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Women in Transportation

According to the Federal Highway Administration, there are more than 60 million women in the labor force today, yet women make up only 8 percent of engineers, 18 percent of engineering technicians, and 30 percent of natural scientists. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that roughly 15 percent of the more than 9.1 million people working in transportation and material-moving occupations are women.

"Having diverse perspectives makes any team more effective, and the same goes for managing transportation assets," said PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards. "Women need to know that their perspectives are invaluable and the transportation industry is no different."

While overall percentages of women in engineering-related fields are relatively low, the number of women studying engineering is increasing. According to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, only 5.8 percent of women were engineers in the early 1980s. Now, about 18 to 20 percent of engineering students are female.

As part of Women's History Month — celebrated in March — PennDOT spoke to some of its leading women employees to discuss the importance of women in transportation and mentoring other women in the field.

 

 

Cheryl Pastor

IT Coordinator, PennDOT District 1

Why is mentoring other women important to you?

Mentoring other women allows me to give back and pay forward the knowledge and support I received from other strong women in the workforce. I gain so much pride in seeing a woman grow and gain strength in herself, which benefits her not only professionally but also in her personal life.

What would you tell young women considering careers in transportation?

Go for it! Even though it's been historically a man's career path, women can offer so much in different perspectives and facilitate the change that is needed in an ever-changing world. It is a field that is growing and needs new, talented employees.

 

 

Kim Poretta

ITC Division Chief, PennDOT Bureau of Infrastructure and Operations

Why is mentoring other women important to you?

I am always looking to make a difference, and if I can share that passion with other women, and help them strive to do the same, we all succeed.

What would you tell young women considering careers in transportation?

When first starting your career, many don't know where they ultimately want to end up. A career in transportation will present you with unlimited possibilities, and you may just find yourself exactly where you didn't know you wanted to be.

 

 

Anita Wasko

Director, Bureau of Motor Vehicles, PennDOT Driver & Vehicle Services

Why is mentoring other women important to you?

PennDOT has been good to me. This is a way for me to give back.

What would you tell young women considering careers in transportation?

Do it. There is so much diversity in the field of transportation. You can have an incredible and meaningful career.

My own career took me from trash to tourism to customer service. This meant helping to launch the Adopt-a-Highway program in Pennsylvania; managing our state's welcome centers; traveling the districts providing customer service training. The range and options of what you can do in transportation are there and available, beyond what may be considered traditional transportation roles.

Today I serve as the director of motor vehicles. I don't forget that I am a public servant. The most fulfilling part of a public career in transportation is that you have impact.

 

 

Denise Gross

Human Resource Analyst, PennDOT Bureau of Human Resources

Why is mentoring other women important to you?

It has been my personal experience that a mentor provides an opportunity to receive candid feedback and advice without the fear of retribution. I began my career in the Army Reserve Officer's Training Corp (ROTC), the first year women were accepted as cadets. Since very few military women had leadership roles, finding a female mentor was not an available option at the start of my career. Eventually, I was fortunate to have had male and female mentors who were instrumental in helping me achieve the rank of colonel in the Army Reserve. Male or female, a good mentor promotes growth and an understanding of what it takes to be a leader.

What would you tell young women considering careers in transportation?

Before choosing any career, make sure that it is something you enjoy. The field of transportation offers many avenues to choose from, don't hesitate to explore non-traditional roles.

 

 

Angela Saunders

Transportation Planning Manager, PennDOT District 12

Why is mentoring other women important to you?

The LEAD (PennDOT's mentoring program for women in the department) program has been the most beneficial program I have participated in during my career; I gained so much from my time as a protégé. The LEAD program becomes part of your legacy and you belong to a long line of successful women. I want to help make sure other women have a similar experience and get the most they can. Being a mentor gives you a chance to pass on experiences from your career as well as help other women know that no one's career is perfect no matter how it looks on the outside.

What would you tell young women considering careers in transportation?

We all need to get from place to place and to move goods and services. Transportation is a field where you will get a chance to work with and meet all types of people. It's not all about engineering; the industry needs all types of people and professions to make our transportation network efficient and effective.

