Having a strong group of women to work with leads to some great advantages.
By Jacolyn “Jackie” Thiel, PE, City Engineer, City of Upper Arlington, OH
WTS stands for Women’s Transportation Seminar. Many may find it a strange name, but this was the original name from when the organization was founded in 1977 as an educational association. The association had to be educational because in the 70’s, women could not get membership costs supported by employers unless they were educational. This is a strong reminder of how far women in transportation and business in general have come in the last forty years.
I first found WTS as a Transportation Engineer for the City of Columbus. I was looking for opportunities to meet mentors in my field and specifically women that had made the jump to leadership roles. At my first few events, I was shocked to see men in the group as well. This is because the group recognizes the need for all professionals to work together to move innovation forward. I found myself attending events and soon making relationships with women, and some men, that had real world experience they were willing to share. At that point, I realized this was an organization I wanted to play a role in my career.
As I continue to grow in my career, I have realized having a strong group of women to work with has had some great advantages. When attending larger meetings and events, we have this network to stand behind us and also bounce ideas off for new project designs. The group strives to encourage more women to enter the field and offers a scholarship to women pursuing a career in transportation. In central Ohio I am experiencing more and more women in this field and have even had a few times when women out numbered men in a project meetings.
In my current role as the City Engineer for the City of Upper Arlington, Ohio, my team completed Upper Arlington’s first “Complete Street.” The project was making over the City’s main thoroughfare, Tremont Road, with improvements to safety and access for pedestrians, cyclists, transit users and motorists. Plans included improving the roadway and multiple intersections, improving connections to community resources, and enhancing the corridor with various streetscape applications. What really made this project unique was the female-led design team. In early 2016, The Women’s Transportation Seminar Columbus Chapter presented Upper Arlington and Burges & Niple Project with the 2016 Innovative Transportation Solutions Award for their work on the reconstruction of Tremont Road. This award salutes the creative work of an outstanding transportation project or service that improves the quality of life.
Being a woman in transportation is exciting as we see the future of how people get around changing. I’m happy to see more and more women entering the field and organizations that are there to support us in our journey. I hope in another forty years this group has an equal membership of both men and women along with equal parts implementing our transportation projects and logistics.
Jackie Thiel is the City Engineer for the City of Upper Arlington, Ohio.