Board Spotlight: Jannet Walker Ford, Secretary, WTS Board of Directors
Jannet Walker Ford, Vice President and General Manager, Eastern Region, Americas, at Cubic Transportation Systems, kicked off her two-year term as Secretary for the WTS International Board of Directors last year. WTS sat down with Jannet, a 14-year WTS member, to find out how she got involved in the transportation industry and what drives her passion for the advancement of women in the industry.
WTS: Let’s start with your role at Cubic. Can you tell us a little about the firm, and what you do?
JWF: Cubic Transportation Systems is a leading integrator of payment and information technology and services to create intelligent travel solutions for transportation authorities and operators. I joined the executive leadership team as vice president and general managerofthe Eastern Region, Americas, in March 2017.
The Eastern region includes Miami, where the EASY Card revenue management system is a major Cubic project, recently expanding under a $33 million contract for upgrades to cloud-based services supporting mobile and open payment technologies. The region also includes Georgia, where Cubic supplied and continues to support Atlanta’s Breeze smart card-based regional fare collection system and provides maintenance services for the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA).
Other customers include the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, Maryland Transit Administration,as well as Autoridad de Transporte Intregrado, and Metropolitan Bus Authority, the primary rail and bus public transport operators in Puerto Rico.
WTS: Where did you get your start in the industry?
JWF: My transportation career began in 2002 at MARTA. Before then, my career primarily focused on the private sector in the information technology industry. Overall, my background includes both the public and private sectors, with focus on aviation, rail, and transit systems.
I came to Cubic from Parsons Corporation where I was the Vice President and North America Director of Strategic Programs and Policy and, previously, was the Deputy Program Director for the Philadelphia International Airport’s multimillion-dollar, multi-year Capacity Enhancement Program – which at the time was the largest such program in the United States. I also served as both the Deputy CEO/Deputy General Manager and the Chief Information Officer for MARTA, and oversaw the design and installation of the MARTA Breeze system.
I also hold leadership roles in a number of transportation associations including the Board of Directors for the American Public Transportation Association, American Public Transportation Foundation, in addition to my board position with WTS International. I also serve as the Chair of the Women Who Move the Nation Committee for the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials.
WTS: You are passionate about advancing women in transportation. What drives that passion?
JWF: It’s important to be an advocate for the advancement of women and taking an active role in developing leadership at every stage of the journey. The transportation industry, especially the technology, engineering, and construction side where I focus, involves a lot of STEM-type careers. As we know, young women in this country have traditionally not been encouraged when it comes to science and math, although STEM jobs are well-paying ones that offer a big opportunity to close that gender-based wage gap.
WTS: What has been your experience as it pertains to women in leadership roles? What have you witnessed during the course of your career?
JWF: Statistically, more than one-third of Fortune 500 managers are women – and yet according to the Center for American Progress, we represent barely five percent of the top earners among executives. I don’t think leadership is gender specific, and the increase in recent years of women in executive roles means that the world is slowly figuring that out, too. Since I began my leadership journey, I’ve witnessed an increase in the number of women as well as minorities in leadership and pursuing technology roles. But while there has been progress, much more work is needed to close the gap.
I’m thrilled to be working with Cubic, where I see my vision can be put to work for the greater good of the company in not only its diversity initiatives for hiring, but also for supporting that essential ingredient of a company’s core values: Mentoring. This is where we women can make such enormous changes for those who will follow us by providing the role modeling and transparency that all of us can benefit from.
WTS: What do you think is the best path forward to making change in the gender makeup of the transportation industry?
JWF: We are aware that girls and women do not pursue careers in transportation or STEM at the same rate as boys and men. Further, African Americans and Hispanics also follow this trend. This is why it is so important to have organizations like WTS that provide opportunities for girls and young women to have an opportunity to see women leading change in transportation as well as STEM careers.
In my opinion, the best path would involve two things: First, we need a continued and deliberate focus on encouraging girls and young women to pursue internships and career opportunities in the transportation industry and advocating for STEM education. Second, we must provide them exposure to leaders in the transportation industry and the diverse roles they hold.
WTS: Why did you feel it was important to join the Board of WTS?
JWF: WTS is an organization that aligns with my beliefs regarding women in the transportation industry.
I’m passionate about the advancement of women in all areas and excited about being able to contribute to the advancement of women in my industry, specifically. I have two decades of leadership experience in the transportation industry, in both the public and private sectors, and during that time, I have been constantly involved in organizations dedicated to moving women and minorities forward toward equality. I feel that, as a woman in my position, it’s my responsibility to help other women achieve their goals in any way I can.
WTS: What strategies do you feel will help bring WTS closer to achieving its mission?
JWF: America lags behind other nations in the number of students majoring in science and engineering at colleges and universities, according to the National Science Foundation. Additionally, women make up just nine percent of those receiving engineering degrees – and with the help of our WTS members, sponsors, and partners, we’re changing that statistic. WTS offers leadership development and mentoring programs, regional and annual conferences, networking opportunities, and exposure to accomplished women leaders in the public and private sectors.