From the Leadership | Here, There, Everywhere
Cities around the world pick their own Pride Month themes. A quick Google search alone leads to an exhaustive – and inspiring – list. This year, New York City will celebrate “Strength and solidarity.” Los Angeles is “All out with Pride.” Columbus notes “Purpose, Passion, and Power,” and Seattle goes interstellar with “Galactic Love.” San Francisco is “Looking Back and Looking Forward.”
But one city’s theme drew my immediate attention: Toronto, the recently announced location of our 2025 WTS Annual Conference, has stated that their city’s 2023 Pride theme is “Here, There, and Everywhere.”
Certainly, these words perfectly describe the LGBTQIA+ community – longstanding, integral members of every place we live, work, serve, raise families, and so much more. These words are equal parts protest and party, reminding the world that diversity is something to be celebrated, and something the LGBTQIA community has worked long and hard for.
Oftentimes, I think of WTS in a related way – we are here, there, and everywhere. We are equal parts protest, party, and professionalism. We have worked collectively for 45 years to ensure the transportation sector knows our value, hears our collective voice, and accepts women into the roles we so richly deserve. As we look forward to the next 45 years, we are expanding our visibility for all through both traditional WTS initiatives and new programming and ideas. All of this is a continuation of the WTS commitment to building and maintaining a culture of inclusivity, inviting all to join as members and allies, and broadening our visibility and support of women and under-served in all parts of our industry.
Atlanta and Future In-Person WTS Events
Last month, we broke records by gathering over 1,100 members and stakeholders in Atlanta, Georgia for the 2023 WTS Annual Conference. During the 2023 program, we shared best practices, connected with our peers, and tackled the continuing challenges of true diversity and inclusion in our industry. The obvious theme for our gathering in the birthplace of the modern civil rights movement: “The Great Intersection: Equity and Transportation.”
We had serious commitments to fulfilling our theme. This included increasing physical accessibility, providing childcare options for caretakers, welcoming youth into our programming, clarifying and promoting our anti-harassment event policy, adding pronouns to our conference badges, and considering what voices were missing and yet crucial to hear – like the first all-male panel on allyship, a purposeful decision in our programming. Additionally, when possible, we utilized women and minority-owned vendors, including our conference photographers, printers, and signage and brand designers.
When highlighting equity and transportation in Atlanta, it was clear that safety is also an integral part of this intersection: safety for our users and safety for our workforce. When those in power make uninformed or biased choices about transportation infrastructure, traditionally overlooked people are put at significantly higher risk. Inclusivity is a core value of Pride Month, and a core aspect of a safer future of mobility. Ensuring safety on and in our transportation systems is a right, not a privilege. As we take the next few weeks to celebrate both Pride and National Safety Month, WTS will continue to hold the vision of equity and safety as the north stars in our work and advocacy.
Our 2023 program is just one example – there is always more to do as WTS events expand and evolve. I am impressed with the changes we have made and continued to make, and I am appreciative of the feedback we have received from Conference attendees, many of whom specifically noted increased feelings of belonging in Atlanta. With each new year, our goals of inclusion and accommodation increase.
This thoughtfulness extends to host city considerations for future Annual Conferences. Many states, cities, and municipalities are caught in a policy crossroads, as legislatures increase their attacks on specific communities; women, LGBTQIA+, and Black, indigenous, and all other people of color. These laws are not in alignment with WTS’ core values, as we continue to advocate for and on behalf of those most impacted.
A significant component of the WTS impact is in the value of showing up. Our WTS community continuously shows up in support of each other – that is why we at WTS International will continue to show up, especially in the places that may not be the most welcoming, but need us the most. We fully support the individual choice in attending events in localities that may not align with your personal beliefs and understand that sometimes that choice is made for you by employer travel restrictions to certain states; however, we believe that the travel restrictions are negatively and directly impacting the communities WTS International is committed to elevating – those of women, people of color, and the LGBTQIA+ communities. So, we will continue to show up, across North America; from New Orleans (in 2024) to Toronto (in 2025), to Los Angeles (in 2026), to Washington, DC (in 2027), in support of and advocating for equity and access in transportation.
Growth and Progress
Last month, WTS ratified two new chapters to WTS, bringing our local and regional presence to 69 Chapters across North America. We currently stand at over 8,700 active WTS members. With growth comes opportunity, but it also brings challenges. Staying connected. Supporting one another. Amplifying our voices. Considering our diverse needs – geographically and professionally – while maintaining the core values that make WTS special.
As I noted in June of last year, the WTS International staff, WTS International and Foundation Boards of Directors, the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee, and WTS chapter leaders remain committed to being an organization 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, and
Equitable, where our policies, procedures, and practices recognize that we may start at various places but that we all can aspire to the same goals.
June is a time for us to reflect on the remarkable equal rights journey and progress of the LGBTQIA+ community; and reflect on WTS International’s support of continued progress. However, this commitment goes beyond the celebration of Pride month. A diverse, inclusive WTS community is proudly here, there, and everywhere – 12 months; 365 days a year.
No matter your city’s theme this year – Happy Pride!
Sara Stickler, President & CEO