Dr. Beverly Scott was General Manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority from 2012-2015, one of the few African American women at the top echelons of the transportation industry.
“Women Can Build,” to me, is a statement of power. Sometimes, we have to remind ourselves that women are capable of anything, including building and manufacturing for the transit industry. Campaigns like “Women Can Build” provide encouragement and a feeling of solidarity for women working in a male-dominated field, which helps you feel a little less alone.
There are plenty of women in transit – engineers, mechanics, planners, conductors – you just can’t always feel their presence. We as a society have to be reminded that your gender doesn’t determine your talents, skills, or interests.
Transit and manufacturing are both very male dominated fields. When I first started in the transportation industry, female transit manufacturers were very rare. They’re still a minority in the industry, but I’ve seen very encouraging growth in the past two decades. This is a trend that needs to continue and grow, and the way to do that is to catch women when they’re young. Getting middle and high school girls excited about STEM is the only effective way to get them into the industry when they’re adults making career choices.
The nation as a whole – and transit specifically – are staring down a huge retirement cliff when the Baby Boomers all leave the workforce in the next 10 – 15 years. Unless we are proactive and encourage and support women coming into the transit industry, we’re hurting ourselves by reducing our hiring pool. It’s unacceptable that we, as an industry, would block our own interests by failing to address this issue head on.
My family has always come first. One of my biggest motivations these days is to make a better world for my granddaughter and the kids of her generation. That means making transit more environmentally friendly, more equitable, and more accessible. At the end of the day, it’s difficult to balance your family and your career, but every woman has to choose her own priorities.
I think that the glass ceiling does still exist for women in transit and other male-dominated industries. While the “Old Boys’ Club” mentality isn’t as present as it was when I first started, I think its legacy lingers. Women as a whole need to continue pushing and challenging the norm, until we have access to the same career paths available to men.