In a male-dominated society, women tend to be underrepresented in roles of authority. Secretary Leslie S. Richards is changing the stereotype at PennDOT, where she values her crucial role and hopes to help minorities seek positions of authority.
Alexis White is a senior at Clarion University of Pennsylvania. She recently spent a day shadowing communications staff at PennDOT's Central Office in Harrisburg.
I had the pleasure of having dinner at the Governor's Residence in Harrisburg alongside Secretary Richards during the NEW Leadership PA conference held by Chatham University. She spoke on a panel discussing why she got involved with government, her responsibilities as the secretary, and the latest projects involving PennDOT.
After the dinner, she offered a visit to PennDOT's Central Office in Harrisburg, where I was able to shadow those who work in the communications department.
I arrived at the Keystone Building at 9 a.m. where I was introduced to the communications staff, which primarily consists of females of all ages — ranging from six years of experience to about 20 years. No matter their time in the office, each staff member plays a crucial role in the department.
The staff was very inviting and passionate about its mission as each member gave me a thorough description of what she does. They are challenged daily with how to approach various audiences, including beginner drivers, those researching the latest models of self-driven cars, and customers who express concern about PennDOT via social media.
Shortly after, I was given a tour of Driver and Vehicle Services, which solidified my realization that PennDOT has many responsibilities the average taxpayer may be unaware of. Most Pennsylvanians see PennDOT as the department that affects daily traffic by repairing bridging, or they affiliate it with continuous visits to the DMV. Yet, PennDOT's duties are more intricate than that. For instance, employees stationed in the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency closely monitor highways to make sure traffic is flowing, and if an incident occurs, they promptly notify drivers through signs posted along the highways.
The experience did not end there. Next, I witnessed Secretary Richards execute two commercials that were strategically written by her communications team. It was a joy to see her command the room with such elegance and humbleness. Later, I sat in on an interview she had with reporters from the Capitol. I was astonished to see her go into the interview without any notes and answer all questions presented to her without any hesitation.
I completed an entire work day alongside the secretary's team, but time seemed to fly by with all the responsibilities taken on by the communications staff. PennDOT staff truly cares about the safety of all motorists, and each employee of PennDOT can testify that their work days are filled with upholding this mission.
Alexis White is a senior at Clarion University of Pennsylvania, majoring in strategic communications with a minor in women and gender studies. She serves as the student representative for Clarion's Presidential Commission on the Status of Women and recently was promoted to Specialist in the Army National Guard where she serves as a military police officer. She hopes to continue her education at law school to become an attorney.