From May 18th to 20th, Foursquare ITP President Lora Byala and Vice President Shana Johnson attended the Women’s Transportation Seminar International (WTS) conference in Austin, Texas and presented our work on the Maryland Transit Administration’s BaltimoreLink bus system redesign. Lora and Shana are both deeply involved with the WTS-DC Chapter, which was honored as a WTS Silver Chapter this year. In this co-written blog, they share valuable insights and their favorite moments–from cowgirl boots to keynote speakers!
Lora and I met at the 2006 WTS-DC Chapter Holiday Party and Foursquare ITP recently won the 2015 WTS Employer of the Year award, so it’s fitting that we both attended the 2016 WTS Annual Conference during our firm’s 10th anniversary year. It was only my second time attending the WTS Annual Conference; I volunteered at the conference when it was in DC several years ago. The WTS Annual Conference is an intimate affair – just over 600 women (and yes, some men) in transportation – and it’s fun, encouraging, and inspirational! This year’s conference location in Austin also added to the “fun” element of the conference.
While I’ve been a member of WTS for most of the past 20 years (starting in 1995 when I received the undergraduate scholarship from the WTS Philadelphia Chapter), it was only last year that I first attended the international conference. I was so completely blown away by the inspiring women that I met and the fantastic program that I decided to make it an annual event, kind of a gift to myself as a way to recharge and reinvigorate my spirit.
As I did last year, I participated in the Women Business Owner Roundtable, a pre-conference meeting for women business owners ranging from one-woman shops to companies with more than 500 employees. The participants range from construction management firms, to transit operators, to transportation planning companies from all over the country, and learning from this group and sharing my experiences is a great way to reinforce what we’ve been doing at Foursquare ITP and to learn about great new ideas to implement in line with one of our core values, Investment in our Employees. As with any professional services firm, our greatest asset is our fabulous people – and ensuring that we all have the opportunity to grow professionally, do what we love, be financially rewarded, and enjoy a balanced life is key to continued success.
Women at the highest echelons of the transportation industry participate in the WTS Annual Conference – and share their insights on the future of the transportation industry and career advancement as a woman in transportation. High profile names at this year’s conference included: Susan Martinovich of CH2M Hill, Seleta Reynolds of LADOT, Polly Trottenberg of NYCDOT, Robin Hutchinson of Salt Lake City, and Leslie Richards of PennDOT, to name a few.
The conference offers an equal mix of sessions on transportation topics and professional development. This year, I learned about how state of good repair projects at rail properties overseas are using the “Internet of Things” to track assets conditions in real time, BRT planning in Seattle and Austin (and Austin’s snazzy BRT marketing!), and the use of private sponsorships in funding transportation programs. The WTS DC and San Francisco Chapter’s discussed their efforts to track the progress of women in transportation breaking the glass ceiling and women in the C-suite in consulting and public sector transportation agencies gave useful communication tips.
As usual, WTS delivered with two fantastic and inspiring lunchtime speakers: Lilly Ledbetter (of the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 fame) and Jacy Good and Steve Johnson of Hang Up and Drive. Ms. Ledbetter’s perseverance to bring her unfair treatment as a woman in her job to the highest levels to move toward pay equality for women is a truly amazing journey, and to hear it from her directly is awe-inspiring. It makes me proud that Foursquare ITP is such an equitable place, with pay equality, about a 50-50 gender split, and flexibility and pay for employees, both women and men, when they have children.
For someone who is always on the run between meetings, hearing Jacy and Steve’s tragic story of driving distraction really made me stop and think – am I really paying full attention to the road when I take a call on my car’s built-in Bluetooth? No. Could the conversation wait until I find time to take it while not on the road? Almost always. Jacy and Steve have turned a tragedy into a calling, and their message hit me loud and clear – our company needs a formal policy on cell phone use while driving, beyond the texting policy that is standard for us and most of our peers. They even followed up with me to provide links to resources, which I’ve included at the end of this blog post.
Outside of the conference sessions, I had the opportunity to meet many amazing women in various roles at transportation firms and organizations from across the county. We had a great time with y’all at the Boots & Bling Awards Banquet celebrating our partners at Indego Bike Share in Philadelphia, winner of the 2016 WTS Innovative Transportation Solutions Award! My only regret was not buying a pair of cowgirl boots like Lora’s. We can’t wait for the 2017 conference in New York, half-way between our DC and Boston offices!
For information about why your company should have a corporate cell phone policy, read the National Safety Council’s (NSC) white paper and EHS Today’s article on employer liability. NSC also provides a sample policy and a downloadable free kit for writing a cell phone policy.