A team of researchers led by Sally Stevens, executive director of the University of Arizona's Southwest Institute for Research on Women, has partnered with the Arizona Department of Transportation to investigate the state of women in the transportation workforce.
The two-year, approximately $200,000 research project began last May, after Stevens responded to ADOT's request for proposals. Stevens collaborated with Larry Head, director of the UA's Transportation Research Institute, to develop the winning grant proposal.
"Our overall goal is to have a comprehensive report on women in the transportation workforce, to include a literature review as well as a policy and practice review at the national level, along with a detailed survey and other data specific to Arizona," Stevens said.
The team's report will identify the barriers and facilitators to entry for women working in transportation, as well as the policies and practices that recruit, retain and promote women in the field.
The researchers recently completed a literature review of the transportation workforce as it pertains to women, and they are now working on the second major task within their project.
"We are looking at the policies and practices of ADOT, as well as other state department of transportations, or ODOTs, to see what's going on there," Stevens said.
They will examine practices that may facilitate careers in transportation, such as apprenticeships and internships, and practices that may act as barriers, such as masculine language in job postings and work environments that are not conducive to family life.
The researchers also will interview women and conduct an online survey of men and women in ADOT's workforce to better understand their perspectives and career needs.
Adding more women to a traditionally male-dominated field will allow for new ways of thinking and creating solutions, according to Stevens.
"Having a diversity of race, ethnicity, gender, life experiences and so on is important," she said. "A diverse group of people coming together to engage with each other to solve a problem can add a lot to the resolution that comes from that work. People from different walks of life will come to a job with different perspectives and different solutions — increasing the probability of overall success.
"While this report is for the Arizona Department of Transportation, this issue is not specific to ADOT and I think it will be useful for the majority, if not all, state-level ODOTs across the United States," Stevens said. "We also hope that this will help county and city-level ODOTs, as well."