The Other Gender Bias

I am female.  For 30 years I worked in a male dominated industry.  By most accounts I did okay.  Every once in a while someone would ask me “Is it harder being a woman than a man in this industry?” (or words to that effect).

That was a hard question to answer because I have never had the opportunity to be a man in the industry, so I have no real basis of comparison.  I could observe others, but never knew if their successes (and my failures) were because of gender  bias or because the other person (male) was simply better at what they did than I was.  (Sales is a very competitive industry.  You win some, you lose some.  I did my share of both.)

In my working life, I only had one boss who would actually admit that he would not hire a woman for a specific job at his company.  It was a very obvious ceiling to advancement for women.  Nothing ‘glass’ about it.  It was all rebar & concrete!  All the women who wanted that job left his employment.  I lasted 5 years there, advancing from file clerk to geophysical data technician and office manager.  It was an excellent learning environment, but when I wanted to advance into becoming a data broker (the equivalent of a ‘sales’ position), I was told in no uncertain terms that this was a job for a man.   So I watched men, no more (and usually less) qualified than myself, be hired, and then I would be tasked with training them.  They also got paid more.  Oh the seventies!   (We’ve come a long way, baby?)

So I know all about gender bias against women.  I get it.  Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

But one advantage women have is that it is okay for women to want to be ‘more like men’ and can remain ‘women’, whereas the opposite is not necessarily the case.

So let’s talk about ‘gender’.  I don’t go around thinking of myself as a specific gender.  I am just ‘me’.  I wish everyone had that freedom.  If I want to wear jeans, I wear jeans.  If I want to wear a skirt, I wear a skirt.  Do I like the feel of soft silk on my skin?  Yes!  Can I use a hammer?  Yes!  Are the two mutually exclusive?  No!

I have a friend who has transitioned from being male to female.  She now is able to wear all the clothes that females traditionally wear.  The expression of who she is to society is tied up in the clothes she wears, the way she styles her hair, the way she walks, the way she talks.  But … she is in a relationship with another woman.  Before she transitioned she was not gay.  She liked being in relationships with women then, and she still likes being in relationships with women now.  So what has really changed?  What has changed is the way she presents herself to society.  Inside, she is still the same ‘person’, but prior to transitioning she didn’t have the freedom to express herself.

In order for women to really advance and become ‘equal’, it is not simply a case of women becoming ‘more like men’.  It has to become ‘okay to be a woman’, or in the case of men, to have what are currently considered to be ‘feminine’ traits.

(Personally, I would like to get rid of the definition of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ traits, and just have everyone have ‘human’ traits.)

A couple of years ago I was at a forum comprised mainly of women.  A women I had never met before started complaining to me about her husband.  “All he does is take care of the kids and the house,” she said “I need him to go out and get a job.”

I was momentarily speechless.   Then I composed myself and said “Imagine if a man said exactly the same thing about his wife.”  We talked a bit more, and I pointed out that her husband ‘taking care of the kids’ had freed her from that responsibility and enabled her to devote more time to her business.  She was able to attend the forum and advance her business.   Maybe by ‘taking care of the kids’ he was contributing in the best way to their mutual success, far more so than he would do if he ‘got a job’.

And that is the other gender bias.  Until it is okay for a man to stay home and take care of the kids and the house, women will not be equal.

Until it is okay for a man to like soft fabrics, cry, and show emotion, women will not be equal.  (Perhaps the reader can go away and research ‘toxic masculinity’ now.)

We can talk all we want about empowering women, but as long as empowering women means to make them ‘more like men’, women will never be equal.

In life we sometimes form a life partnership with another person.  In true partnerships, each person supports the other to be the best that they can be.  It is a win/win situation.  The best of each is used, and they both benefit.  Traditionally women have been the background support – the people who make sure the kids are fed and the clothes get washed and all those other things that have to be done.  But what if the woman has a head for business and the man is the support?  Does that make him any less of a ‘man’?

Studies have shown that women can succeed in business, if they have the same supports as men.  Eliminating the other gender bias means that we have to accept that men are just as capable of doing the things that women have traditionally done.  Men can cook.  Men can clean.  Men are individuals, just as women are, and all have their own strengths and weaknesses, and we need to accept them as individuals in their own right.

