Empowering women in wastewater careers

Our employees plan, design, build and operate treatment facilities to clean wastewater for the region. As part of that, they often participate in teaching students about the wide variety of careers in clean water, especially as they relate to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Employees are also often involved in local and regional equity efforts and strive to promote equity in our operations and projects.

Project managers Elizabeth Shi and Amina Kedir
Project managers Elizabeth Shi and Amina Kedir helped mentor young women by sharing their experience working for a clean water utility.

Young Women Empowered (Y-WE) STEM Exploration Day as an annual event organized by a non-profit organization, Young Women Empowered (Y-WE), based in Seattle, Washington. Y-WE programs directly serve over 700 girls ages 13-16 and benefit over 2000 community members. Currently, the youth that Y-WE support are 70 percent first- or second-generation immigrants, 85 percent people of color, and 90 percent are from low-income backgrounds.

Since 2019, Y-WE has been a community partner on King County’s Clean Water Plan. For the past two years, our staff have been invited to lead a workshop at the annual STEM Exploration Day event. This year’s topic was ”STEM for the future we need”. During this workshop, project managers Elizabeth Shi and Amina Kedir discussed what our utility does, the Clean Water Plan, and the challenges of climate change. Four women engineers – Michelle Maganis, Rebecca Gauff, Dayana Friedman and Samayyah Williams – also share their career stories as people of color and women working in the wastewater field.

Screen capture from the virtual STEM Exploration Day 2021

Amina Kedir graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor’s in Environmental Science in 2016 and interned at King County Public Health. She is a project manager at King County Wastewater Treatment Division (WTD) and works on projects related to improving our region’s water quality. She chose to participate at STEM day to inspire young women of color in particular – to show them that women can earn STEM degrees and have professional careers. 

“I want them to know they can be anything they set their minds to,” said Amina. “I hope to empower them to pursue STEM professions. My favorite part of the event was connecting with students, hearing their interests, goals and aspirations.”

Elizabeth Shi is originally from Toronto, Canada and moved to Seattle to pursue her Master’s in Public Administration at the University of Washington. She has been with WTD since July 2019, first as a Project Management intern, and now as a Capital Project Manager working on projects that protect our waterways. Elizabeth participated in this event because she enjoys engaging with youth and inspiring the next generation to take on leadership roles at schools and in their communities.

“I was inspired to see so many girls interested in STEM,” said Elizabeth. “I hope they will continue to pursue careers in fields they are passionate about. I’ve benefited from having mentors throughout my career who supported and encouraged me – and I want to pay it forward.”