The transportation technology industry has undergone a remarkable transformation over the past decade. What was once a world dominated by traditional infrastructure has now become a hotbed of innovation driven by technology such as transit signal prioritization, autonomous systems and advanced driver assistance systems.
While these advancements have reshaped the industry, the evolution of gender diversity has the potential to revolutionize it further.
4 myths about women in business debunked
Here are some common myths and their realities, according to McKinsey and Company.
- Myth: Women have become less ambitious since Covid-19. Reality: Women are demonstrating more ambition than before the pandemic.
- Myth: The glass ceiling is the greatest obstacle women face in their careers. Reality: The broken rung is the biggest challenge for women who want to progress to senior leadership.
- Myth: Microaggressions are small and easily forgotten. Reality: Microaggressions against women and other minorities stack up over time and have a long-lasting impact on their sense of well-being and safety.
- Myth: Women make up the majority of workers asking for flexibility from their employers. Reality: Flexibility was rated a top three benefit critical to their company’s success by both men and women.
Why We Need to Include Women in the Conversation
Diversity, in all its forms, injects fresh perspectives and ideas into every facet of transportation technology. When women are actively involved in the development and leadership of the industry, there is a diversification of thought that sparks innovation.
Here are just a few examples of brilliant innovations by women in transportation technology:
- Windshield wiper: invented by Mary Anderson and automized by Charlotte Bridgwood.
- Rearview mirror: originated by Dorothy Levitt.
- Highway traffic lanes: originally hand-painted by June McCarroll, who later launched a safety campaign across California, which the California Highway Commission adopted.
- Turn signals and brake lights: invented by Florence Lawrence.
- Global Positioning System: dependent on satellite geodesy models created by Dr. Gladys West.
And the list can go on and on. From autonomous vehicles to smart cities, innovations in the transportation technology sector have transformed our lives.
Without adequate representation, however, we risk overlooking critical aspects of safety and accessibility. Women have different experiences through transit ridership than men, so women’s perspectives can directly lead to the creation of additional safety enhancements.
Fresh ideas can be powerful for organizations in the transportation technology industry that need new solutions to age-old challenges. It’s key to collaborate on ways new technology can solve our nation’s transportation and congestion problems, so the U.S. can return to being a global model for how commuters, businesses and cargo move. To achieve this, however, we need to make space for more women to grow in this industry and have their voices heard.
What Is the Broken Rung?
While male executives are often at the helm in the transportation technology industry, there are a wealth of talented women who are subject matter experts at various levels. Women operators and product experts bring invaluable insights due to their proximity to the customer base, and the industry stands to benefit from their diverse experiences.
A recent study by McKinsey and Company debunks myths about women in the workplace, including that of the glass ceiling. According to the study, the Transportation, Logistics and Infrastructure industry actually has an easier time than other tech sectors attracting women to entry-level positions, with 48 percent of entry-level workers being women.
Only 25 percent of women reach the C-suite.
The real problem? The talent pipeline decreases with each career step. This is known as the broken rung. This obstacle comes much earlier in the pipeline than the glass ceiling, preventing women from progressing from entry-level to managerial positions.
In fact, women are represented in only 37 percent of the first-tier managerial positions, a whopping 11 percent drop from entry-level positions. With the talent pipeline drying up through the next career levels, only 28 percent of women advance to the senior vice president level, and only 25 percent reach the C-suite.
How Can Your Organization Help Fix the Broken Rung?
Another study, published by Mineta Transportation Institute, discusses several initiatives that can improve women’s representation in the industry. Of those discussed, there are three focus areas: attract, retain and nurture.
Attract suitable candidates to expand the talent pool. Many organizations today are implementing new diversity goals with professional development criteria for their employees, aligning their diversity initiatives with career development milestones. Organizations can also participate in professional networks and social media, promoting their mission, values and diversity initiatives to a broad audience of potential candidates.
Retain talent by fostering an inclusive work environment, providing mentorship, educational support and a flexible work environment. Mentorship is an important resource for employees who are new to the workforce. For women professionals specifically, many organizations are aligning younger employees with more seasoned professionals so they can learn from each other and foster a culture of support. Also critical is promoting without bias, which you can do by creating documented processes and practices that ensure merit-based advancement.
Nurture a workforce that celebrates its women employees, which will help attract younger generations of women to STEM. Girls who witness women thriving in this field are more likely to pursue careers in STEM themselves. Organizations can accomplish this by encouraging networking both within and outside the organization, including attending conferences, workshops and industry events, and facilitating networking events within the company to help younger employees connect with professionals in their field.
Gender diversity in the transportation technology sector is about achieving lasting change and innovation. As the transportation technology industry continues to evolve, it is the diverse voices and ideas that will lead to a more inclusive future. By breaking down barriers and championing gender diversity, we can shape a transportation landscape that serves all communities and sets the standard for global innovation.