Author: Cieana Detloff
Having just launched EmpoweringWomeninIndustry.com, we were excited to speak with Lisa Riles, first female President of SWPA, a Chicago-based organization working since 1976 to advance the Submersible Wastewater Pump industry. Riles, who is currently with Xylem as a Global Director of Residential & CBS Americas, was recently inaugurated as President of SWPA and will be leading for a two-year term.
“I want to encourage women into this industry,” states Riles. “I joined ITT after obtaining my engineering degree from the University of Illinois, and I remember when I first started that I had often been one of the only women in the room. This has been steadily changing, and I’ve personally witnessed how Xylem has done more to encourage and promote women within the organization. I see more women in management roles at Xylem, and also the same spirit within SWPA.”
Having been nominated by previous SWPA presidents – Steve Doolittle from Zoeller Company and Barry Jongsma with Pentair – Riles believes that there are many men in the pump industry that are happy to make room for more women in the industry. “In my experience, the men I’ve worked with are supportive and appreciate having diversity in their teams,” explains Riles. “They are open to getting different perspectives and approaches to problem solving. The industry has changed so much from the days of just ‘putting in a pump’ – now, we are focused on designing and operating systems that provide efficient and intelligent solutions; so it’s important that we take advantage of the benefits that diversity can bring to organizations.”
This push for diversity spans not just across gender, but across the age gap as well. During Riles’ tenure as SWPA President, she is working to advance SWPA’s mission to expand the training resources available to people in the water and wastewater industry. “Hands on training is extremely valuable, which is why SWPA offers face-to-face training opportunities throughout the year, but we’re finding that there is a much greater demand – and need – for training resources that can be accessed online through our Training Resource Center. These on-demand seminars provide the opportunity to conveniently earn CEU credits. Our tech-savvy generation is relying on data to make educated decisions, so it’s our job to give them as much information as we can.”
As Riles and SWPA continue to help the submersible wastewater pump industry make smarter decisions through education and collaboration, Empowering Pumps & Equipment will continue to drive awareness about these very important issues – one of them being the opportunities for Women in Industry. Whether she realizes it or not, Riles is a ‘role model’ for all of us Women in Industry. Seeing a professional female engineer working – and advancing – in the pump industry is truly an inspiration.