From The Leadership: Bringing Our Whole Selves
On June 26, 2015, as I was touring the CNN Center newsroom in Atlanta, I watched live as the news broke that the Supreme Court had ruled that same-sex marriage was legal in the United States. I was not only witnessing history but standing in a moment full of personal implications. I had goosebumps as I watched, unpacking the importance of this decision. The impact of the Supreme Court’s legal decision meant that I could now marry my fiancé in any state we wished and, emotionally, I finally felt a sense of validation and inclusiveness that was previously missing.
Five hours later, I was back in Washington, D.C., standing with my now wife in front of the White House, lit up in the Pride Flag rainbow colors. We were joined by thousands of others who were compelled to come together to commemorate this life-altering event. People were singing, laughing, and crying. I spent a quiet moment reflecting on the many emotions I was experiencing. I felt an overwhelming sense of acceptance as strangers were hugging each other in celebration, unity, and relief. At the same time, I felt extreme frustration that this acceptance took this long for our country to decide on and that it required a Supreme Court vote. That ultimately, up until 2015, I was not able to live my life in the same regards and have the same rights as others, feeling not accepted, nor normal — feeling that I was less than.
The Supreme Court ruling on the 14th Amendment was only one step for LGBTQ+ rights. Not the first, and certainly not the last. As we celebrate Pride this June, we need to recognize that this month is about more than parades and consumer marketing. This month needs to be about acceptance and inclusivity — feeling at home and welcomed in all aspects of one’s life. Defending what we have now and continuing to advocate to achieve full equality.
At WTS, creating a culture and community around inclusivity and belonging is one of our core values. We strive for an environment where each of our members feels welcomed to bring their full self to our organization. That is why during this month, we reaffirm our commitment to acting on the initiatives that have been executed, and those still to follow, in building a more inclusive and equitable organization for our members. These commitments include:
- Membership Application Updates: WTS updated its membership application to accurately collect key identifying demographics to better measure our diversity and to ensure inclusivity and building on equitable practices. Our Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee provided a first round of edits to the member profile, including updating our terminology and answer choices for race/ethnicity and gender and by adding a sexual orientation data field.
- Pronouns Designations: For the first time, during our 2022 WTS Annual Conference, pronouns were added to the conference attendee name badges.
- And, we pledge to add pronoun designations to our membership database this year for use at all WTS events, programs, and in all communications across the organization, including chapter activities.
- Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion Committee Advancement: With the recent approval of the updated WTS International Bylaws, the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee is now a standing committee recognized in our bylaws, highlighting the leadership’s commitment to be a leading voice for equity and access in transportation.
- Accessibility: We are committed to making our events more accessible and are committed to meeting ADA compliance standards for both in-person and virtual activities, starting with our 2022 WTS Annual Conference, where we built in ADA compliance requirements into our hotel contract and offered ADA compliant registration counters and stages.
- This year, we’ll be undergoing a brand and website audit to ensure accessibility across our platforms.
I stand committed, and in partnership with our WTS International and Foundation Boards of Directors, our Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee, staff, and chapter leaders to create a WTS that is:
- diverse and representative of the industry we want,
- inclusive, where our members feel welcome to bring their full selves and are invited to share their unique talents with the organization, and
- equitable, where our policies, procedures, and practices recognize that we may start at different places but that we all can aspire to the same goals
As we celebrate Pride Month, I personally invite you to join me for our first-ever, WTS LGBTQIA+ Member Meetup on June 29 at 3 p.m. ET. This complimentary virtual meetup for members is a safe place to meet with other LGBTQIA+ WTS members and allies to share stories, ask questions, recognize the progress we’ve made, and discuss the next challenges within the industry that we face. I also encourage you to provide your reflections in our Member Voices campaign.
I know that progress can seem slow. In 2015, we celebrated marriage equality. Now in 2022, we’re facing new laws, policies, and beliefs that threaten to take away or restrict the rights we had fought so hard for, and celebrated, with a hope that one day we could stop fighting, that true equality could be obtained.
At WTS, our 2021-2026 Strategic Plan prioritizes a One-WTS model, not only in practice as we unite our members; chapters; International; and Foundation units, but also in understanding that we are stronger together as one united organization. Our commitment and mission are to advance the inclusivity of all and fundamentally change the transportation workforce to be equitable, accessible, and representative of the communities we serve.
Whether you are someone that identifies as LGBTQIA+, an ally, or are just joining the conversation, we welcome you to WTS!
Sara M. Stickler, CAE
President & CEO