From the Leadership | Looking Back, Looking Ahead
Happy December to WTS members and stakeholders across North America. As we wrap up 2023, our hopes for this season are multifold: that we set aside time to reflect on our successes, that we savor precious moments with our loved ones, and that we recharge and refocus to meet our goals for the coming year.
Actions and words go hand in hand. Who we are is what we do. Although our mission and vision, “Attract. Sustain. Connect. Advance,” remains a consistent refrain, we have recently clarified and further detailed the ultimate purpose of the WTS organization, and how we affect positive change in an industry that is constantly changing.
- We are the Go-To Experts in our Industry.
WTS members are subject matter experts and thought leaders across the transportation industry. This year our knowledge base grew as our members advanced in their careers and our own membership numbers rose – 9,000+ across North America as of this month. Our members provided programming through virtual and in-person opportunities at both the Chapter and International levels. We celebrated our Annual award winners, again at both Chapter and International levels. We participated as speakers in a variety of multimodal industry events – sharing our expertise with colleagues in rail, construction, surface transportation, transit, aviation, and more.
In 2024, we look forward to expanding our reach to diverse audiences. We are excited about several new WTS Chapters in formation, cementing current and establishing new industry partnerships, and continuing to cultivate a greater sense of inclusion and belonging in our sector.
- We are Dedicated to Learning and Growing.
2023 started with a bang: celebrating our organization with a jam-packed networking reception during the TRB Annual Meeting, with attendance and remarks from the Secretary of the US Department of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg. In the Fall, we welcomed executive and mid-career leaders to D.C. for our Annual Signature Leadership Training program, and then to the West Coast with WTS Chapter Leaders. Our WTS International Corporate Partners presented webinars on electric vehicles, career pathways for students, advanced air mobility, and technology and innovations. We heard from Dr. Mia Bay, Missy Cummings, Sarah Kaufman, and Veronica O. Davis, PE in our Distinguished Speaker series. And throughout the year, we connected virtually through WTS member meetups and continual Chapter and Region Council calls.
We invite you to revisit the WTS International website to learn more about our offerings for 2024, including upcoming webinars with the Transportation Research Board, our March WTS Policy Symposium in Washington, D.C., new member resource groups, and a revamped online member community.
- We are Committed to Equity.
We’ve been busy. This year, WTS International piloted childcare at our 2023 Annual Conference, a service we will continue to offer in 2024 and into the future for our large in-person events. We also invited new voices to provide information to our stakeholders, like the Department of Labor Women’s Bureau and our first all-male panel on allyship.
We also began to offer more resources, including analyses of new publications and research. I hope you have read WTS analysis on gender and equity research, including the 2023 McKinsey Women in the Workplace report and Urban Institute’s Cost of Caregiving report.
Our leaders continued the message of gender equity and advancement at many multi-modal events throughout the year, including our WTS panel at the APTA TransForm, executive panels at Women in Rail, California Transit Association, AASHTO’s Annual Conference, and supporting the WTS Central Region Conference and WTS Chapter events across North America.
This is just the beginning. In the coming year, our focus will remain, and we will continue to affect change, both within the WTS organization and in the greater transportation sector. We will continue to enter into strategic partnerships with organizations who are aligned with our mission and vision. We will amplify the WTS voice in new areas of transportation. We will align our values with our benefits and actions: continuing to advocate for equal access to and within the workforce, for all.
- We are a Champion of Good Policymaking.
A priority this year was revisiting and reinvigorating WTS International’s voice in legislation and policymaking. In March, we hosted our first WTS Policy Symposim, highlighting modal administrators from USDOT, keynote speaker Eleanor Holmes Norton, transportation association executives, public and private leadership in civil rights and EDI, and updates from federal lobbyists on the state of Congress.
Following the Symposium in May, we published our Legislative and Regulatory Priorities and Issue Areas, outlining WTS International’s federal legislative focus areas that support the association's strategic advocacy goals.
WTS International also submitted several longform comments this year, providing vital feedback to the USDOT on their 2023 Equity Action Plan Update and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on DBE and Airport Concession DBE Program Modifications. Additionally, WTS joined Tomorrow’s Workforce Coalition, which advocates for beneficial workforce development policy that would strengthen the economy now and into the future through the expanded us of 529 savings funds.
We are excited for the legislative roadmap we are building for our organization, being a voice of influence in the national dialogue around the desired state of transportation, and bringing attention to the issues that matter most to our members: workforce development, education that supports women and strives for a safe, efficient, equitable, and sustainable transportation system, support of women-owned small businesses, and policy development that advances the support of women, We hope you will join us for our 2024 Policy Symposium, being held March 7-8 in Washington, D.C., to continue these important conversations.
- Last but Not Least: We are Building the Future.
We are so proud of the influence WTS has on the next generation of transportation professionals. From Chapter Transportation YOU Programming to the relaunch of our WTS Capital Summit, we had a measurable impact in introducing opportunities in our industry to students in 2023. Our Foundation hosted an amazing Annual Gala at the Georgia Aquarium, celebrating our award winners and Scholarship winners and raising funds for the Foundation.
WTS provided over $700,000 dollars in scholarships in 2023, and our goal is to raise that number each year. I hope you will consider an end of the year donation to this most worthy cause.
We are so proud of our accomplishments in 2023, and excited for what the year ahead will bring. We hope to see you in-person in Washington, D.C. on January 7th for our Chair’s Reception at the TRB Annual Meeting. Best wishes for a safe, relaxing season; and thank you for being a part of the WTS community.
Jannet Walker Ford
Chair, WTS International Board of Directors
President and CEO, WTS International