Women make up half the population, but jobs in innovation, tech and infrastructure aren’t reflecting that. Research shows that of the 15 million jobs in transportation, less than 15% of those are held by women. In the tech sector, fewer than 19% of women are STEM graduates and only 1 in 4 computing jobs are held by women. This leads to the so called ‘pink tax’ where women pay sometimes twice as much to use transportation, and without women designing systems, we see inequities grow. So how do we overcome this massive challenge to overcome the fact that - without action - it will take 200+ years before the US achieves gender equity?
In April 2022, the United State Department of Transportation (USDOT) and 90 federal agencies released a comprehensive Equity Action Plan. The plan targets underserved, overburdened, and disadvantaged communities and seeks to help them increase transportation access, economic prosperity, and engagement. With new investment from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, USDOT has more resources to enhance the US transportation system.
To lessen inequitable impacts in transportation, the USDOT’s Equity Action plan focuses on four focus areas: (1) Wealth Creation, (2) Power of Community, (3) Interventions, and (4) Expanding Access. USDOT hopes these goals will support communities historically underserved and advance jobs and economic growth. To reach these goals, the department developed a strategic plan that identifies key performance indicators, outcomes and critical gaps to hold them accountable to this five-year plan. This plan includes a ‘Gender Justice’ team at the USDOT to ask how these goals advance gender equity for women and women of color.
USDOT notes that the Equity Action Plan is a living document. A major piece of legislation that supports the Equity Action Plan is Executive Order 13985, Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government. The order will be implemented by the Equity Leadership Team (EQLT), which consists of individuals well-versed in topical areas.
The Equity Action Plan is also a way of implementing the President’s Justice40 Initiative, a program that allocates 40% of government investment in clean transit projects and support to marginalized communities’ transportation systems.
Women have been historically underserved and disadvantaged within the transportation, technology and other systems. It’s critical that they receive support from the federal government and male allies to ensure that we take action. Key actions include learning about the federal government’s equity goals, sharing information about this work with colleagues, and volunteering to act as an ally to women in your industry.
The federal government’s emphasis on equity presents a window of opportunity for women and women of color to make sure that they get the resources they need. Whether it’s government funding for your small-business or making sure we remove barriers to growing women in your field, the Equity Action Plan actively supports disadvantaged communities in getting the technological and financial resources needed to enhance their economic well-being. Additionally, it ensures that women’s voices are heard as important investment decisions are being made. As the poet Amanda Gorman wrote, “For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it, if only we’re brave enough to be it.”
About the Authors
Kristin R. White. J.D.
Chief Operating Officer
Intelligent Transportation Society of America
Kristin White is the Chief Operating Officer of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America). As COO Kristin’s role is to promote policies that advance the development and safe deployment of emerging transportation technologies to advance safety, equity, access, mobility and sustainability. This work includes overseeing the strategic direction of future transportation policy, developing a cohesive national vision for AVs, empowering local communities, engaging thought leaders, and promoting equity and economic prosperity. In this work, Kristin champions MobilityXX – a public-private partnership to advance gender equity in transportation.
Kristin is a lawyer, policy strategist and innovator who brings empathy and leadership into the transportation sector, challenging us to harness revolutionary technologies and grow new partnerships to build tomorrow today.
Previously, Kristin was the founder and Executive Director of Minnesota's Office of Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAV-X), one of the nation’s leading tech startups and idea incubators within government that researches and deploys transformational technology and policy. The CAV-X program’s innovations have garnered national attention, including winning the National Cronin Award, WTS Innovative Solutions Award, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce/AASHTO America’s Transportation Award.
Kristin has a B.A. from St. Olaf College, law degree from Hamline University School of Law and global arbitration certification from Queen Mary University of London. She began her career as a Fulbright Fellow with the US State Department and has since represented Fortune 500 companies, cities, and states to advance equitable and sustainable policy.
LinkedIn Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kristinrwhite/
Program website: www.its.org
Intelligent Transportation Society of America
Victoria Christopher is a Summer Intern with the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America). She currently supports the ITS World Congress, MobilityXX initiative, and assists the communications and policy departments as needed. Victoria is a student at the University of Redlands, graduating in the fall semester 2022. She is obtaining a B.A. in Public Policy and Business Management with a minor in Spatial Studies.
Her experience includes working as a research assistant for the University of Redlands Environmental Science department, participating in the University of Redlands student government by representing her class as a Class Senator, and serving as an event organizer assistant for the University’s first Worldwide Teach-In on Climate and Justice event. She hopes to pursue a career in energy and transportation policy. In her work, she hopes to facilitate collaboration between parties to provide solutions for public policy problems.
LinkedIn Profile: www.linkedin.com/in/victoria-christopher
By Indu Vijayan
Founder, Women in Autonomy
Three years ago, the world’s largest consumer electronics show, CES, was digging itself out from a public backlash over its all-male keynote line-up, while many in the tech industry bemoaned the prevalence of “manels” - those expert panels conspicuously missing one key ingredient - women. Yes, there was a “limited pool” of high-level women in tech, as the Consumer Technology Association pointed out, but there were also systemic issues that - if left unaddressed - would perpetuate the lack of diversity both at these types of events, and on leadership teams industrywide.
Women in Autonomy was founded in the midst of this environment, with a mission to educate, equip and empower women in the automotive and autotech industries so their voices can be better heard and represented.
Why automotive? That’s the space where I have spent my career - most often as the only technical woman in the room - developing software and systems to enable autonomous driving. An industry where, as recently as 2020, Deloitte reported that 90% of women felt they were under-represented in leadership positions, with 42% believing an industry bias towards men still exists for these positions, driven by organizational cultural norms. My colleagues at AEye and I formed Women in Autonomy to chip away at those statistics, believing the best way to address the problem was to be part of the solution.
My industry is making progress, with car makers like Stellantis launching corporate programs to promote leadership and diversity, and organizations like MobilityXX challenging the industry with concrete initiatives to increase the number of women in the transportation industry by 10% over the next 10 years. But we can do so much more.
At Women in Autonomy, we’ve come to realize that automotive is just the tip of the iceberg. We are seeing the impact of autonomous technologies reverberate beyond automotive to industries like agriculture, logistics and delivery, intelligent transportation systems (ITS), commercial freight transport, and mining, and we want to be part of the solution in those industries, too.
That’s why, in 2022, Women in Autonomy is expanding its mission to embolden women building autonomous technology across all industries - from automotive and mobility to industrial, robotics, smart cities and beyond, to become leaders and change-makers, ensuring female voices are better heard and represented.
You will continue to see us host female-led industry events, lead professional development discussions, provide mentorship opportunities, and place female speakers at industry events. But this is our moment to expand our reach and include more women - women who are at the forefront of autonomous initiatives across industries.
In 2021, for the first time, CES had more female keynote speakers than male; women-founded startup funding broke all-time records, and Nasdaq began requiring companies on its tech-heavy exchange to have at least one female board member, or disclose why they don’t.
We believe the time for change is now, and that we can make a difference. We hope that you’ll join us on this mission to include, empower, and embolden even more women building autonomous technologies.
Let’s accelerate the future, together.
Women in Autonomy
Accelerate the Future!