 

 

Marla Fannin

Community Relations Coordinator, PennDOT District 2

Why is mentoring other women important to you?

Mentoring other women in the department is important to me because it helps them realize we all face the same kinds of personal and work-related challenges, and that there are any number of ways to meet those challenges and succeed. Mentoring also helps them to learn our business and gets them thinking more specifically about what path they want to follow in their careers.

What would you tell young women considering careers in transportation?

I would tell young women that their career opportunities in transportation are limitless. I would encourage them to make every effort to identify a mentor and build a relationship with that person — male or female. I would also encourage them to use that relationship as a way to reflect on where they've been and to build a plan for where they want to go.

 

 

Cheryl Moon-Sirianni

Assistant Highway District Engineer, PennDOT District 11

Why is mentoring other women important to you?

When I started at PennDOT I was one of only two female engineers in District 10 (that is where I started). It was not a very comfortable place for a young educated woman to work because most of the men in the office looked at women as either housewives or clerks. It has evolved over the years, but the number of female professionals in the offices is still at a very low number, and many of the women work very hard (some much harder than their counterparts) to get recognized and promoted. I also don't like when a woman is finally promoted it is considered the "token" promotion when they have worked extremely hard most of the time to get there. I could go on and on about this subject, but I have a 20-year-old daughter who is an industrial engineer at PSU. I want her and all of the other young ladies to be given better opportunities than when I came out of school.

I also think mentoring is very important for young ladies to gain confidence, as I have noticed over the years that many of them at work and during interviews don't exude the same confidence as young men. I believe it's because other men and women have not told them their whole lives that they are the best — like many of the men have been told — and I want to be one of the ones to tell them.

What would you tell young women considering careers in transportation?

I mentioned that above a little bit, but I would tell them that there are many opportunities to do such a wide variety of activities, especially with a civil engineering degree.

 

 

Wanita Lynch

Assistant County Maintenance Manager, PennDOT District 2 — McKean and Elk Counties

Why is mentoring other women important to you?

I have been blessed in my career with a series of good managers and leaders, both male and female, who have encouraged and advised me throughout my years of service to the department. This is my way to give back and share the knowledge that I have gained.

What would you tell young women considering careers in transportation?

Transportation is dynamic and innovative. The department is always evolving and striving to improve our services and products. There are a wide variety of skill sets needed to make the entire organization successful. If one dedicates themselves to learning, then the opportunities for advancement and the variety of career options here are seemingly endless.

 

 

Melissa Matchock

Human Resource Officer, PennDOT District 9

Why is mentoring other women important to you?

I have been a mentor for the LEAD program since 2010. Mentoring is a great career development and networking tool and a way for women to share experiences and insights with each other.

What would you tell young women considering careers in transportation?

I tell young women all the time to consider a career in transportation. The transportation field is varied, exciting, and challenging.

 

 

Andrea Bahoric

Planning Division Manager, PennDOT Bureau of Planning and Research

Why is mentoring other women important to you?

Mentoring is important to me because I was provided with the opportunity to participate in the mentoring program and it helped to improve my leadership and communication skills. I want to be able to provide the same opportunity to other future leaders.

What would you tell young women considering careers in transportation?

A career in transportation doesn't mean you need to be an engineer. Transportation embodies multiple facets that need a variety of skill sets and backgrounds.

 

 

Leslie McCoy

Senior Civil Engineer — Traffic Operations, PennDOT Bureau of Maintenance and Operations

Why is mentoring other women important to you?

  • Presents an excellent opportunity to share real working experiences and knowledge I have experienced and attained beyond college courses and in the transportation commu
  • Reminds me to listen and learn from other perspectives from other age groups and in different phases of employment.
  • Offers personal satisfaction to inspire protégés to excel in their lives.

What would you tell young women considering careers in transportation?

I would reinforce the fact that women too can excel in an engineering career even if it's in a predominantly male environment. Be strong and do not give up — there are leadership roles for you if you work hard and persevere. Who knows? You may become the fourth female U.S. Secretary of Transportation. (Currently, only three of 18 have been female.)

 

 

Kristi Smith

Human Resource Analyst, PennDOT Bureau of Human Resources

Why is mentoring other women important to you?

