At American Water we’re passionate about building a inclusive and diverse culture that reflects the beautifully different communities we serve. We don’t take that for granted, and we’ll continue to strive for American Water to be the best employer and provider of water and wastewater services to the people who rely on us.
With this in mind, during October we celebrate Diversity Awareness Month. It’s a reminder that we should take a step back and appreciate the differences that exist among our coworkers and our customers and the benefits that those differences bring to our company. We know that diversity across our company will create stronger teams, better ideas, innovative ways of doing our work, long-term sustainability and ultimately an organization that provides the best service to our customers.
This year, in honor of this important month of recognition, we asked some of our many incredible American Water personnel what diversity awareness means to them.
“Diversity means to me feeling accepted and supported by others, everyone is
UNIQUE.” – Felicia Buggs, Operations Specialist, New Jersey American Water
“Diversity to me means growth. In order to grow, we must have new and refreshing ideas. Without diversity, we are on level ground, but with diversity, we grow to the top with success. The diverse ideas and backgrounds are what push us to the next level.” – Kate Fidler, External Affairs Specialist, Illinois American Water
“In grade school, we were taught that the United States is a melting pot of immigrants from many different countries, and this diversity is what makes our country great. This idea meant little more than a worker’s trade and style of dress at the time, but I’ve come to understand and appreciate these buzzwords as I’ve been exposed to different cultures, ethnicities, ideas and religions. I’ve learned that diversity includes much more than the one-dimensional immigrant concept. It includes the different beliefs, opinions, desires, skills, talents and life experiences that make us who we are. Collectively sharing our individuality, our diversity, with others is essential for the mental growth and development that makes us all better people. Absent it, we remain as-is and often unable to understand other points of view.” – Scott Hinton, Engineering Manager, Iowa American Water
“It is an opportunity for me to benefit from a variety of viewpoints of people that may come from a variety of backgrounds – whether if it is educational, cultural, religious, etc.” – William Hill, Senior Infrastructure Engineer, American Water
“To me, diversity means making sure everybody is invited and you have a good mix of folks in the room. It means accepting people who are different than you, and learning that life is a rainbow of colors and also a grey scale – it is not just a binary. It means being curious and not judgmental, and having a variety of thoughts and opinions. It includes accepting that happiness comes in many different forms to different people and we must learn to not judge others based on our beliefs. It requires challenging outdated values like what the “perfect” family looks like, for example.” – Demetrio Marquez, Paralegal IV, California American Water
“To me, diversity means OPPORTUNITY. It does not matter how smart you are, how rich you are or what color you are, if you never have an opportunity, you will never be successful. Thinking, operating and viewing the world through a diversity lens creates opportunity for those who would otherwise never get a chance.” – Randy Moore, President, Iowa American Water
“Diversity is a critical method of innovation. In the absence of diversity, we would likely never challenge the status quo, never vary from “the way we’ve always done it, and rarely take steps forward or change the direction. Diversity is necessary for real and meaningful change.” – Brad Nielsen, Vice President of Operations, Iowa American Water
“Diversity to me means being able to learn from people from all different walks of life. Whether it’s a difference in culture, religion, education or background, I really feel like you can learn so much by being exposed to these different experiences and perspectives. Diversity should challenge people to not only be tolerant of others, but to try to learn from them.” – Jen Palmer, Senior Operations Support, Illinois American Water
“Diversity to me means being different without being divided. It means being open to learning about others, and open to sharing about ourselves. As an Indian woman, I love to share about myself because I am proud of my culture and my differences. Sharing food, music and traditions is my way of teaching people about myself. I believe it is important to accept differences and celebrate the backgrounds we come from and the experiences we have. I value learning about other people and their cultures because I feel that brings us all together, and takes away the divide that can sometimes come with talking about diversity.” – Nikki Shah, Inclusion & Diversity Intern, American Water
“I was adopted from Colombia when I was a baby. I just spent the last 2 weeks in Colombia meeting my biological mother for the first time, finding out my father had just passed away from COVID, finding out I had 6 sisters and 1 brother and adopting the role of being an uncle to over 10 different nephews and nieces. I do not speak Spanish and I went there alone. Before I went there, I thought diversity was just about being aware of other’s perspectives, cultural backgrounds and being accepting of all different preferences. However, I also learned that diversity is transformative and dynamic. It isn’t just about someone’s background or current life, it is also about their ever-changing perspective. To be diverse is also to be open, to change and to transform by allowing life to change you with all of its chaotic and unpredictable force.” – Alexander Sliwecki, GIS Analyst, Pennsylvania American Water
“Diversity means being included because of the importance of diversity of thought, not because of the color of my skin. It means speaking up and being heard when no one of like background and ethnicity is in the room. Diversity is about being inclusive of everyone to ensure all groups/ethnicities are included in decision-making processes that impact the majority.” – Edward A. Simon II, Director, Business Performance and Supplier Diversity, California American Water
“Diversity means the future. Globalization and technology are breaking down artificial barriers at a faster and faster rate, and diversity is the minimum standard for the future workforce. It should be embraced and encouraged, but it is coming regardless.” – Cade Simmons, Sr. Manager, Rates & Regulatory, Iowa American Water
For more information on what American Water is doing to support all of its employees and customers, check out the 2020 Inclusion & Diversity Report.