As Women’s History Month comes to a close, Oregon DEQ wants to honor and celebrate the many women in our agency, who work tirelessly to restore, maintain and enhance our state’s air, land and water. Their hard work, expertise and lived experiences provide unique perspectives and contributions to our mission.
Over the last month, we approached women who were new to DEQ, as well as those who have worked here a while and moved into new positions in the agency, and asked them the following question:
How do you think your experience as a woman has informed your work at DEQ?
These are their answers:
Senior Climate Policy Advisor, Office of Greenhouse Gas Programs
“Much of my previous experience and my current work at DEQ on climate change is about finding solutions for integrating environmental protection with economic development. I’ve learned that empowerment is key to finding solutions. Whether it’s overcoming barriers to participation based on gender or bringing marginalized groups to the decision-making table, the results are both more successful and equitable. As a women of color, I have deep connections to these issues. It’s especially rewarding to work on these solutions in trying to address one of society’s biggest challenges.”
Environmental Engineer, Air Quality Division
Eastern Region: The Dalles
“I grew up surrounded by educated, loving and supportive folks. I was raised feeling equal to men and never doubted my skills and ability to succeed in a technical field. Looking around, I realize how rare that is and how lucky I am. “Growing up in an intellectual family meant participating in many challenging and stimulating discussions. I learned to listen to opposing opinions with respect and was encouraged to voice my own thoughts with confidence. This experience prepared me to thrive in a workplace like DEQ, filled with inspiring professionals who work as a team towards a common goal of serving our state and public.”
Cleanup Program Coordinator, Land Quality Division
Northwest Region: Portland
“I chose to go into public service because I believe that we need to take action on environmental issues in an equitable way. As climate change becomes more rampant than ever, we need to make sure we protect those who will be most impacted. I believe we need to provide communities with the resources to understand what is happening and empower them to voice their concerns. I am here at DEQ to do my part to help make the change that needs to be made.”
Senior NPDES Permit Writer, Water Quality Division
Western Region: Eugene
“I started my career in wastewater shortly after graduating from college. I quickly took interest in the wastewater treatment process. I was amazed at how this milky, stinky water was treated back to a beautiful clear liquid. My interest in the field paved the way to different positions in wastewater and to finally DEQ.
“Despite the wastewater field being male-dominated with little racial diversity, I, as a women of color, have had wonderful mentors and many opportunities. I was raised by hardworking Spanish women, who taught me to work hard, be confident, be respectful and overcome obstacles. My experiences as a woman of color – along with lessons from my mentors, my manager at DEQ, DEQ staff and people in the community – have helped build my career at DEQ.”
Permit Writer and Compliance Specialist, Water Quality Division
Eastern Region: Pendleton
“My experience as a woman: individual, mother, daughter, wife, sister, friend, colleague, ally and collaborator, has broadened my vision of stewardship and equity; it has helped me better represent the purpose and obligation we have as a community to protect the environment we live in.”
Klamath Basin Specialist, Water Quality Division
Eastern Region: Klamath Falls
“At 10 months of total service, I am relatively new to DEQ, but I have worked in natural resources in Oregon for the past four years. Statistically, women are under-represented in STEM fields and I think that gives women in these careers a unique perspective on representation and inclusion. A large part of my work in the Klamath Basin and at DEQ centers on collaborating with partners to achieve basin-wide water quality goals. I always strive for as much outreach and inclusion as possible to ensure these collaborative groups represent all interests and perspectives in the basin. Our work is more meaningful and effective when all voices are included.”
Thank you to all the women of DEQ. We value your individual and collective abilities and histories. You make all of us better.
–Susan C. Mills and Laura Gleim, with contributions from the entire Public Affairs Team.