by Brianna Fisher
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When you think of transportation jobs, who do you envision? My guess is that the vast majority of you imagined a middle-aged Caucasian man. Am I right? The stereotype fits. According to the organization Advancing Women in Transportation, "Women make up less than 13% of the total workforce in transportation-related occupations…. In addition, women comprise only 17.4% of transportation managers." (WTS, 2012) African American men and women comprise 15.8% of all production, transportation and materials moving occupations, while Asians make up 4.8% of that workforce and Latinos make up 22.2% (BLS, 2017). Your thought of a white male wasn't far off.
Why aren't more women and minorities seeking opportunities in transportation? Marcia Ferranto, the president and CEO of the Women's Transportation Seminar, say lack of advancement in the industry and a lack of family friendliness are some factors (Vock, 2015).
Do we even need women in the transportation industry? Yes! Harvard University public health researching Anne Lusk said that the lack of engineers designing transportation systems leads to real world problems. Did you know that air bags, up until 2003, were only tested on larger male dummies? It wasn't until 2003 that smaller, "female" dummies began to be used in car crash safety tests (Vock, 2015). Only a female can bring the needs of women to the table; this holds true for other minorities as well.
Pioneers are already in the field, working hard to ensure a friendly environment for women and minorities, but they can't fully succeed without growth. One great stride in this drive to appeal to women and minorities are the programs put on by the U.S. Department of Transportation and other public agencies that reach out to underrepresented groups. However, it's not enough to just pique a student's interest - that interest has to be nurtured and maintained. While 20% of female college graduates have an engineering degree, they only make up 11% of the engineers in the workforce (Vock, 2015).
While we are certainly not disparaging white males, we are calling attention to the lack of diversity in the transportation workforce. Diversity brings well roundedness to an organization. The transportation industry serves the whole of our nation, and logic seems to say that a healthy representation of each gender and racial group would only benefit the industry along with the public.
Let's foster a friendly environment for girls and minorities starting in school, by giving them ample opportunities to succeed in STEM fields. Let's continue to nurture this as students move through school. People often stay where they are comfortable, so a comfort level with STEM tasks must be achieved, with the help of parents and teachers. For an updated list of opportunities to encourage your children in STEM (with a transportation twist), please visit GAMTTEP.com.
Vock, Daneil (25 February 2015). "Why Transportation Agencies Need More Women Engineers." Governing. http://www.governing.com/topics/transportation-infrastructure/gov-why-transportation-agencies-need-more-women-engineers.html
WTS (2012 March). "Women in the San Francisco Bay Area Transportation Industry: A Baseline Study for Future Benchmarking of Women in Leadership Roles." https://www.wtsinternational.org/assets/84/22/WTS-SF_Glass_Ceiling_Baseline_Study_(Web_Version).pdf
Bureau of Labor Statistics (8 February 2017). "Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey." https://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat11.htm