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Megan Rosica, PE, provides insight into her motivation to work in transportation and what empowers her as a woman in the industry.
My journey into the transportation industry was not a clear path, it was more of a winding road with lots of twists and turns (pun intended). All of the choices I made and opportunities I was given led me to where I am, and I am grateful for that. Now that I’m here I feel it is my purpose to leverage this role as a female in the industry and advocate for equity because I see the disparities, I acknowledge my privilege, and I am motivated by the fact that I can play a part in making a difference.
I went to a small, all-girls high school so you can imagine the shock when I graduated and went to a large university to study civil engineering, a male-dominated major. There were many times where I would be the only woman in the class or in a group. But this actually empowered me, and it motivated me to do well. Like those Mia Hamm / Michael Jordan commercials from the 90’s, I wanted to prove that “anything you can do I can do better.” I have an incredible role model in my mother who would sing along with me to that commercial and constantly tell me I could do anything I put my mind to. I harnessed that throughout college and into my career.
I only recently learned that less than 15% of the transportation industry is made up of women. That’s out of 14.8 million people in the transportation workforce, and even fewer hold decision-making roles. I like to think these statistics are improving but learning this made me even more motivated to grow these numbers. I’m proud to say that our Jacobs Mid-Atlantic Advanced Mobility group is made up of approximately 40% women, and we continue to grow those numbers by making inclusion and diversity a top priority.
Diversifying our workforce is key to broadening perspectives and challenging standards so we can leverage a variety of viewpoints for better decision making and to create opportunity. Historically, the infrastructure we use everyday has been designed the same way since the dawn of industry, and there are biases built in that we often adjust to and ignore. I am not just motivated by gender disparities, but by the issues that impact all groups who don’t feel that their voice is heard. In addition to women, people with disabilities, people in low socio-economic geographies, and people of color have struggled with the design biases that have been put in place for too long. Just because something has been the same forever does not mean it’s right, and we CAN change it.
I’m motivated by the potential I see – the innovations, tools, and conversations sparked by acknowledging inequities. In this new era of technology and innovation we are seeing tools that will transform mobility. By recognizing this potential, we can get involved and advocate to help undeserved communities who need it. This is why I enjoy being involved in ITSPA and focusing on community within ITS and advanced technologies. I want to represent young women and show them that getting involved in organizations at the forefront of these technologies is a great step to having our voices be heard and diversifying the team.
I go back to my high school to speak to the girls often about my career and life after graduation. I want to remind them of the same thing my mom (and Mia Hamm) taught me – we can do anything. It’s a broader vision that motivates me – I want to promote diversity in the workforce and use the position we are in as designers and engineers to make the world a more equitable place, starting with transportation.
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Jennie McCracken, PE, PTOE shares her story of inspiration as a women in the transportation and engineering field and the importance of connecting to inspire young women interested in STEM.
March is one of my favorite months of the year – Women’s History, St Patty’s Day and I’m reminded of my grandmother, Jeanne, who loved the start of Spring. On our Sunday drives to church, we’d point out the new blooms and tulips (red was her favorite). Grandma was my bestie – in my rebellious teen years she was who I ran away from home to, and she believed I could do anything. She encouraged me to start my first paper route at 10 (because I could do anything my brother could), she saved every newspaper article I was ever in, and I stayed with her several nights a week after she suffered a major stroke in high school.
The stroke changed her in many ways – she worried less and although she was lovingly referred to as Mean Jeanne, some of her edge was dulled. She had to relearn reading and writing. Part of this relearning meant my Grandma went from writing with her right-hand to left-hand after the stroke. She was born in 1922, her father was a doctor, and she started her education in Catholic school where they forced her to learn to write right-handed. She shared stories, they would tie her left hand behind her back or smack her hand with a ruler if she attempted using her left. Beyond being inherently disadvantaged by a right-handed bias in the design of tools, left-handed people have been subjected to deliberate discrimination and discouragement. Thankfully, in the late 20th century, left-handedness became less stigmatized – so my Aunt Rosie, myself, and my daughter Reagan Jeanne, have not experienced shame in being left-handed.
You may be asking, "Why are you sharing this story?" This example is no different from the women engineers who are pegged as not being a “good fit for engineering”, when we are expected to perform “office housework” and administrative tasks or when we walk the tight rope that forces women to monitor and adjust our behavior in a male dominated transportation field.
Each and every one of us can be an advocate for change. We can share stories at networking events, through awards and in newsletters and social media articles that provide a space for women to connect. We can provide information through ITSPA on how young women in transportation can be more involved and share opportunities related to issues that affect them personally. We can look to cosponsor programs with other engineering societies like WTS to demonstrate women can exist in the industry and be successful. And we can partner with organizations to support K-12 initiatives to increase interest and retention in STEM, especially for young girls! ITSPA has long sponsored programs like Math Counts, Future Cities, and STEM charities as part of the Penn State TESC.
According to the World Economic Forum, COVID-19 has disproportionally affected women and my daughter likely will not see gender parity in her lifetime. The proposed timeline has been pushed back from 99.5 years to 135.6 years. Let’s work together to bring three or four women with us because we need to do more to get this trend back on track!