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Women's History Month: Women Who Move Me Forward

March 25, 2019 12:00 AM

Women's History Month: Women Who Move Me Forward

"There is no greater threat to the critics and cynics and fear mongers than a woman who is willing to fall because she has learned how to rise." – Brené Brown, author and research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work

As we've celebrated Women's History Month, I've come across so many tales of inspiring women. I'm privileged to work with some remarkable women throughout the commonwealth and wherever my travels take me in my role as secretary. As this month draws to a close, I want to take a moment to recognize a few of those extraordinary women who have managed to leave a mark on my small corner of the world here in Pennsylvania.

First is Susan Fowler, a technology editor for the New York Times op-ed section and a former developer for Uber. You might have heard about her viral 2017 blog post that shed light on sexual harassment at the company. I recently had the honor of speaking at the SXSW Conference in Austin, Texas, and made it my mission to attend as many sessions as I could during my visit. Susan's session — "The Power of a Story" — focused on the concept that one doesn't need to be an activist to change the world. Her parting words, to "live your story and make it a good one" were a poignant reminder to bring your whole self to your every day.

Similarly, the women of PennDOT bring so much passion and commitment to their work. There's no doubt that transportation is a field heavily dominated by men. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that women represent just 15 percent of the more than 9.1 million people working in transportation and material-moving occupations. We've made it our mission at PennDOT to increase the diversity of our workforce and support women who want to contribute to the transportation and infrastructure needs of their communities. Melissa Batula, PennDOT's Highway Delivery Division Chief, is a great example of a PennDOT woman who has truly excelled in her transportation journey. From her success in running the Accelerated Bridge Program in 2010, which put 1,603 structurally deficient* bridges out for bid, to ensuring enforcement of important state and federal safety standards, like guardrail replacement on our interstate highways, Melissa always goes above and beyond what's expected of her.

Finally, I recognize the legacy of my friend and transportation dynamo, Mary Peters, who served as U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary under the George W. Bush administration. Known for overseeing dramatic improvements in highway safety and enhancing the performance of the nation's transportation system, Mary's passion for transportation always shines through. I've had the pleasure of interacting with her through my involvement with the Northeast Association of State Transportation Officials (NASTO) as well as other transportation industry organizations. I've always been particularly struck by Mary's deep commitment to consensus building and working with diverse interests to overcome transportation challenges. She is also deeply committed to supporting other women. Wherever she goes she encourages women of all ages to pursue transportation careers and follow their passions. I aim to emulate her in my role as PennDOT Secretary.

As Women's History Month comes to a close, I hope you will take time to learn about the extraordinary women who have made our country what it is today. Some have been memorialized in history books, while others are the everyday women who make the most of opportunities created by the generations who came before them. The common thread is the challenges they have overcome to rise to the occasion and the indelible mark that they promise to leave behind.

*Bridge inspection terminology has since changed, ranking bridges either Good, Fair, or Poor.


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