WTS SF Bay Area Chapter Releases Study of Glass Ceiling Effect on the Transportation Industry

San Francisco, CA – The Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) San Francisco Bay Area Chapter has released its latest installment of a longitudinal study effort to benchmark the leadership roles of women in the Bay Area transportation industry.

Initiated by the WTS Glass Ceiling Task Force in Fall 2010, this fourth report indicates continued trends in the lack of gender and racial diversity which remains to be a challenge and a barrier to increasing representation and equalizing management opportunities in transportation. This study acknowledges these findings through a literature review, a survey of Bay Area transportation employers and a discussion panel, culminating in recommendations on programs and policies that could mitigate the proverbial glass ceiling effect on career advancement for women.

This report can be downloaded here and from the WTS San Francisco Bay Area Chapter website.

Information for this report was collected in 2020, which was an unprecedented year than in past studies conducted in 2012, 2014 and 2016. The COVID-19 pandemic created tremendous challenges for women in the workplace, while balancing family responsibilities – a factor even without a world-wide pandemic that resulted in widespread school closures and stay-at-home orders.

Key findings in the literature review revealed that more women lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic than men. In April 2020, women accounted for 55% of jobs lost, increasing the unemployment rate for adult women to 15% compared to 13% for adult men. Women of color were impacted even more with unemployment rates for Black and Hispanic women at 16.4% and 20.2%, respectively.

The COVID-19 pandemic not only pushed women out of the jobs they once held, but it has also prevented them from seeking new ones, and the implications of these trends could affect women for years to come. Most heavily impacted were women of color, facing distinct pressures and barriers in the 2020 workplace including lack of mentorship, slower promotion rates than white women, underrepresentation in leadership, acute discrimination, microaggressions, and a lack of leadership sponsorship and advocacy for promotions and new opportunities.

One silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic was the shift in the way we work with telecommuting and working from home becoming the norm. The survey effort, conducted in Spring 2021, revealed that the proportions of transportation organizations in the Bay Area offering telecommuting, mentoring, and diversity training increased to their highest rate since the survey effort was first initiated.

Nearly fifty public and private Bay Area transportation organizations were invited to participate in the survey. The Task Force achieved a 71% response rate, higher than any previous year, with 63% of participants representing a public agency and 38% of participants representing a private employer.

Participants were asked to provide their organization’s Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) data reported for 2020, specifically the demographic information of their organization’s employees. In previous years, the percentage of female employees in managerial positions was less than 10%. In 2020, the percentage was 20-29%.

The Glass Ceiling Task Force offers the following recommendations and next steps to further promote the WTS mission in the advancement, recruitment, and retention of women in the industry moving forward:

  1. Continue to track progress every two years.
  2. Track progress and outcomes of WTS career development programs.
  3. Further examine the challenges that women of color face in the workplace and in breaking the glass ceiling and facilitate programs on this topic.
  4. Facilitate knowledge sharing sessions with human resources managers and staff from transportation organizations across the Bay Area and with the chapter’s corporate partners’ senior management.
  5. Facilitate a discussion panel with organizations in the Bay Area to review recommendations from McKinsey & Company and Lean In’s 2020 reports.
  6. Broaden and improve awareness and distribution of the chapter’s job bank, including adding a section for executive/management positions.
  7. Support internal capacity building of other WTS chapters who wish to conduct similar studies.

About WTS San Francisco Chapter

WTS is an international organization dedicated to building the future of transportation through the global advancement of women. With over 6,500 members, including both women and men, WTS is turning the glass ceiling into a career portal through its professional programs, networking opportunities, and unparalleled access to industry and government leaders. For more information about the WTS San Francisco Bay Area Chapter, please visit https://www.wtsinternational.org/chapters/san-francisco.