12 March 2024

Championing Diversity and Inclusion: Jemma Tennant's Impact in the Water Industry

In honour of International Women's Day, we had the pleasure of interviewing Jemma Tennant, a Technical Consultant for SMS Environmental and Vice Chair of Water Management Society. 

Jemma shared her journey in the water industry, the challenges she has faced as a woman, and her thoughts on the future of women in STEM fields.

I have always been interested in science, particularly biology. My final year dissertation at University involved looking at the microbiology of different types of water which took me to the Camargue in France, Loch Leven in Fife and a slightly less glamorous effluent plant in Midlothian.

Having a woman like Jemma Tennant, soon to serve as Chair of the Water Management Society is a significant step forward for equality in the water industry. Historically, this field has been dominated by men, but having a woman in a leadership role showcases the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Jemma's expertise and dedication to water management make her a strong and capable leader, proving that gender is not a barrier to success in this field. Her appointment sends a powerful message that women can excel in traditionally male-dominated industries and paves the way for more women to pursue leadership roles in water management. This is a positive step towards creating a more diverse and representative workforce in the industry.

Jemma began her career in the water industry after working at a Papermill during her student years. She was drawn to the industry by the excitement of visiting different places, seeing various manufacturing processes, and meeting new people.

I loved going to different places, seeing different manufacturing processes and meeting lots of different people. I always remember the buzz I had of being able to tour round the new wing of the National Museum of Scotland before it opened to the public, getting a sneak preview before anyone else. Or driving up to a distillery in the middle of the Scottish Highlands to service their boilers. It was different and exciting.

However, she acknowledged that working in a male-dominated industry has not been without its challenges. Jemma shared stories of discrimination and harassment she has faced from customers and ex-work colleagues, emphasising the importance of being thick-skinned while not accepting such behaviour.

Despite the challenges, Jemma remains optimistic about the future of women in the water industry. She noted that while the representation of women has improved over the years, there is still progress to be made. Jemma pointed out the importance of women in leadership roles within the industry, citing her election as the next Chair of the Water Management Society as a positive step towards greater gender diversity.

When asked about women who inspire her, Jemma mentioned Michelle Obama, Malala Yousafzai, and Margaret Thatcher, among others. She also highlighted Elise Maynard as one of the most influential women in the industry, praising her dedication to raising industry standards without seeking monetary compensation.

If you are thinking of taking the leap and joining the industry, Jemma says:

Just do it. It’s such a rewarding career, constantly challenging and no day is the same. Science keeps changing and we are discovering more and more. It’s exciting to be part of.

Looking ahead, Jemma believes that the key to enhancing women's contribution to the water industry lies in continuing on the path of progress. She encouraged girls interested in STEM or engineering to pursue their passion, citing the achievements of women like Marie Curie, Rosalind Franklin, and Ada Lovelace as proof that anything is possible.

To conclude, Jemma Tennant's appointment as the Vice Chair of the Water Management Society highlights the importance of diversity and inclusion, and serves as a testament to the fact that women can excel in leadership roles in traditionally male-dominated fields. Jemma's leadership showcases the talent and capabilities of women in water management, and opens doors for more women to rise to leadership positions. Overall, her appointment is a positive step towards creating a more diverse and representative workforce in the industry. Her story serves as a reminder of the resilience and determination of women in male-dominated industries. As we celebrate International Women's Day, let us be inspired by Jemma's journey and continue to support and empower women in STEM fields.

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