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Board Spotlight: Paula Hammond, Board Director WTS International


Each member of WTS International's Board of Directors is dedicated to the fulfillment of the WTS mission by serving in positions for two-year terms. Paula Hammond, National Transportation Market Leaderat WSP USA, has been a valued member of WTS for more than 20 years and is in her second term as a member of the WTS Board of Directors for which she serves on the Finance Committee. She also chairs the Regional Council Liaison committee for the Board as well as the Membership Committee. We sat down with Paula to learn more about her involvement in transportation and her perspectives on the advancement of women in the industry.

WTS: Let’s start with your role at WSP. Can you tell us a little about the firm, and what you do?

PH: WSP USA, formerly WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff has a 132-year history of technical excellence, offering a comprehensive, integrated approach to the transportation planning, design and management. We bring the latest technologies and a culture of innovation to our work to meet community needs for mobility, connectivity, sustainability and resiliency.

In my role as National Transportation Market Leader, I am responsible for collaborating with transportation agencies across the U.S. to advance transportation policy and programs at the state and national levels. I provide strategic advice to clients in a wide variety of areas, and, in addition to being on the WTS International Board, I’m active in supporting national transportation associations, including the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the Transportation Research Board (TRB), and also serve on the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) Board of Trustees.

WTS: Where did you get your start in the industry?

PH: After graduating from Oregon State University with a BS in Civil Engineering, I started my engineering career at Washington State Dept. of Transportation (WSDOT). I was fortunate to start on the front lines of project development and construction inspection, putting my technical training to work. From there, and throughout my 34-year career at WSDOT, I had the opportunity to grow my skills in a myriad of areas the state DOT was responsible for: planning, design, project delivery, community partnerships, budget and finance, operations, communications, legislative engagement and policy, performance management, and agency leadership. It’s not often a person can gain the depth and breadth of experience for a career in one agency, but I was blessed to be able to do so. I was privileged to serve as Secretary of Transportation in Washington State from 2006 - 2013.

WTS: You are you passionate about advancing women in transportation. What drives that passion?

PH: As one of eight women in my graduating class of 120, I recognized in college that I’d better get used to working in a male dominated field. That was 1978. I was fortunate to work at an agency that mentored and supported me in my career path, but there were only a few women leaders serving as role models. Over the last 40 years the number of women civil engineers has grown somewhat, but more notably we have seen a larger increase of women contributing in all aspects of transportation improvement programs and services. What we don’t see are women rising in the management and leadership ranks of our agencies and companies at a level reflective of the citizens we serve. Having had much success in my career in transportation, I feel a personal responsibility to “pay it forward” in our industry by mentoring, coaching and supporting the advancement of women in achieving their career goals, and making a positive difference in the transportation field.

WTS: What has been your experience as it pertains to women in leadership roles? What have you witnessed during the course of your career?

PH: There are so many excellent women in leadership roles that we all can learn from. Regardless of the past advice some of us got to “be more like the men” in our field, I think women can and do bring skills and style to their leadership roles that are worth emulating; teamwork, observation, collaboration, empathy. A fully functioning organization has a good blend of leaders bringing diverse perspectives and experiences and women certainly enhance that. I’ve appreciated that women who serve in these significant leadership roles tend to develop strong friendships and support each other, and they also recognize they have a responsibility as role models for those who will follow in their footsteps.

WTS: What do you think is the best path forward to making change in the gender makeup of the transportation industry?

PH: Our greatest opportunity to improve the gender makeup of our transportation industry is through leadership from the top of organizations. By that I mean setting expectations for the culture of the organization and ensuring it happens. From there, it’s up to all of us as peers, supervisors and managers to contribute to the success of individuals and the organization. Our industry has a real challenge in front of us with retirements looming for experienced workers and a new generation of workers with varying expectations. It’s a great time to get serious about attracting and advancing a diverse workforce that can advance our transportation technology and innovations as well as help them achieve meaningful careers.

WTS: Why did you feel it was important to join the Board of WTS?

PH: WTS is a great organization with the sole vision and mission of advancing women in transportation. That’s a goal I want to help with, and have a responsibility to do so. It’s the pay it forward model I mentioned earlier. In my years as a WTS member in Puget Sound, I’ve seen the attraction of public and private sector members to the camaraderie, programs and opportunities for leadership. There are professional and student chapters growing all over the country and together we can combine forces to make a real difference in women’s careers and in our transportation future.

WTS: What strategies do you feel will help bring WTS closer to achieving its mission?

PH: WTS has spent the last few years in a rebuilding mode, and the perseverance of the Board, Chapter, and Regional leaders and Strategic Partners to strengthen the organization has paid off.  Through Chair of the Board, Diane Woodend Jones’ hard work and dedication, we have a clear strategic plan and tactics to chart our course. We’ve stabilized our financial standing and communications throughout the organization and we’ve doubled down on our commitment to offer national programs and services that support local chapters and our members. Our combined efforts are aligned around support for women in every phase of their career; whether it’s recruiting women into the field of transportation (Transportation YOU), providing programs of transportation relevance (Annual Conference and chapter events), leadership training (Mid-Career and Executive Leadership, and Chapter and Regional leadership roles), mentoring, networking, friendship, and don’t forget FUN! New ideas will emerge, new opportunities to make a difference will become apparent. I can’t think of a better organization and group of individuals that will help us achieve success.



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