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Transportation Leaders Make Book on Women’s Wisdom


Nothing substitutes for experience, and WTS International past presidents Grace Crunican and Liz Levin have found a way to impart the most important part of experience—wisdom. BART general manager Crunican and consultant and former MassDOT/MBTA board member Levin have authored a new book Boots on the Ground, Flats in the Boardroom: Transportation Women Tell Their Stories. Featuring 18 of the transportation industry’s most powerful women leaders and several former WTS International presidents, the book provides first-hand accounts of how these women made it to the top.

From the woman who led the FAA during 9/11 to the woman who transformed the Port of New York/New Jersey to the woman who changed the landscape of the city of Boston, Boots on the Ground, Flats in the Boardroom is a must-read for women at every professional level, in the public or private sector. But the book holds particular importance for young and mid-career professional women, groups that seldom benefit from mentors, professional guides, or an “old boy” network. For them, the book serves as an essential how-to career reference book. And that is exactly what the authors intended.

“We knew strong, powerful women who had succeeded in traditionally male-dominated arenas. We wanted to provide examples of women role models and leaders,” explain Crunican and Levin in the opening chapter. “We wanted to capture the story of early female transportation leaders…and we knew their stories would contain fascinating tales, examples of leadership, unbelievable stories of human behavior (both good and bad), and advice that would benefit young, mid-career, and even senior women—as well as men.” GraceLiz_4745

The book provides first-hand accounts of how these women made it to the top, including WTS Immediate Past Chair Dana Hook, current Board Members Dr. Beverly Scott, Rina Cutler, and Susan Martinovich, along with Jane Garvey, Ann Hershfang, Shirley DeLibero, Joan Claybrook, Jolene Moritz Molitoris, Anne Canby, Mary Jane O'Meara, Lillian Borrone, LaVerne Francis Reid, Mary Peters, Jane Chmielinski, Nuria Fernandez, and of course the book's authors, Crunican and Levin.

The result is nothing short of a primer on how to achieve success against significant obstacles. And the authors worked painstakingly to achieve that result. They interviewed each woman at length and extracted stories not usually made available for public consumption. The reviews to date have rewarded their efforts.

“These are inspiring stories of bold women who were both visionaries and implementers—seers and doers—in the critically important world of transportation,” writes Alan Webber, co-founder of Fast Company magazine. “They should motivate the next generation of women leaders to follow in their courageous footsteps.”

Boston City Councilor At-Large Ayanna Pressley wrote, “Bravo! A long overdue and instructive read, a tutorial in trailblazing. Demonstrating grit and grace, these pioneering women in transportation deserve our attention, respect, and praise. I’ve no doubt a new generation of women will aspire to reach the same heights after reading this book.”

But rave reviews also came from the book’s direct target audience. WTS member and structural engineer Noopur Jain, PE, SE, commented that one can, “Identify your ‘leadership soul’ here! I found mine through this highly motivating, unique, unmatched collection of life-changing, real stories of women leaders in a male-dominated world. As a passionate, fearless, determined, non-white woman leader/engineer who embraces challenges with joy, I am awed by these amazing professional/personal experiences of wisdom, strategies, power, passion, spirit, and courage. This is a revolutionary historical collection of inspiration that will continue to grow with YOUR story.”

Most who read it believe Boots on the Ground, Flats on the Boardroom is destined to be a classic career and management guidebook. But some WTS members have gained special opportunity to obtain the book’s wisdom firsthand. Crunican and Levin have taken their book show on the road to WTS chapters. Their first stop was WTS Boston, where more than 220 WTS members attended a panel featuring Crunican, Levin, former Houston Metro CEO Shirley DeLibero, former Massport and MassPike board member and WalkBoston founder Ann Hershfang, and former Tobin Bridge director and HNTB associate vice president Mary Jane O’Meara. Speaking openly and passionately about their experiences rising in the transportation industry despite great impediments, the women’s stories left a lasting impression on everyone in the crowd. After the panel concluded, WTS Boston members got to sit down with each of the women and explore what they discussed in greater depth.

The next stop was WTS Los Angeles, who welcomed Crunican, Levin, CDM Smith vice president Dana C. Hook, former director of the Tobin Bridge and HNTB associate vice president Mary Jane O’Meara, and former Federal Aviation Administration Airports Division manager LaVerne Francis Reid. Presenting to more than 125 guests, including 20 students from UCLA, USC, and CalState Northridge, the panel wowed the crowd with intimate tales from the transportation industry’s frontlines.

According to chapter president and Fehr & Peers transportation planner Amanda Smith Heinke, “This program was a fantastic opportunity for us as a chapter. We knew the book was coming out, and we wanted to take advantage of that and Grace and Liz’s willingness to join us in person. Boots on the Ground, Flats in the Boardroom is a great tool for WTS chapters to engage women to grow in the industry.” Naturally, Crunican and Levin agree. And their experience at both chapters bears this out.

“The audiences in Boston and Los Angeles were intense. You could hear a pin drop,” says Crunican. “And that was because these women talked very frankly about their personal and professional lives. This is exactly why we wrote the book.”

“There was a great hunger in the audiences for stories that talk about your personal and professional lives,” adds Levin. “Seeing women with different styles, different approaches and having them share very personal elements of their lives made it even more appealing than many traditional programs where people just provide career advice. In the case of the women we interviewed and presented, they showed how their personal lives shaped their approach to their work. That resonated with all of the women and men present.”

Nothing substitutes for experience. But the wisdom gained from experience can be passed down from generation to generation. Through their book Boots on the Ground, Flats in the Boardroom, Grace Crunican and Liz Levin have found a unique method to impart that wisdom for the benefit of WTS and beyond.

Photo ©John Livzey.



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