Mike Sweeney Weighs in on the Role of Men in Advancing Women in Transportation

Michael Sweeney

There is a question we often hear asked at WTS International (WTS). What is the role of men in “advancing women in transportation?”

Approaches to the question include listening, respecting the space that WTS and working groups represent for women, understanding that discussions around gender disparity aren’t always comfortable, and supporting women through mentoring and advocating.

When practiced consistently, those actions can transform a colleague into an ally. Mike Sweeney, Director-at-Large, WTS Board of Directors, Executive Vice President, Eastern US President, HNTB Corporation (HNTB), is one such ally.

Maggie Walsh, Chair, WTS Board of Directors, Vice president, Strategic Pursuits, HDR, shared her thoughts on Sweeney. “Mike is a testament to how men can be allies to WTS and women in our industry. He is a consistent voice on our Board asking really good questions about how the organization can enhance its presence across North America.”

According to BCG, when men are engaged in gender inclusion programs in the workplace, 96% of organizations see progress. When they are not, that figure drops to 30%. It’s clear that when women and men get involved in tackling gender disparity, everyone succeeds.

Sweeney is serving his first term on the WTS Board of Directors. To him, men play a critical role in the mission of advancing women in transportation. Men should “encourage women to take on leadership and management positions,” Sweeney shared,  “and empower women with decision making authority.”

He added that men must also play a role by giving “women opportunities to learn and grow by providing opportunities to enhance skillsets or providing exposure to other leaders or clients,  enabling women to receive training and development in many different areas, and making sure that there is equity in compensation.” Empowering women to make decisions paired with equipping them with leadership skills serves as an effective strategy.

HNTB sent 14 women to the WTS Signature Leadership Training in October. Sweeney shared that HNTB is not only proud to support WTS at the Trailblazer level but of also nominating and sending a group of promising women to the annual training. “We see this as an excellent way to provide valuable training,” Sweeney said, “and accelerate these women’s advancement.”  

Perhaps there is no better testimony to its value than from the HNTB attendees of the training. Desiree Gazzo, RLA, Senior Landscape Architect, HNTB, shared on her LinkedIn Page, “What an inspiring program to be a part of. Strong women all aspiring to do and doing powerful things. Thank you Stephen Dilts and Michael Sweeney for supporting WTS and our HNTB participants.” Dilts serves as the New York Office Leader at HNTB Corporation.

Yvonne Lopez-Diaz, PHR, Vice President, West Region HR Director, HNTB, who also serves as Glass Ceiling Committee Chair for WTS-GNY shared, “I am humbled to be in great company and inspired by this group. So appreciative of our firm HNTB for supporting the growth and advancement of women in transportation and for encouraging our participation in this phenomenal and impactful program.”

The BCG previously mentioned report indicated that “A key finding from our research is that the career obstacles women face, such as being overlooked for promotions, tend to be institutional, with deep roots in the organization’s culture.” At HNTB, the goal of helping each employee meet their potential is built into who they are.  


“Our Firm has a Career Planning and Development process during which we discuss the learning and development interests of all employees and define specific goals and objectives in support of each individuals’ career interests and growth,” Sweeney said, “We challenge ourselves each day to make sure that we are providing opportunities for all and encouraging all of our employees to stretch to reach their career goals.”

Beyond the individual, Sweeney shares his and HNTB’s goals of inclusivity, “This is what each of us wants, a place to work that is respectful, collaborative, has great teamwork where their individual ideas are listened do, where they get to work on challenging assignments and where their career path goals are being advanced.”

Sara Stickler, Executive Director, WTS International, confirms that Sweeney exemplifies those same goals and leadership style as a Director on the WTS Board. “May there be more allies like Mike in our workplaces, industry, and lives supporting the women building a more diverse and inclusive world.”