Momentum Issue #108

October 12, 2022

ITS World Congress Recap

It has been three weeks since ITS America welcomed our colleagues from around the world to the ITS World Congress in Los Angeles. It was a busy week with numerous thought-provoking sessions, great opportunities to connect in the exhibition hall, and the latest technology on display. 6,500 industry professionals from 64 countries came together to participate in nearly 200 educational sessions, experience demonstrations of new technologies, and share their knowledge with colleagues.  While safety remained a key focus for attendees, the topic of equity took center stage in Los Angeles.  Ensuring that all communities have safe, sustainable and affordable access to transportation is a focus globally, and how we apply technology to enable that fostered many discussions.  ITS America President & CEO Laura Chace gave a call to action at the Opening Ceremony asking industry colleagues to bring more voices to the table from communities and sectors not represented so that we take an inclusive approach in our work. 

Speakers included U.S. Department of Transportation Deputy Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology, Robert Hampshire, National Transportation Safety Board Chair, Jennifer Homendy, and Los Angeles Mayor, Eric Garcetti, alongside numerous international, state, and local leaders. Their repeated message? Robust investments in technology are necessary to achieve our societal goals of making our communities safer, greener, and smarter for all.  

On this topic, at the ITS World Congress opening ceremony, Hampshire announced the availability of approximately $160 million annually over the next five years in the Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) and Advanced Transportation Technology and Innovation (ATTAIN) Programs.

The SMART discretionary grant program was established via the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). Up to $100 million in grants are available under this program, which is intended to drive innovation in automation and connectivity; delivery and logistics, traffic signals, smart grids and data integration; and new ways to monitor and manage infrastructure. The Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) is currently open and will run with a deadline of November 18, 2022, at 5 pm Eastern.

The ATTAIN program, formerly ATTIMD, is also intended to promote advanced technologies that would improve safety and reduce travel times for drivers and transit riders that can serve as examples to the nation. Under ATTAIN, $60 million will be made available to those projects deemed to have the most climate change and environmental justice impacts along with job creation. ThisNOFO also has a deadline of November 18th.  ITS America members can tune in to the ITS America hosted Friday Policy Calls for more information about these grant opportunities.

As a continuation of our work to bring more diverse voices into the transportation industry, ITS America was proud to host the first-ever Gender Equity Forum at an ITS World Congress. 

Our in-depth look today is provided by Anita Vandervalk-Ostrander from Iteris who participated in this workshop. 

Level the Playing Field

I had the pleasure of being asked to speak on the “Gender Equity in Transport Workshop” at the ITS World Conference last month.  The purpose of the workshop was to champion gender mobility by overcoming barriers through community and collaboration.  I spoke on the panel alongside Jannet Walker-Ford, Chair, WTS International, Carolyn Angius, Kounkuey Design Initiative, author of LA DOT Changing Lanes Report, April Rai, President & CEO, COMTO, and Karen Philbrick, Executive Director, Mineta Transportation Institute, who moderated the panel.  All four women are in high level roles in a male-dominated field.  They are strong, intelligent women and all started from the entry-level and worked hard to get where they are today. I was very proud to be on the panel with these women who have let nothing stop them.  They all have something in common besides being in the transportation industry, and that is their passion to make things better for women in this industry.

I was excited to be asked to write a key takeaway piece about this session.  There were approximately 60 women and a sprinkling of men in attendance at the forum.  I found all the attendees to be very passionate about their goal to get more women involved in the transportation industry.  The fireside chat guest speaker was Veronica Vanterpool, Deputy Administrator alongside Laura Chace, President and CEO of ITS America and co-founder of MobilityXX.  Veronica was very informative about the changes needed in public transportation while also being very entertaining. I enjoyed hearing the passion in her voice as she talked about making things safer and better for all women in public transportation. 

During the forum, a circle discussion was held to hear from women across the globe on how they overcame challenges in this industry.  It started out with four women: Seleta Reynolds, Chief Innovation Officer, LA Metro • Stephanie Wiggins, CEO, LA Metro • Elissa Konove, FHWA • Susan Harris, Chief Executive Officer, ITS Australia but grew as they called on more women and some of the men in the audience to join the circle.

It was interesting to hear some of the ideas from the women and men in the room on how to overcome gender bias in the industry and how to affect change.  Ideas included creating gender awareness checklists and making it a new way of doing business; making gender data more transparent; offering gender awareness training; putting a workplace program in place to help new mothers be with their infants longer and balance work; getting the employees involved that include not only women, but men and transgender – this is not just a gender rights issue but a human rights issue that includes everyone.

I heard the amazing challenges some of the women had to overcome, a lot of great ideas shared on what should be done from both the women and the men participating in the circle, and a lot of great motivational quotes, such as “Measure what you treasure” (this in reference to measuring the percentages of women qualified, interviewed, and hired), “Rigging the pipeline,” “Aggregate the data,” “Let your voice speak”.  This last quote was heard many times and was recommended as a call to action for men to use their voice to help promote more women in this field, as well as hear the voice from the employee base to get down to the real challenges they face on daily basis. 

But there were a couple of examples that really stood out to me, “When you move up, put the ladder down for someone else.”  This is vital to all women trying to advance in a male-dominated field.  Mentorship is such a blessing to a young woman starting out and hopefully, every young person will get help along the way.  Another example was “We want it to be fair.”  Companies need to make the playing field equal for all. Women don’t want special privileges; they want a leveled playing field and to be considered equal to men applying for that same position and hired because of our qualifications and not sex or color.  

But how do we get there? The broader women’s groups are trying – they even named a month after women – International women’s month.  We see industry data showing how we are underrepresented.  We hold book clubs to help us understand what others are doing and how we can try to change things, which gets us riled up to keep moving forward.  It feels like we are not making much progress.  But during the forum, someone said, “We still don’t have it right yet.”  When I heard this, I had to agree, that no, we don’t have it right, but we are getting there, bit by bit.  And then I thought, ask a woman in 1918, before women were granted the right to vote, to look at how much progress we made.  Could you imagine how shocked that woman would be at how far we have come?  I feel proud that women never gave up and how much progress has been made so far.  Of course, that’s not enough and both sides are not reciprocal, yet! (The straw is still not broken in the middle). 

It is fantastic to have these talented, forceful, highly intelligent women championing us. All women need to keep plugging away and never give up, especially for our daughters and granddaughters who hopefully will one day be on an equal and fair playing field.

I want to thank Laura Chace and ITS America for inviting me/Iteris Inc. to participate in the panel and for the opportunity to write this article. 

Iteris is a proud sponsor of MobilityXX. 

(Photo above: Guest contributor Anita Vandervalk-Ostrander addresses Gender Equity in Transport Workshop)