Celebrating Women’s History Month at Essential

Every year, the month of March is proclaimed as Women’s History Month in the U.S., with the focus on honoring women’s contributions in American history.  What initially started as a week-long local celebration in Santa Rosa, California in 1978, was quickly recognized nationally beginning in 1980, with the support of President Jimmy Carter.  In 1987, Congress passed a law designating March as “Women’s History Month;” it has been celebrated as such ever since.

At Essential Utilities, we’re proud to create an environment where women can bring their authentic selves to work, have their voices and perspectives heard at every level, and feel empowered to navigate through professional development and career advancement opportunities.  We celebrate and support women working in our industry, which is historically male-dominated, and seek to share stories of resilience, growth, and success to continue inspiring women for years to come. 

For this month’s blog, we’ll be featuring different women weekly, to share more insight on what Women’s History Month means to them.  This week, in our first installment, we’re featuring Catherine Dolfi and Tracy Fullen.  Both women serve as leaders on the gas and water sides of the business.

Catherine is a Gas Operations Supervisor located in Pennsylvania.  She has been with the organization for over five and a half years.  Her responsibilities include supervising the repair and maintenance of gas operations facilities, employee productivity, managing resources, customer relations, and the monitoring of work to ensure effective yet safe performance and adherence to compliance significant to People’s Natural Gas, the PUC (Public Utility Commission), and federal rules and regulations.

Tracy is an Engineering Manager located in Illinois.  She has been with the organization for over 3 years.  Tracy is responsible for managing the state engineering department, capital budget, and capital projects to maintain proper water and wastewater service while maintaining compliance with regulatory requirements. 

What has been your biggest inspiration personally or in your career?

C: Throughout almost five decades of my life I have been inspired by many people and events, but I would have to say my mom and my dad were my first inspirations that opened the door to allowing me to be the person I am today. As a child I watched my mom take on the role of a farmer, mother, wife.  I saw her driving tractors, baling hay, herding cattle, working alongside my dad, and of course my brother and I were expected to do the same. I was never taught there was a difference in roles within our family. As I grew up on the farm my dad relied on me to dig the fence post holes, run the barb wire, cut trees, split and stack the wood by hand as well as continue to help with the daily chores on the farm, doing all of the things everyone else in the family did, never favoring the help of my brother over me because I was a girl. Because of my parents, I was taught work ethic and about merit and never saw differences in my abilities or who I was or what I wanted to do in life. At the age of five I remember telling my mom I wanted to be a truck driver when I grew older and her looking at me without surprise but acceptance even though she knew at that time it was very rare that females took the position of a truck driver.  Because of my parents, I was never afraid to pursue what I wanted to do in life.  Because of how they raised me, I never saw walls I couldn’t climb.

T:  My career path has been somewhat untraditional, but this has given me the opportunity to work on a project at every level and to gain experience with a broad range of personalities.  I started my career as a technician, working in the field and as a draftsman, eventually assisting with design aspects.  I wanted to do more and earned my bachelor’s degree and later my P.E. license, all while maintaining my full-time job.  I had a lot of great mentors and cheerleaders supporting me from family, friends, bosses, and colleagues. There are so many people who inspired me to do better and be better. I was drawn to water resources and knew my place was in the water and wastewater industry.

What motivates you?

C: Climbing the walls people tell me I am not capable of climbing

T:  I really enjoy being a part of progress and being on the team that gets to execute improvements. I love working with our Operations teams and collaborating to come up with best solutions and then implementing them.

In your own words – what is Women’s History Month? What does it mean to you?

C: Today, for the first time I looked up the history surrounding Women’s History Month. Clearly, it’s about celebrating the history of women in America.  I’m not sure if this is the effect of how I was raised, but I truly have never really thought about what Women’s History Month means to me. I have never been one to see people other than people, to see them separately or as part of a category.

T: It is an opportunity to appreciate the extraordinary women we work with every day and to recognize the women who laid the groundwork for us.

What is the best part about working at Essential Utilities? What keeps you here?

C:  I would have to say, some of the people I know here and work with are the best part of working at Essential Utilities.

T:  The ability to move projects forward without needing buy-in or a majority vote to do so.  We work with a great team that collectively identifies the problem, evaluates our options, and executes the plan.  It’s great to reflect on how many improvements we make in a year, and then look to the next.

Why should others consider a career with Essential?

C:  Like any place of employment, if there is a drive to succeed followed by hard work, a company like Essential provides the environment in which one can accomplish any goals set for success.

T:  The sense of purpose – we need water resources to live.  The feeling of what we do everyday matters and does make a difference.

How does the Company foster an environment of diversity and inclusion?

C: I believe the workplace environment will always be successful when it rewards its employees for hard work and merit, especially when the environment promotes individuals to take pride in their accomplishments, their hard work as individuals and as a team.

T:  While as a company we do spend time focused on diversity and inclusion, hosting diversity supplier events, acknowledging diversity importance, etc., it is up to each one of us to look around at the diverse backgrounds of culture of everyone we work with and know they each bring value to our decisions and environment.

[i] https://www.womenshistory.org/womens-history/womens-history-month