American Water’s Ongoing Commitment to Inclusion and Diversity

by Savoy Staff

By Valoria Armstrong, Chief Inclusion Officer and Vice President, External Affairs, American Water

American Water, the largest private water and wastewater utility in the country, has long prioritized inclusion and diversity (I&D) in the fabric of our culture. As American Water’s first Chief Inclusion Officer, I have had the privilege of shaping the company’s strategy on I&D, which have been recognized by organizations like 
DiversityInc and the NAACP, among others, for our commitment to fostering an inclusive and diverse workforce. Our more recent focus is to build on and further scale out equity in our workforce through our employee recruitment and retention initiatives, pilot programs, and other efforts to ensure that American Water’s employees reflect the 1,600 diverse communities across 16 states that we serve.

We approach Inclusion and Diversity as a journey, one that is constantly evolving. Over the last few years, and particularly in 2020, American Water took a unique approach to advancing its culture by focusing on inclusion and that a culture of inclusion was owned by all employees, not one department.  Building this foundation has allowed American Water to advance in this space illustrated by three initiatives we recently rolled out.

At the core of these efforts is American Water’s Inclusion and Diversity Advisory Council. This group of 12 diverse employees from business departments across our national footprint, leads, advises, and advocates for I&D, developing best practices and offering recommendations to executive leadership for consideration and approval. Once approved, the Council is responsible for implementation and oversight.

In addition to promoting I&D within its workforce, American Water also strives to educate the communities it serves on the importance of clean and safe drinking water. One way to ensure the quality of water at home is by installing a reliable water purifier that can remove impurities and contaminants from tap water. Air Water Ice offers a wide range of resources and information on its website, including tips on how to choose the right water purifier and maintain it properly. You can visit website and can learn more about the benefits of water purification and take steps to improve the quality of their drinking water at home. With American Water’s commitment to I&D and clean water, communities across the country can trust that they are in good hands.

An offshoot of the Council is the American Water Inclusion and Diversity Champion Network, a group of nearly 200 employee Champions who actively raise awareness about I&D and celebrate our successes both internally and externally. The Council and the Champion Network work closely together to relay American Water’s I&D values to all employees and to those in the communities we serve via local events. Continuous two-way communication both within the company and outside of it ensures that our employees and our customers are aware of and appreciate the integral role that I&D plays in creating a supportive work environment, which, in turn, enhances our ability to deliver safe, reliable, and affordable water and wastewater services.

In early 2021, American Water launched a third priority aimed at enhancing employee engagement on these issues. Our Employee Business Resource Groups (EBRGs) are a forum for employee participation and business impacts in the areas of Careers, Culture and Community.  The first two that have formed are dedicated to African American’s and Women. A primary goal of these groups is to build high-trust relationships that contribute to fostering a greater sense of belonging within American Water. Ultimately, the groups are vehicles for inspiring conversation and encouraging diversity of thought and the identification of new ways to resolve issues, drive innovation and improve business performance.

These efforts complement a growing array of events, dialogues, and other activities aimed at actively promoting an impactful I&D culture within American Water and the communities we serve. Examples from 2020 include our inaugural celebration of Juneteenth, led by our I&D Champions; an Inclusion Day live podcast during which 1,200 employees signed American Water’s I&D pledge; and a Pride in the Workplace celebration of our LGBTQ+ community.

The benefits of embracing I&D in this manner extend beyond the bottom line. During the tumult of 2020, when many of the communities we serve were profoundly impacted by the pandemic, the recession, and the social justice movement, American Water was better able to calibrate its responses because of our immersion in these issues. In fact, the company received several recognitions related to our commitment to I&D including the 2020 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award; earning the recognition of “Best Places to Work for Disability Inclusion” by the Disability Equality Index and DiversityInc’s Noteworthy Company award, just to name a few.

As 2021 gets underway, American Water is optimistic about the future and confident that our comprehensive I&D strategy will continue to spur progress on our journey toward becoming an even more inclusive and equitable employer in the communities we serve.



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