Celebrating Women’s History Month: Stephanie Scheringer, Division Manager Wastewater Treatment

How I Began my Career in Public Service

I was a Lab Technician for a local industry that was one of Gastonia’s major wastewater customers.  Since the City’s Wastewater Treatment Division regulates major customers, my supervisor had regular contact with City staff.  The industry had a layoff and my supervisor recommended I seek a position at the City.  She gave me a recommendation and I came on board as a Lab Technician in the Wastewater Treatment Division in 1996.  I’ve been with the city now for 26 years.


The Importance of My Department in Gastonia

Wastewater treatment is a critical public service.  It ensures the protection of public health, protection of the environment, and it’s important in recruiting new industrial businesses, so it has a direct role in economic development.  Our Wastewater Treatment Division staff operate three treatment facilities 24-7, a state of the art laboratory, regulate large volume wastewater customers, and manage a program for beneficial reuse of a nutrient rich treatment plant byproduct.  Wastewater treatment is very much behind the scenes in terms of community awareness, but it is critical to the success of a community.  I am fortunate to have a strong staff that do a terrific job.


Possible Barriers Women May Face In My Field

I have not felt any type of barriers as a woman here at the City of Gastonia. I feel that the opportunities that have been provided to me have been based on my abilities and performance. There have been occasions where someone I worked with outside of the City may not expect a woman to be in the type of role that I’m in. I’ve been in meetings where they deferred to the men in the meeting not realizing I was in a decision making position. It’s kind of funny when that happens because they’re embarrassed to realize they made the wrong assumption. That doesn’t happen too often but I just roll with it because it’s to be expected in my field.


My Advice to Women working in Public Service

My best career advice is to follow your interests in terms of your career path and to persevere.  It does not matter if a subject or career has a gender stereotype.  Science always fascinated me, so I pursued it.  I was fortunate to be raised in an environment where typical gender stereotypes did not apply.  I would recommend that anyone strongly consider public service.  It is rewarding to serve your community and the retirement benefits are excellent.  Specifically, here in Gastonia, I have been fortunate to have many opportunities for growth and advancement.  It is a great organization to work for.


Women who Inspired Me

Of course, my mom was a huge influence in my life.  Her example and expectation that I put forth my best effort, perform at a high level, and be independent shaped who I am as a person.  Public figures such as Rosa Parks and Ruth Bader Ginsberg are inspirational to me.  Integrity, independence, and intelligence are qualities I highly value in a person and both these women exemplify those traits.


Why Women’s History Month Should Be Recognized

It’s important to highlight the successes of groups that have been hindered in the past to help everyone understand that a person’s worth and ability to contribute is not based on a trait such as gender.  Ultimately, I hope that society can readily recognize the contributions of everyone.