Women can succeed in business, if they have the same supports as men.  Women will never be equal to men as long as we let that other bias stop men from doing what they’re good at, and what is for the mutual good.  Women can achieve equality, but we also need to allow men to achieve the same equality of choice.

We need to get rid of that other gender bias.

Water for People Silent Auction at BCWWA Conference in Penticton: Call for Auction Item Donations

The BC Committee, Water for People-Canada, is once again organizing a silent auction to be held in conjunction with the trade show at the upcoming BCWWA Conference, to be held in Penticton, BC, May 13-14, 2018.

The silent auction hours will be almost the same as the trade show hours: Sunday 3 pm to 8:00 pm and then again Monday from 9:30 am, with final bids closing at 2 pm. The trade show closes at 1:45 pm, so this will give all you exhibitors a chance to come over and make those last minute bids.

In order to make the silent auction a success we depend upon donations. So please, when you’re planning your trip to Penticton, please plan to bring something along to donate. If you can’t donate, please come by during the silent auction and bid on the items. Bid early, bid often!

To make things easy for everyone, we’re asking you to drop off your donations to our WFP Silent Auction tables, located adjacent to the registration area at the Penticton Trade & Convention Centre (273 Power Street, Penticton BC) Sunday morning during set up, or if you would like to donate, but won’t be at the conference, send me a message and we will organize something.

All proceeds from the silent auction go to Water for People-Canada. The BC Committee is comprised of industry professionals who volunteer the work required to put on the silent auction, and the space at the trade show is graciously provided by the BCWWA.

Additional information on Water for People-Canada can be found at the WFP website.

Thank you,

Elaine, Silent Auction Committee, WFP-Canada, BC Committee

Please share this article! #BCWWA #WFP

The Concept of ‘Enough’

Or: the stock market is not the economy

For many years I was in sales. I had sales managers, regional managers, service managers, all sorts of managers. And all of these managers wanted one thing: MORE.  Always more.

And every once in a a while I would ask “Why?”  Why are we driven for ‘more’.  Will there ever be ‘enough’?

At the beginning the need for ‘more’ was in order to make the company viable.  Fair enough.  There are certain economies and overhead that only make sense if certain sales objectives are reached.  We could all work together for mutual benefit.  If the company succeeded, we all succeeded.

However, the answer to my question eventually became ‘The shareholders need a better return on their investment’.   Decisions were made with ROI (return on investment) as the prime objective.  It became about greed.  There would never be ‘enough’.

And I look at the stock market, and I see the same greed.  The same always wanting ‘more’.

There is a common fallacy that a rising stock market is a good thing.  That rising stock prices mean a good economy.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Continue reading The Concept of ‘Enough’

Imagine a Day Without Water – 2017 edition

Each year, on October 12th, focuses attention on water infrastructure needs.

This year, I’m going to talk about the water infrastructure needs in my own community, the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia, Canada.

Water infrastructure is a complex topic, because it needs to take into account both supply and demand.  Most North Americans are used to vast quantities of clean, safe water pouring forth from their taps.

Here on the Sunshine Coast, our potable water is supplied mainly from the Chapman Creek water filtration facility run by the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD).  The treatment plant is taking water from Chapman Creek, which is fed by Chapman Lake.    The SCRD has a helpful video here.

Chapman Lake is in Tetrahedron Provincial Park, so any changes to the level of the lake need to be approved by those concerned with maintaining the integrity of the park, lake & surrounding areas.

Because of the 16 km distance from the lake to the plant intake, the SCRD must release from the lake the anticipated amount of water required many hours before it will be needed.  For scheduling purposes, outside watering is limited to two hour periods morning and evening during the typical garden and lawn growing season. (May to October, typically)

Throughout the year the lake is replenished by rainfall and snow melt.  If there is no rainfall in the watershed, if there isn’t enough snow pack to last the summer, or if the snow pack melts too quickly in the spring,  the lake level will  not be maintained.

