PHOENIX – A willingness to work hard, take risks and chart new paths rather than accept the status quo are often the characteristics of true transformational leaders, panelists agreed during the Women in Waste Management discussion at the 2019 Waste Management Symposia.
The annual discussion serves as a forum for women leaders associated with the industry and also a charity fundraiser. This year’s panel consisted of moderator Dr. Kathryn McCarthy, Vice President for Research and Development for Canadian Nuclear Laboratories; EM Assistant Secretary Anne White: DOE Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs Melissa Burnison; Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper; and Karen Wiemelt, Senior Vice President and General Manager for North American Nuclear for Jacobs.
To move forward in leadership, women and young career professionals in the audience were urged to take risks. Wiemelt said she seized an opportunity to move into deactivation & decommissioning despite having a limited background in the field. Having previously proven herself in the environmental remediation field, she said her management had the confidence to take a chance on her for a position in D&D.
Burnison shared insight on the importance of trust. Being a “go-to” person builds management’s confidence in your leadership ability, she said. Casper said willingness to be the hardest worker in the room but also willing to share success with others also is key.
Projecting confidence and knowing where to turn for support also are necessary components for building leadership acumen, panelists agreed.
The industry leaders were asked how parents can encourage their daughters to break into a STEM field like they did.
White expressed appreciation for her father, who left her with no doubt she could be successful in whatever field she chose.
“I was lucky,” White said. “My Dad just raised me to believe I could do anything. There were no limits, no governor, no nothing. In a way I am really fortunate. My Dad used to always say, ‘Today is the first day of the rest of your life, and live that way all the time.
“Having people who believe in you is absolutely game-changing and critical,” she said.