From the Leadership: On Growth

With an incredibly busy fall season for WTS – Chapter networking events, educational programming, and annual gatherings; back-to-back transportation industry conferences; our 2022 Executive and Mid-Career Signature Leadership Training cohorts gathering in Washington D.C.; planning for our upcoming Chapter Leadership Development in Kansas City; and finalizing our WTS International Standing Committees; I am pleasantly exhausted. But when I reflect on the past few months, this exhaustion is paired with joy – the joy of watching WTS grow.

“Growth” is a small word that packs a large amount of meaning. It might be more seasonally appropriate for me to explore this concept in the Spring, but so much change is happening right now: The growth of our community’s personal and professional lives as we find and engage in new pathways for career development. The growth in membership numbers through our Fall campaign. The growth in both quality and quantity of Chapter and International programming. The growth of our corporate partners, public agencies, and private organizations, whose leaders and employees are affecting and managing change in a climate that continues to face uncertainties. The growth of these same organizations vying for talent, with record-breaking hiring requirements for our sector. The growth here at WTS International, with recent strategic staff hires adding to our team; and even the growth of future generations looking to make a mark in the industry through our Foundation’s recent Board orientation and strategic planning around scholarships, fundraising, and Transportation YOU. All of these influences, actions and decisions contribute to the growth of our community and a #OneWTS mindset.

Over the last few months, WTS International staff and leadership have attended industry and partner events in cities like Los Angeles, Nashville, Portland, Dallas, Seattle, New York City, and Orlando.  Still to come include events in Kansas City, Atlanta, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Toronto, and Washington, D.C. During these experiences, I have been heartened by the new and deeper conversations with transportation leaders: a necessary first step to workforce growth and increasing diversity in our sector.  I look forward to continuing these conversations at our 2023 Annual Conference in Atlanta, Georgia — “The Great Intersection: Equity & Transportation” will offer new programming and a reworked agenda.  Save the date and plan to be there with a submission to our Call for Abstracts.

A few weeks ago, McKinsey published the most recent edition of their report, “Women in the Workplace.”  I encourage you to read the WTS International Summary & Analysis of the report here. Much of this year’s data and observations have not changed from previous publications, and some of the data is downright disheartening:

  • Women with traditionally marginalized identities continue to have worse experiences
  • Women leaders are about 1.5x as likely as men leaders to have switched jobs because their workload was unmanageable.
  • Women leaders are 2x as likely as men leaders to spend substantial time on DEI work, and 40% of women leaders say their DEI work is not acknowledged at all in performance reviews.

Women still feel unsupported in all levels of employment. Women leaders are over-worked and under-recognized. Growing pains can hurt. But these facts aside, there are still reasons for optimism. Also, according to the to the McKinsey study:

  • We know what women want: 49% of women leaders say flexibility is one of the top three things they consider when deciding whether to join or stay with a company, compared to 34% of men leaders.
  • Companies and agencies have an excellent opportunity with women candidates to reward hard work and advance their careers. Manager support, sponsorship, and impartial hiring and promotion practices are key elements in creating a workplace that delivers opportunity and fairness to everyone.”
  • Remote work options have been “game-changing” for women: Women of color and women with disabilities are about 1.5x as likely to experience demeaning and “othering” microaggressions when they work mostly on-site as opposed to mostly remotely.
  • Young women care deeply about opportunity to advance—more than two thirds of women under 30 wants to be senior leaders, and well over half say advancement has become more important to them in the past two years.
  • There are concrete methods to create a culture of allyship at both public and private organizations.

Alongside the challenges of progress noted by McKinsey, we can also confidently plan for the future. On Giving Tuesday, WTS members and stakeholders have an opportunity to further nurture our scholarship efforts and encourage donations to our Foundation. We are also excited to announce the dates and application process later this month for the summer 2023 Transportation YOU Capital Summit, re-branded and with a new focus for students to learn more about our industry and develop their own leadership skills. I am personally excited to announce these changes to our Summit program and am grateful and thankful to the WTS Foundation Board of Directors who have been bold in their visioning, and to our WTS team that have been steadfast in their commitment to developing a program centered on students. Stay tuned for upcoming announcements.

Growing is hard but rewarding work.  Thank you for continuing to strengthen your chapters, your professional and personal bonds, and the industry as a whole.





Sara Stickler

President and CEO, WTS International