Due to environment regulations, the creek must always have a minimum amount of flow to support the fish that live in and use the creek for spawning purposes.

If the water level in the lake gets too low, the SCRD will impose watering restrictions.  The lower the lake, the more restrictions.  In 2016 & 2017, the SCRD imposed ‘Level Four’ restrictions, meaning that no outside watering was allowed.

In 2013, the SCRD published a water conservation brochure which showed the daily consumption of water, per person, on the Sunshine Coast, was 551 litres.  That’s 551 litres/day/person.  To visualize this:  a container 1 metre x 1 metre x .55 metre.  Each and EVERY day.  That’s more than the average BC’er, and a lot more than the average Canadian.

The average person in the world needs 5 litres a day to survive.  We on the Sunshine Coast are using over 100 times more water each day than we need.  That’s 10,000% more than we ‘need’.

But then we get into ‘need’ versus ‘want’ or  ‘entitlement’.  Many local citizens feel they have the right to use as much water as they like.  And because the vast majority of the coast is not (yet) metered, they can currently do so without impediment.

The SCRD has encouraged conservation.  They publish charts showing daily usage rates.  In 2016 the public actually responded and lowered the consumption rate considerably.  In 2017 the response was less noticeable.  Letters to the editor in the local newspapers and comments on the SCRD’s FaceBook page decried the ‘lack of planning’ on the SCRD’s part so that people could continue being wasteful of this precious resource.

551 litres/day/person

551 litres

per day

per person

Based on 30,000 residents on the Sunshine Coast that is a bit over 16 Million litres per day (MLD).  This is borne out by the statistics published by the SCRD showing daily consumption of over 16 MLD.

Common solutions offered in the letters section of the newspaper:  “Lower the lake level by pumping it down more”  “Build new pipelines to take water from other lakes” “Build a reservoir.”

Lower the lake level by pumping it down more:  See “Tetrahedron Provincial Park”

Build new pipelines to take water from other lakes:  the average cost of a big pipe (including engineering, site works, pipes, air valves, etc.) is $500/metre, and would probably cost more due to the terrain on the Sunshine Coast.    Add in the damage to the park from the access roads that would be needed to do maintenance on the pipelines. On top of this is the cost of ongoing maintenance on the pipelines.

Build a reservoir:  551l/d/person x 30,000 residents x 365 days = 6,033,450,000 litres, or (6.033 M m3) of water.  Where are you going to store that?  Currently Chapman Lake has storage of 680,000,000 litres, so to hold a full year’s capacity it would need to be 10 times larger.  Even holding enough for the ‘summer months’ would be a behemoth undertaking.

One of the factors not being taken into account is the cost of treating the water.   Water doesn’t just come out of the lake and into the distribution centre.  It needs to be treated.  Those of us who lived here before the new treatment plant was built remember every autumn when the water would turn yellow due to the tannins from the falling leaves staining the water.  The water was safe to drink, but was unappetizing.  There were also concerns about high turbidity, and the carcinogenic side effects of chlorinating water with high organic loads. The treatment plant eliminated these issues.

The Chapman Creek WTP was built in 2004 and has a peak daily capacity of 24.5 million litres/day (24,000 cubic meters/day).  That peak daily capacity is if the plant is running at peak capacity for all 24 hours of the day.  Right now the plant is running at peak capacity during ‘watering hours’.  The reservoir has a capacity of 15 million litres, or less than one day’s consumption.  If consumption increases, the plant will need to be expanded, and the reservoir capacity at the plant would  also need to be increased.  This all costs money.

One of the initiatives of the SCRD is to introduce water meters.  People are outraged.  “Use the money you’re spending on meters to increase the supply so that we can continue wasting water,” they say.

I, personally, am all for water meters.  Water meters can be used to find previously undetected leaks in the lines going from the water system into private residences.  My favourite story thus far was a woman who found out that their property didn’t actually have a ‘naturally occurring spring’, but instead their ‘spring’ was a large hole in their irrigation system, leaking treated potable water day and night.

