ARTBA’s Transportation Development Foundation (ARTBA-TDF) presented “Women Leaders in Transportation Design & Construction” awards during a special Oct. 5 luncheon at the association’s national convention in Tucson. Winners were announced in three categories:

Ethel S. Birchland Lifetime Achievement Award:  Darlene Gee, HNTB Corp., and Paula Hammond, WSP I Parsons Brinckerhoff

The award is named after ARTBA’s executive director from the mid-1920s, and is given to individuals who have demonstrated outstanding leadership, long-term service in the industry’s public or private sectors and dedication to the advancement of innovation and other women leaders.

As vice president and Northern California district leader, Darlene Gee manages nearly 100 employees, transcending the traditional leadership role with additional efforts to reach women and minorities interested in exploring transportation and engineering fields. Her passion for diversifying the industry comes from graduating as just one of six women in a civil engineering class of 600 at the University of Illinois more than 35 years ago.

Paula Hammond is senior vice president and transportation market leader at WSP I Parsons Brinckerhoff. She was the first female secretary of transportation in Washington state and has had a long history of advocating for the advancement of women in engineering and public service.

The Glass Hammer Award: RK&K, Baltimore, Maryland

The award honors companies in the transportation construction industry that have innovative programs and activities directed at successfully promoting women leaders within their organization.

Through their efforts to mentor their employees, RK&K leaders have been staunch supporters of women within the firm. The firm created a leadership forum to support women at all levels in their careers, providing a number learning opportunities and a receptive environment to explore and overcome challenges. The forum, open to all 296 women from administrative staff to senior executives, organizes monthly programs and provides information on other professional organizations.

Future Industry Leader Spotlight Award: Meredith Gee, University of Denver, and Ria Kontou, University of Florida

 The award recognizes students enrolled in undergraduate or graduate studies at a U.S. college or university who have achieved an outstanding academic record and demonstrated extraordinary leadership skills within and outside of the academic environment.

Meredith Gee is pursuing a degree in emergent digital practices. Several of her recent projects have centered on sustainability, and a company she co-founded, Wanderlift, is a ridesharing app for adventure lovers and longer distance trips that just launched in Colorado in September. The app allows drivers to sell extra seats in their vehicles for trips to events, ski resorts, or nearby cities. Meredith is also a leader of the campus entrepreneurship society and she organizes the university’s “Startup Weekend” events.

Ria Kontou is pursuing her Ph.D. in civil and coastal engineering. She has worked on investigating the benefits of and the market acceptance of electric vehicles, while studying the crucial factors that impact consumers’ vehicle ownership decisions. She was a graduate assistant at the U.S. Federal Highway Administration’s Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center and a research assistant at Virginia Tech.