Today, I spoke to the Women’s Transportation Seminar International.
With the WTS audience as witnesses, I signed an understanding between DOT and WTS to encourage women to complete undergraduate and graduate degrees in science, technology, engineering and math--without having to put their transportation careers on hold.
This strategic effort will help us transform transportation by helping more women advance in transportation careers. And I think the folks at WTS agree. Their President, Elaine Dezenski, said today, "We're excited to launch this partnership with DOT and to help develop a transportation workforce of the future."
Now, at DOT, we are also deeply committed to supporting women in every field of transportation--and we are reaching out to girls and young women who are looking for rewarding careers.
The good news is that--as we revitalize our nation’s transportation infrastructure--the entire industry is full of opportunities. Many modes of transportation will need environmental engineering and alternative fuel research. And the railroad, construction, and aerospace industries will certainly need highly skilled professionals in the years ahead.
But there’s a catch: we need to do a much better job of training our children to excel in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, a group of vital skills known as STEM. This is an issue of real national importance, and it is particularly important for girls.
This we know. The United States cannot afford to lag behind other industrialized nations in producing a workforce that’s capable of inventing, managing, and applying the new technologies and systems that will drive our economy forward.
Take aviation, for example. We’re making a huge technological leap forward as we transition from a radar-based air traffic control system to a satellite-based one. But this groundbreaking effort will require a new generation of well-trained experts with real technical know-how.
We will need a smart, new generation of air traffic controllers and flight data coordinators as the current generation begins to retire. DOT and the FAA are making a concerted effort to bring women into the aviation fold.
And just this week, we are proudly celebrating the graduation of our inaugural Entrepreneurial Training and Technical Assistance Women and Girls Program intern class from Spelman College. We created this internship program to encourage young women to pursue STEM-related careers.
Like our program with the exceptional staff at Spelman College, I think this new understanding with WTS will prove to be another successful partnership that helps women in transportation seize opportunities they might otherwise miss.
We've enlisted DOT’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration to help us identify the gaps in our current efforts to attract and retain women in transportation.We’ll tap into the WTS network of over 4,000 transportation professionals and 45 chapters to hold sessions that will inform us and other key transportation stakeholders about gaps in our current efforts to attract and retain women in transportation.
We’ll coordinate outreach sessions with our University Transportation Centers around the country that are already addressing workforce issues.
We’ll also develop best practices for mentoring, promote and support entrepreneurs, and work to attract students into our professions.
Look, as a father and grandfather of talented women and girls, I'll be the first to say it's great to be part of an Administration that’s doing so much to put the needs of women and girls at the top of our national agenda.
One of President Obama’s very first official acts was to sign the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
He also established a White House Council on Women and Girls that works with all Cabinet-level agencies to determine how their policies and programs affect women and their families and amend those to help meet today's challenges.
And I think what we've done to today by signing this understanding with WTS is a terrific fit with President Obama's commitment to improve opportunities for women and girls across America.