By Rebecca Losli , President Illinois American Water and Board Member, Illinois Utilities Business Diversity Council (IUBDC)
April is Celebrate Diversity Month and an opportunity to acknowledge the differences that exist around us. Both in business and in my personal life, remaining open to the passions of others and valuing diversity of thought and experiences has led to positive outcomes.
Diversity is commonly discussed with respect to racial, ethnic or gender differences. For me, diversity is much broader. We are all different and provide a unique perspective based on our background. This can be where and how we were raised, our work experience, and even our hobbies.
I grew up in South Alabama and went to elementary school when there were still subtle traces of discrimination. I was exposed to both racism and sexism at an early age. My father was a union laborer in a papermill, and my mother a nurse. Growing up, I had dreams of becoming an engineer, which was not a typical career for a young girl to pursue. I feel fortunate to have received encouragement and confidence from my parents to focus on my education.
Since becoming a female engineer, later an entrepreneur, and now the president of the largest investor-owned water utility in Illinois, I have a seat at the table. My diversity is valued and with that comes the responsibility of being an ally to others.
As my career has progressed, I have been called upon as a mentor. Sharing my unique experiences and offering guidance to female and male engineers has allowed me to grow as a leader. It is through these conversations that I have learned to build trust and to offer confidentiality in challenging situations. Had my parents not offered this same support to me, I could not in turn share it with others who need support, assurance and someone to listen. I understand that what makes us unique is often the essential ingredient to our success.
At Illinois American Water, providing clean, safe, reliable water and wastewater services to our customers is our top priority. This requires a tremendous amount of commitment, professional expertise and compassion. The dedication of our employees, and the diversity of thought they bring with them to work each day, are essential to how we provide exceptional service to our customers. American Water as an organization has been recognized as a leader in diverse work practices, honored in 2022 for the fourth consecutive year as a member of the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index, and in 2022 as a Top Ten Military Friendly Employer and a Leading Disability Employer by the National Organization on Disability. Our employees are our greatest asset, and we are committed to inclusion, diversity and equity.
We carefully examine our business practices both internally and externally and adjust the ways in which we can include diverse businesses in our formula for success. As a Board Member of the Illinois Utilities Business Diversity Council (IUBDC), I have the pleasure of collaborating with leaders of other large utilities in Illinois as we work together to utilize minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses. It is with intention that we partner with qualified diverse vendors to perform our critical work. This same principle is employed as we welcome new employees to our team. We respect and welcome diverse
perspectives and build upon the unique strengths of each other to create meaningful partnerships in the communities we serve.
Staying true to yourself and your passions is not always easy. However, finding a way to uplift others, and to do so with purpose and action, can make a lasting impact.