Public transit agencies function best when the diversity of their workforce represents the communities they serve, however, previous research shows an underrepresentation of women and racial and ethnic minorities in leadership roles.  -  Photo: fauxels

Public transit agencies function best when the diversity of their workforce represents the communities they serve, however, previous research shows an underrepresentation of women and racial and ethnic minorities in leadership roles.

Photo: fauxels

New Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) research, “Understanding Workforce Diversity in the Transit Industry: Establishing a Baseline of Diversity Demographics,” provides updated statistics on the status of the racial/ethnic and gender diversity of the transit agency workforce in the U.S. from 2018 to 2022 and identifies potential barriers and promising practices for diversifying this workforce.

Public transit agencies function best when the diversity of their workforce represents the communities they serve, however, previous research shows an underrepresentation of women and racial and ethnic minorities in leadership roles, and an overconcentration of workers of color in operational roles.

Study Findings

The study concludes that the transit workforce is not representative of the U.S. labor force in terms of either sex or race/ethnicity. Key findings include:

  • The majority of the transit workforce is male (71%).
  • Almost two-thirds (64%) of the workers in the data are non-White, with Black workers making up the largest group of workers (40%), even though they are only 12% of the U.S. labor force.
  • Hispanic workers are underrepresented relative to their percentage in both the U.S. labor force and relative to their transit use.
  • White employees are overrepresented in leadership positions, and both White and Asian employees are overrepresented in the more-highly paid professional and skill-craft occupations.

“The extreme staffing shortages within the transit industry have created an unusually good opportunity for operators to successfully improve their workforce diversity,” explains Dr. Asha Weinstein Agrawal, the study’s principal investigator. “Important strategies for recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce include marketing strategies that promote the diverse careers available in public transit, revising job descriptions to be more inclusive, family-friendly work schedules for operations staff, ongoing professional development opportunities that target employees in every job classification, and fostering strong executive-level support for diversity programs.”

Race/Ethnicity of the Transit Workforce, by Job Classification (2018 – 2020 Equal Employment Opportunity data)  -  Photo: Mineta Transportation Institute

Race/Ethnicity of the Transit Workforce, by Job Classification (2018 – 2020 Equal Employment Opportunity data)

Photo: Mineta Transportation Institute

Improving Workforce Diversity

Improving workforce diversity data collection and analysis is also crucial to measure long-term progress.

Although the challenges of tracking and planning for a diverse workforce are daunting to many transit operators, a variety of strategies exist to share resources and help meet individual needs.

The findings of this study emphasize the need to do things differently, to make sure the people who work in the transit industry accurately represent the rich diversity of their communities.

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