Earlier this month in Philadelphia, the annual conference of WTS International, the association for the professional advancement of women in transportation, saw an increase in attendance of more than 25%.
Additionally, 40% of attendees were first-time participants, and there was a sharp increase in sponsorship with 30% more companies participating and, of the 50-plus participating sponsors, at least 20 of them were new, including Philadelphia International Airport and US Airways.
“Both the public and private sectors are realizing that if they are to succeed beyond 2015, they must bring more women to the table. In an effort to attract, retain, and advance women, our corporate partners as well as our members recognize the increased value coming from WTS International,” said WTS International President/CEO Marcia Ferranto. “We have become the common gathering place for all modes, we attract the highest ranking professionals in the industry to our events all over the world and we provide programs that focus on workforce development through the advancement of women.
“WTS has become essential to the transportation industry,” Ferranto added. “We were busting at the seams last week at our conference, but it’s a great problem to have and a good indicator that we are valued in the industry.”
WTS International began with a simple mission: to advance women to senior positions within the industry. But in recent years, the association has expanded its activities to include attracting and retaining women in transportation as well. “
Workforce development is the name of the game if we’re going to get more women to the top. One of our best programs is Transportation YOU, and it’s catching on quickly with all of our chapters throughout the U.S.” said Ferranto.
Transportation YOU is the name applied to the hands-on challenges, informational sessions, and mentorship programs being run by individual WTS chapters with the full blessing and backing of the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT). WTS International’s ties to the U.S. DOT run deep — Transportation YOU launched with the signing of a memorandum of understanding with Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood in 2011.
The WTS annual conference attracted global corporate and governmental industry leaders, including executives, CEOs, government administrators and leading engineering authorities.
Attendees at the conference networked, discussed the state of the world’s transportation infrastructure, strategized on advancing professionally through glass ceilings, and explored Philadelphia’s successful municipal and private transportation and traffic projects.
For the full duration of this year’s Philadelphia conference, private corporations, public agencies and government officials invested in every transportation mode exhibited, presented, learned and networked.
The 2013 keynote speakers and breakout session leaders included Gloria Steinem, the iconic leader of the women's liberation movement in the late 1960s and 1970s, Dr. Mae Jemison, the first black woman to go into space and NASA’s first Science Mission Specialist, and Robin Chase, founder of the Zipcar and Buzzcar companies.
Planning for the 2014 conference in Portland, Ore., is already underway. Networking events, technical tours of the host city and workshops are at the heart of each conference, which also includes an awards banquet for industry recognitions and the formal awarding of WTS Foundation scholarships for several graduate, undergraduate and high school students.