Timing right for women to benefit from transit jobs

Posted on May 21, 2010 by Nicole Schlosser

A recent initiative signed by Sec. Ray LaHood at the Women's Transportation Seminar aims to encourage more women to pursue math and science degrees for careers in transportation. This year's annual seminar, held in Washington, D.C., was titled, "The Right Place at the Right Time."


Among the agreement’s goals are to identify where gaps exist in the attraction and retention of women in transportation-oriented technical fields such as engineering and logistics; develop best practices in the areas of mentoring and promoting women entrepreneurs and attracting students in technical fields into transportation; create more effective professional development opportunities for women across the lifecycle of a career; and develop ideas and partnerships to encourage girls from ages 13 to 18 years to consider careers in transportation. 


The seminar is aptly named. This may be exactly the right place and time for this initiative — with the recession as an unfortunate guide — to turn the tide in employment numbers for women in transportation. Currently, 6 percent of employed women are working in the transportation field, and only 10 percent of all civil engineers in the U.S. are women, according to 2008 numbers from the Department of Labor. Having interviewed women in this field for a couple of years now, I knew the numbers were low, but I was still surprised.


The recession, despite its recent dubbing in certain circles as the "Mancession" due to major job losses in the construction and manufacturing sectors, has still had a devastating impact on women. According to a recent report by the Joint Economic Committee, "As job losses slowed in the final months of 2009, women continued to lose jobs as men found employment." The report is based on the committee's analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In particular, from October 2009 to March 2010, women lost 22,000 jobs while men gained 260,000, it says. More recently: "April's strong employment growth showed women gained 86,000 jobs last month, far fewer than the 204,000 jobs gained by men."


Obviously, this initiative is not an immediate fix. Still, the current slim pickings out there for jobs may lead many young women pondering their future to a field that offers real opportunities, or cause women already in the midst of their careers to change course. The impact of this agreement could be a significant long-term benefit for the transportation field and the economy.


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