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WTS-Boston Boots Book Club: Boots on the Ground, Flats in the Boardroom


Written By: Margaret Czachorowski, HNTB

On November 2, 2016, attendees gathered at the HNTB Corporation Boston office for a discussion of the book Boots on the Ground, Flats in the Boardroom: Transportation Women Tell their Stories, by Elizabeth Levin and Grace Crunican.  Released last year, the book features the stories of eighteen women who were pioneers of the transportation industry, many of whom have been involved with WTS over the years.  Attendees were honored to have three of the women whose stories were featured in the book present at the event: Liz Levin, Mary Jane O’Meara, and Jane Chmielinski.

After a brief welcome and introduction, the group split into three small breakout sessions to discuss Liz, Mary Jane, and Jane’s stories more in depth, and to receive insight from the women themselves.  One group, facilitated by Susan Nichols, discussed Liz Levin’s journey from the world of housing and urban development to the private sector (M&E, Rizzo Associates), to her contributions serving on multiple boards.  Another group, facilitated by Sara Coyle, spoke with Mary Jane O’Meara about her experiences working at the MBTA, MassDOT, and Massport, her long tenure as Director of the Tobin Bridge and her ongoing work at HNTB.  The third group, facilitated by Allison Sweeney, talked with Jane Chmielinski about her start in the public sector (Mass Highway and the MBTA), and her time in the private sector (FRH, DMJM Harris, AECOM) where she served in a variety of roles, including COO and President of the AECOM Americas Group.No._1_Liz_Boots

Following the breakout sessions, the group came back together for further discussion with the three featured guests.  Prompted by questions brainstormed during the breakout sessions, the group talked about what makes a good mentor, how to cope with uncertainty in your organization or industry, and how to balance family, travel, career, etc.  Attendees asked the co-authors: what are some unique challenges faced by women in transportation today?  How have things changed for women in the industry over time?  And what important lessons have you taken away from your experience? 

In closing, Susan Nichols asked attendees to share what topics or comments resonated most with them from the evening’s discussion.  Many attendees spoke of being inspired by the stories in the book and by the evening’s conversation with Liz, Mary Jane, and Jane.  Throughout the night, the group discussed a variety of challenges facing women in transportation today, but also heard stories of how things have changed for the better, and lessons learned from those experiences: being confident, sticking up for your beliefs, persevering through hard times, and being a change-maker.  The stories in Boots on the Ground, Flats in the Boardroom are full of such wisdom, making it a perfect vehicle for a fruitful and inspiring discussion.

No._3_mentoring_committee_resizedBoots on the Ground, Flats in the Boardroom is available for purchase through Amazon.

Recognition: Mentoring Committee Co-Chairs and facilitators Allison Sweeney, MBTA and Susan Nichols, VHB; Sara Coyle, Kleinfelder; Guest Speakers Liz Levin, Mary Jane O’Meara, and Jane Chmielinski, and HNTB for hosting the event.



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