As part of the commemoration of International Women’s Day on March 8, the winners of the Mujer Tec Award recognizing the work of female members of the Tec de Monterrey community will be announced on March 11.
For her work in natural resource management and her specialization in water systems, Paola Gordon Luna, currently a senior consultant to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), was nominated to take part in the 2019 Mujer Tec Award and was one of the winners in the Transforming Power category.
Why were your nominated for the award?
Over the past five years at Tecnológico de Monterrey, I’ve been coordinating the Water Network for Latin America and the Caribbean, which is composed of 14 Latin American countries. It exists to encourage the exchange of knowledge on the water resources agenda and more specifically, with the organization that makes decisions for water management. I was coordinating the National Youth Water Award, which is both a national and international award aimed at young people between the ages of 15 and 20 who’ve developed solutions and innovations to improve water management and its local or global availability.
How did the nomination help your work in the water sector?
We were developing a program for more young people to take an interest in these issues, to learn to identify and understand the problems existing both in public and private water service management, where there are innumerable challenges to making more efficient use of water.
Where were you working when you heard about the nomination?
I was working in Mexico and implementing activities in Colombia, Panama and even in Spain, where we organized the second International Symposium on the Use of Support Systems, in collaboration with the Polytechnic University of Valencia. We were also organizing the International Water Forum in Monterrey, which will be held again this year.
What has been the most difficult part of working to solve a global issue?
Really, it has been to understand that there’s a limited volume of water available (because we were taught from a young age that water was renewable and that it never ran out) due to climate change, population growth, the way cities are organized (which means that water is not so available). Accessibility, water quality, and getting everyone to agree legally to work under a single vision with the different elements in specific locations, that’s one of the main challenges.
Another very important aspect is precisely the fact of being a woman in the predominantly male water sector. Being both a woman and young is an even greater challenge because sometimes they might think, “What’s this girl going to contribute or teach us?” So, it’s a challenge when it comes to presenting projects, but with the backing of institutions such as Tecnológico de Monterrey and the Inter-American Development Bank we can start to break this kind of mold.
What is squandered when women have little participation in looking after water?
The simple fact of involving women could increase the effectiveness of water projects by a factor of 6 or 7 compared to those that don’t. We see that those who are most affected when water is not available are the women in homes. Sometimes, water projects don’t consider the needs of women, who in most cases are the ones in charge of managing water in the home.
What lessons have you learned from taking part in this Award?
The award was a boost to my professional career because it taught me the importance of making the work I’m doing visible. Now that I am working at the Inter-American Development Bank, I realize that the MujerTec Award has been a stepping-stone, besides my academic preparation, as it’s given me greater scope in terms of the projects I can get involved in. The award recharged my self-esteem with fresh energy. It’s a way of highlighting our work, of empowering women to develop, train, and disseminate the wonderful things they’re doing to improve society.