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Attracting, Retaining, and Advancing Women in Transit (2020)

Chapter:Chapter 1 - Introduction

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Attracting, Retaining, and Advancing Women in Transit. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25741.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Attracting, Retaining, and Advancing Women in Transit. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25741.
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Page4
Page 5
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Attracting, Retaining, and Advancing Women in Transit. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25741.
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3 Women have been traditionally underrepresented within the transit workforce. In 2018, women made up 46.9% of the U.S. labor force (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2019) and this percentage is expected to increase by 2024 (U.S. Department of Labor 2016). However, the percentage of transit employees who are women is much lower than the percentage of women in the overall U.S. labor force. Furthermore, in recent years in the United States women have earned the majority of certificates, associate degrees, and bachelor’s degrees (National Center for Education and Statistics 2019). This means that many educated and qualified potential employees are women. Based on these findings, women present an undertapped resource that can be used to fill available positions within transit agencies; organizations cannot afford to ignore half of their potential workforce (Badal 2014). Not only will focusing on bringing women into the transit workforce help to fill open posi- tions but also increasing gender diversity brings additional benefits. For example, organizations with greater gender diversity experience business performance and bottom line benefits such as being more productive financially (Zhang forthcoming), improved organizational performance (Jauhari and Singh 2013), and serving more customers (Herring 2009). Additionally, increased employee diversity also leads to more innovation and ideas generated within an organization (Hewlett et al. 2013) and helps the organization to better understand and meet the needs of a wider customer base (Badal 2014). As career opportunities in transit grow, it is imperative that transit agencies hire and train women to succeed in transit jobs. A critical first step to ensure success in these areas is to remove barriers to entry and address challenges women face once employed. Additional resources are needed to help transit agencies overcome barriers to cultivate a desirable workplace for women to find and sustain employment. The objective of this research is to explore the strategies that have been deployed to date in transit and related industries to recruit, retain, and attract women in a variety of roles. Data gathered throughout this project are synthesized within the report. The report provides information on current barriers and cultural elements of transit agencies that affect this issue and documents case examples of implementation of strategies to attract, retain, and advance women in transit agencies. Technical Approach to Project Several methods were used to collect data for this synthesis study. First, a literature review was conducted to gather background information to gain an initial understanding of the needs of women in the transit industry, the current landscape of workforce development programs aimed at women within transit, and strategies that focus on the attraction, retention, and advancement C H A P T E R 1 Introduction

4 Attracting, Retaining, and Advancing Women in Transit of women. For this literature review, the research team focused on transit articles and informa- tion, sources that document strategies that have been implemented in similar industries, and articles from relevant research-based journals. We recognize that the Transportation Research Board and the U.S. Department of Labor, among other agencies, have already produced and funded several reports related to this project. As such, these sources were also included in the literature review. Information and data gathered during this task were combined into a compre- hensive literature review database that was used to inform the synthesis report. Next, a survey was developed to gather basic information on the current state of women within the industry and to identify the transit agencies that have successfully implemented work- force development strategies focused on women. The survey was deployed using a web-based platform and sent to a variety of transit agencies. This survey asked questions similar to those answered through the literature review. For example, the survey included sections about the following topics: • Current diversity culture; • Current strategies to support women, which include strategies to attract women, strategies to retain women, and strategies to advance women; • Challenges experienced with attracting, retaining, and advancing women; and • Transit agency demographic information. Finally, case story interviews were conducted with transit agencies. Interview participants were asked to provide input on how they focus on women within the workforce as well as specific strategies that they use to attract women to their transit agency, retain women, and provide advancement opportunities that benefit women within the organization. Because not all transit agencies have strategies in place to focus on each of these areas, each interview was tailored to focus on specific strategies used within the transit agency participating in the interview. Finally, interview participants were asked to provide input on lessons learned and challenges encountered when implementing these strategies. Throughout this report, we refer to transit agencies. Transit agencies are defined as orga- nizations that provide public transportation services. Transit agencies offer various modes of transportation (e.g., bus, rail, or paratransit) and can be located in any type of setting (e.g., rural or urban). Organization of the Report This report is designed to provide a summary of the current state of women within the transit industry; identify common barriers that keep women from entering the industry or staying employed within the industry; and present strategies to attract, retain, and advance women in transit agencies. Throughout this report, we use the term women to be inclusive of all who identify as women. Chapter 1 provides an introduction to the report, a brief overview of the research method- ology, and an overview of the final synthesis report structure. Chapter 2 incorporates the literature review findings. The chapter is structured to first present the current representation of women in transit. Next, the major barriers to attracting, retaining, and advancing women in transit careers are presented. This is followed by presenting strategies that transit agencies can use to recruit, retain, and advance women. Chapter 3 provides the results of the survey of transit agencies. This includes the current rep- resentation of women in transit; barriers to recruiting, retaining, and advancing women; and diversity initiatives currently in place.

Introduction 5 Chapter 4 then provides the case examples that further describe strategies used to recruit, retain, and advance women and, finally, Chapter 5 summarizes the conclusions of the synthesis and identifies areas where additional research, information, or development of strategies may be necessary to better support women throughout the career process. Providing support would be from entry into transit agencies to providing support that will help retain and provide developmental opportunities for women. Appendix A provides the complete list of survey questions. Appendix B provides the complete interview protocol. These interviews were used to develop the case examples.

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Women have traditionally been underrepresented within the transit workforce. However, the percentage of women within transit agencies appears to be increasing, and many transit agencies report that the percentage of women advancing into management and leadership positions has also been increasing over the past 5 years.

The TRB Transit Cooperative Research Program's TCRP Synthesis 147: Attracting, Retaining, and Advancing Women in Transit explores the strategies that have been deployed in transit and other related industries in order to attract, retain, and advance women in a variety of roles.

A critical first step to ensure success in these areas is to remove barriers to entry and address challenges women face once employed.

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