Emma Waterhouse
Interview with
Emma Waterhouse
Senior Principal, New Zealand Environments Lead

Forging an environmental career was always on the cards for Senior Principal, Emma Waterhouse but it has been her work in a leadership role where she can guide those entering the industry, especially women, which has been most rewarding. 

In the corporate world, there are a myriad of barriers for women in their pursuit of senior leadership roles, but these can be even more significant in male-skewed industries, such as engineering and science. 

“The organisations I have worked in, and the client organisations, well yes, not many women in those meeting rooms!” says Coffey’s Senior Principal in the Environmental and Social Management and Advisory (ESMA) practice area, Emma Waterhouse.

“And in consulting, especially if you are in an engineering focused firm, then it’s heavily skewed towards men, including in management.”

For Waterhouse, an environmental career has always been on the cards, but a leadership career has been a welcome development, which evolved over time. 

Every leader has the responsibility to support their team, no matter who they are, and to support others in their organisation and industry - an industry that would benefit from more women.  

 “I was destined for an environmental career very early on. My parents were part of the growing number of New Zealanders in the 1970s and 1980s who started to demand that our natural places, waterways and plants and animals were properly protected,” says Waterhouse. 

“So, I studied botany and zoology at university, and then natural resource management.”  

Waterhouse led the NSW and ACT Environments team from Sydney, and now leads the New Zealand Environments team. 

She’s also had project manager and project director roles on numerous projects, from a few thousand dollars to multi-million-dollar contracts, as well as a stint as the leader for the practice area in Coffey.  

Every leader has the responsibility to support their team, no mater who they are, and to support others in their organisation and industry - an industry that would benefit from more women.  

Having the opportunity to lead and guide those who are entering the industry, especially young women, has been rewarding for Waterhouse.

“We employ graduates who get straight into project work – often pretty varied and where we need the help most.”

“Helping people navigate the first few years of their careers is pretty rewarding – it’s about giving people opportunities, helping them identify what they want to be doing in their career and doing what you can as a leader to facilitate that.”

“How do our consultants learn and grow if the senior staff don’t coach and train and pass on their learning and experience”.

“That to me is just an integral part of my job.”

But more than just helping others, Waterhouse says she also benefits from being able to lead others.

“I relish working with lots of different people, with different backgrounds and levels of experience. Anyone can teach you anything at any time – you just have to be open to it.”

“Some of my most humbling experiences have been when a graduate or junior consultant points out something in a report or study that no one else has seen – that’s gold – and gives them ‘permission’ to keep questioning, challenging and learning throughout their careers”.

“And it also grounds me and keeps me wanting to learn”.

“I certainly looked out for and supported women throughout my career, although I’d also like to think I had done that for my male team members and colleagues as well.”

Waterhouse says every leader has a responsibility to support their team, no matter who they are, and to support others in their organisation and industry – an industry she believes would benefit from more women.

“Our workplaces should reflect our society – which are becoming more diverse - one that has good representation.”