Panelists Shannon Miller, vice president of human resources at Jacobs; Melissa Tooley, director of external initiatives at Texas Transportation Institute; Agnieszka Lapinski, department manager, Gannett Fleming; and Jihane Fazio, associate vice president, AECOM. Lisa Robert, executive vice president at RS&H and chair of ARTBA’s Women Leaders Council, standing at right, moderated.
By Eileen Houlihan, senior writer/editor, ARTBA
To build a diverse and successful work environment, companies must include everyone in the discussion, four top female transportation industry executives Sept. 23 told the association’s 2019 National Convention in Savannah, Ga.
The leaders, representing ARTBA Foundation’s “Glass Hammer” award winners, work at AECOM, Gannett Fleming, Texas A&M’s Transportation Institute (TTI) and Jacobs. All four employers offered top women networking and mentoring programs. But those programs were just the start of successfully highlighting and promoting women leaders, as well as increasing the number of women in the transportation infrastructure workforce, the four leaders said.
Shannon Miller, vice president of human resources at Jacobs, said her company focuses on several areas in their attempts to increase diversity, including recruitment efforts, promotions and job descriptions that are not gender-biased. “We also recognized that what made us successful in the past isn’t necessarily what will make us successful in the future. We work hard at developing talent and presenting opportunities for women to rise up through the ranks,” she said.
Miller added that inclusion and diversity is important for the entire workforce, not just women. “Without men you can’t have an inclusive environment,” Miller said, a statement echoed by all the panelists.
AECOM Associate Vice President Jihane Fazio noted the importance of reverse mentor-ship between male and female employees so both parties can learn from the other. She also noted how inclusion and diversity drive business. “The research shows that inclusion and diversity is very important to driving results,” Fazio said.
“Most of these women wouldn’t get to work together if not for groups like our ‘connected women at Gannett,” said Agnieszka Lapinski, department manager for Gannett Fleming, noting many women are in different geographic locations and at different levels in their careers.
TTI’s Melissa Tooley said efforts to increase diversity remain very important in the transportation construction field, where men still outnumber women in extremely high numbers. A recent Construction Dive story noted only 10 percent of the construction workforce is made up of women.
Staying connected to not only women-centric networks, but the larger “mainstream” organizations, like ARTBA, can only help matters, Tooley noted. “I never had female peers until I went to TTI,” Tooley said of the transportation research institute. Her work as a senior research engineer and director of external initiatives and support mentoring and advancing women leaders in the transportation industry led to the ARTBA Foundation awarding Tooley the Ethel Birchland lifetime achievement award in 2018.
All four represented companies have been awarded the Foundation’s Glass Hammer award, given annually to one company that has innovative programs and activities directed at successfully promoting women leaders within their organization.