But the main purpose for water meters is to create awareness. Like it or not, most people are motivated by ‘cost’, and if it suddenly starts costing them real money to leave a tap running, or watering the driveway (instead of the actual garden), they will be more inclined to turn off that tap or set the sprinklers to a shorter run sequence on the bit that really needs the water.

Right now, I pay the same ‘fixed’ amount for water as people who water their lawns every day.  We’ve lived in our house for over a quarter of a century, and have never watered our lawn.  It’s not the best lawn in the neighbourhood, but it has survived.  But why should others conserve when their costs are going to be exactly the same whether they conserve or not? Not many people on the Sunshine Coast have my background in water treatment.

We all need to reassess our ‘needs’, ‘wants’ and perceived ‘entitlements’.

In my other life (the one not on the Sunshine Coast, where we have water falling from the sky on a regular basis), I interview water professionals.  Most of these water professionals are located in California, which recently endured, and is still recovering from, a five year drought.

One of the lessons learned from the drought is that ALL water is precious.  During the drought all water resources were examined for ‘reliability’.  Water source decisions have a triple impact:  there are social impacts, environmental impacts, and economic impacts.  The cheapest water (that which falls naturally from the sky) is not the most reliable.

In California they discovered one of the most reliable sources of water is one which most people will not want to consider:  Wastewater.

In Sechelt, the ‘Water Resource Centre’ (WRC – formerly known as the wastewater treatment plant) has the capacity to treat a maximum of 12,000 cubic metres of wastewater per day.  A cubic metre is 1000 litres, so that works out to 12 million litres/day, or almost 3/4 of the current demand on the Sunshine Coast.

Now, would I want to drink the water from the WRC?  Not right now, because it is not treated to ‘direct reuse standards’.   But direct reuse is coming into use in areas where water ‘reliability’ is more important than the amount of treatment required to make it potable.  In California, ‘direct reuse’ is actively occurring.

Direct water reuse started in California due to their drought.  Automobile emissions regulations started in California due to their smog issues, but then spread worldwide due to increased awareness. With the effects of climate change affecting us all, direct reuse is the wave of the future.

The effluent at the WRC in Sechelt is currently treated to  BC “Indirect Potable Reuse” standard. This means the effluent is suitable for reuse for industry, park irrigation and agriculture.  Right now the majority of this effluent is discharged into Trail Bay.

There is no reason that the effluent can’t be used to water lawns.  But the infrastructure does not currently exist to run separate ‘non-potable’ water lines.  Use of the ‘Indirect Potable Reuse’ water already available needs to be part of the discussion.  We also need to discuss the real costs of ‘Direct Reuse’ versus less reliable sources of water.

My solution to the water ‘crisis’ on the Sunshine Coast?  Communication & education.  We have choices to make.  Reduce our wasteful habits.  Reuse the resources we already have.

Thank you to our 2017 Water for People Silent Auction donors & supporters

A big ‘Thank you’ to the following businesses and individuals who supplied auction items for our 2017 Silent Auction at the BCWWA Conference in Victoria, May 28-29:

Ramtech Environmental Products

Environmental Operators Certification Program (EOCP)

Heather Reynolds




Neptune Technology Group (Canada) Ltd.

Fortis BC

Waterhouse Environmental Services Corporation

Thompson Rivers University

Waste ‘n Watertech

Northlands Water & Sewer Supplies Ltd.

MP Supply Inc. (Peter Turgoose)

Coast Water Systems

Jennifer Crosby

AWI Filter

Four Star Waterworks Ltd.

Sponsor of our ‘Count the Candy‘ jar was Lunula Environmental Consulting.

Thanks to their generosity, and the generosity of those who bid on, and won, the items, we raised $1800 for Water for People – Canada.

A special thank you goes to Kerr Wood Leidel Engineering who came up with a fun and innovative ‘collect all the pieces’ jig saw puzzle game.  Three winners each received charitable donation receipts for $500, meaning that an additional $1500 was contributed to Water for People – Canada.

And last, but not least, a huge thank you to the BCWWA Conference organizers, who provided us with space to hold the Silent Auction.

It was great to see everyone in Victoria.

Thank you from the entire BC Committee, Water for People-Canada.