my alma mater to help create a talent pipeline that is aligned with both WEF’s strategy and Arcadis’ mission.

To learn more about WEF InFLOW, listen to the Words on Water podcast: InFLOW (Introducing Future Leaders to Opportunities in Water).

Carlton Serrette

Senior Vice President, Water 813 353 5770 Ask me a question