As a former LEAD program manager and a current mentor, I have had the opportunity to witness women in PennDOT flourish and build self-confidence through women mentoring other women. By women being able to feel secure in acknowledging their vulnerabilities and expressing their self-doubts, it has opened opportunities to share resources, develop strategies to accomplish goals, and build an incredible supportive network of women for women.

What would you tell young women considering careers in transportation?

Wherever your interest may lie — engineering, construction, maintenance, traffic, information technology, human resources, budgeting, to name a few —— the Department of Transportation offers many exciting career opportunities for young women. If young women want to work in a diverse workforce, feel appreciated, seek a challenge, and/or want to be involved in ground-breaking innovations to improve roads, bridges, transit systems, airports and railroads, then a job in transportation is the place to be at the forefront of rebuilding Pennsylvania's infrastructure and serving over 12 million Pennsylvania citizens.

 

 

Beth Bonini

Acting Director of Penn PORTS, PennDOT Multimodal Transportation

Why is mentoring other women important to you?

Mentoring other women is important because it provides a mechanism to voice my experiences and potentially help the next generation of women coming up in a transportation career.

What would you tell young women considering careers in transportation?

It is essential to have talented women involved in transportation careers because roads, bridges, rail, waterways, bike/pedestrian access, and public transportation help shape the quality of life and economic development of our communities for generations.

 

 

Laurita Povilavicius

IT Project Manager, PennDOT Bureau of IT Project Development and Delivery

Why is mentoring other women important to you?

I personally had and still have great mentors who helped me develop my skills and discover my strengths. Having their guidance really helped me prepare for the IT Project Manager 2 position that I hold now, and helped me grow as a person, too. I enjoy learning and view the role of a mentor as another learning and growth opportunity. I believe in giving back, so I am very open to sharing my experience and knowledge to help others. My mentoring relationships for the most part have formed informally, but I really appreciate that PennDOT has a formal program like LEAD to emphasize and facilitate the mentoring process.

What would you tell young women considering careers in transportation?

PennDOT is a great place to work. The organization is large and there is a wide variety of career paths to choose from — from construction and maintenance and technical engineering positions, to positions in budget, procurement, human resources, legal, information technology, etc. I am glad I chose PennDOT. In my 10-year career, I worked on a wide range of projects and assignments and have met a lot of dedicated and knowledgeable people. Through my project work, I got to learn about a number of various activities PennDOT is involved in, but I know there's a large number of business areas I have not worked with yet. There is an impressive variety of impactful work that gets accomplished by PennDOT employees.

 

 

Debbie Reihart

Systems Management Chief, PennDOT Bureau of Project Delivery

Why is mentoring other women important to you?

I know from experience that navigating a successful path in Commonwealth employment can be overwhelming, so if I can ease some of this angst by acting as a mentor, I am certainly proud to do so. The time I spend in this work is well worth it if it allows another woman in the department to feel more comfortable in their new role or to act confidently in a professional environment or just to have a confidential sounding board.

What would you tell young women considering careers in transportation?

I would tell young women considering careers in transportation that it's not all about engineering, and there are challenging and interesting career paths for other professionals as well, in such areas as information technology, human resources, and environmental disciplines. In addition, I have worked in four other agencies and the private sector, and PennDOT has the best and most comprehensive leadership training and development track that I have seen. You could go far here!

 

 

Danielle Klinger-Grumbine

Division Chief, PennDOT Bureau of Innovations

Why is mentoring other women important to you?

I have been blessed with some phenomenal mentors throughout my career with the Commonwealth, particularly in my nearly 12 years with PennDOT. I would not be where I am today without their guidance and support. I feel it is my responsibility to give back in some small way by mentoring others and providing them with the same guidance and support that I received, while passing along some of the lessons I have personally learned along the way. Mentoring is so important, especially to those looking to advance within an organization, and is crucial to the overall success of any organization.

What would you tell young women considering careers in transportation?

Believe in yourself and your abilities. Don't be afraid to take chances, and be open to the various career paths and opportunities that exist within the transportation industry. You never know where they may lead.