Advancing women in transportation: Closing the gap

Posted on May 13, 2014 by - Also by this author

Two women discuss a project featured at the 2013 WTS Annual Conference in Philadelphia.
Two women discuss a project featured at the 2013 WTS Annual Conference in Philadelphia.

With President Obama’s recent bills regarding gender equality in the workplace, it’s hard to understand why gaps regarding pay, position, and opportunity for women still exist and why, in some industries such as transportation, gaps regarding position and opportunity are wider than in others.

Study after study has illustrated that employee performance is increased with programs that offer flexibility and recognition for women in the workplace. That company performance is increased as more women are included in the board room. That there is a direct link between economic performance and the advancement of women into senior positions.

To be fair — and here comes the conundrum — a great number of companies and agencies within both the transportation industry’s public and private sectors do in fact offer great programs and policies that have been in existence for some time.

As an example, HDR Engineering conducts an annual internal audit that includes minorities and women to verify employees are classified and compensated correctly and that there are no discrimination issues, and they’ve enhanced their flex-time and part-time programs to encourage recruitment and retention of women with children.

A WTS Dallas/Fort Worth Chapter Transportation YOU meeting takes place at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport
A WTS Dallas/Fort Worth Chapter Transportation YOU meeting takes place at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport

On the public sector side, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is also an example of an organization that supports the retention and advancement of women in the industry. The FTA has been a driving force in enabling small and disadvantaged businesses, as its leadership has been instrumental in making changes beneficial to small business and is taking an active role in providing opportunities and encouraging women to pursue transportation as a career path.

So the question remains: Why is the gap between the number of women and the number of men in professional positions in transportation so wide? What can be done to attract more women to the industry, retain them through their career cycle, and ultimately advance them to the boardroom where they can affect greater organization performance, and ultimately, benefit the economy?

Marcia Ferranto is President/CEO of WTS International. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., WTS seeks to attract, retain and advance women in transportation.

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