Who are you celebrating on IWD?
"What woman are you celebrating today?"
This question was posed for IWD in a saucy Facebook group called Women Who Get it.
First, I thought about how I wanted to tip my hat to all women in various aspects of the water industry. And then, I thought about one woman in particular.
Early in my engineering career, I had the great pleasure of working with Dr. Mary Buzby.
At some point, I convinced Mary to let me interview her. This was was very early in my podcasting days, so I cannot vouch that my line of questioning was as polished as it is today. Nonetheless, Mary shared her time and a couple interesting stories I'd like to share with you today.
When Mary was working on her graduate education, she and her husband decided to start a family. Unbeknownst to her, her advisors booted her from the program upon finding out she was pregnant. She didn't find out about being dropped until she went to register for the next semester's hours. Apparently, they figured she wouldn't want to do those tough, 'sciencey' things when she had mothering and housekeeping to attend (eye roll). This left her scrambling to find a new place to complete her research and degree.
Honestly, I can't remember now if she had to switch department's or universities.
But she did. She persisted. And she earned her PhD.
Mary is a water/wastewater expert. At some point in her career, she attended WEFTEC. Maybe it was called something else back then. Today, it boasts the largest wastewater conference attendance in North America (pre-covid, anyway), at over 20,000 people. In our interview, Mary recounted that, at one point, the conference badges were essentially separated by gender stereotype. The attendees, assumed to be men, had plain badges with their names, while the attendees' spouses, presumed to be women, were given doily like name badges.
While we've come a long way, we still have so far to go.
Mary went on to lead some of the most progressive water sustainability initiatives in pharmaceutical manufacturing. She retired from Merck, and by my lucky stars, she agreed to work as a consultant afterward at Arcadis where I met her.
What I will always remember most about Mary is her kindness and charisma. Mary never made anyone feel like they were lesser for not knowing something or for asking questions. She made opportunities to teach people like me. She made it feel safe to ask questions and explore ideas. She shared her knowledge freely. She set the example of bringing others up to reach their potential.
I'll never forget this one time, I asked Mary about something we were working on:
"Mary, why are they paying us to do this? They are smart people; they could totally do this themselves."
"You're right! But they don't have the bandwidth. They've hired us so that they don't have to think and worry about it. And WE will charge them for it!!!" she said with a grin.
A lesson in the business of consulting if there ever was one.
I haven't yet published her audio interview. When I recorded it, my tiny podcast didn't feel big enough for telling Mary's story. Because it's important, I commit to you that I will edit and publish it. If you'd like to hear it once it's published, simply follow Lead to Soar wherever you download podcasts.
Thank you, Mary, for teaching, extending kindness, and being a leader in a true sense of the word.
Happy International Women's day.