Passenger Transport March 2021 Vol 79 No 6 - 8


Women-A Growing Force in Transportation
And Nonprofit Organizations
Executive Director
Operation Lifesaver, Inc.
Washington, DC

great time to talk
about the role
women play in not
only transportation
and transit, but
in the nonprofit
industry, too.
I love talking
about my organiRachel Maleh
zation, Operation
Lifesaver, Inc
(OLI), because it is a perfect blend
of passionate, mission-driven people
encompassing industry, government,
law enforcement, education and community-based organizations as well as

our terrific state coordinators and volunteers around the country.
As the executive director of OLI, I
have the privilege of working with an
amazing group of women in transportation-starting with OLI's board
chair, Jo Strang of the American Short
Line and Regional Railroads Association. Additionally, over a third of OLI's
national board members are women,
and 44 percent of OLI state programs
are headed by women. Since I am relatively new to the transportation field,
I am thrilled to be learning from these
women leaders representing all modes
of transportation.
Every day, OLI staff, board, state
coordinators and partners deliver the
rail safety message across the country.
Since OLI's inception, there has been
an 82 percent drop in the number of
train/motor vehicle collisions. Joining

this vibrant organization was an easy
choice when the opportunity presented
itself. I was invested in rail safety long
before I joined OLI-both as a transit
and rail rider (and I am married to a
rail fan). But the mission and passion
of everyone involved with OLI is what
hooked me. Professionally, I have
had a long career with organizations
that make a difference and have had
positive impacts on communities and
individuals-from the American Heart
Association to the Peace Corps. As a
mission-driven person, l feel fortunate
to be leading OLI with its rich almost
50-year history.

A Woman's Place

Mentorship Makes
A Difference
Rail Deputy Director
King County Metro
Seattle, WA
Leadership APTA Class of 2019

had the great fortune of working in
the public transportation industry.
I believe deeply in
the importance of
transit and the role
it plays in shaping
our communities
Jana Demas
for the better and
offering opportunity to people to access the things in
their lives that they need.
I have held a number of positions in
service planning, long-range planning
and human resources management and
am currently the deputy director of King
County Metro's rail division. I have had
wonderful female and male mentors and
have had many opportunities to grow
in my career-from going to China as
part of the Institute for Transportation
and Development's Mobilize Summit in
Yichang to present on the importance
of long-range planning, to participating as a mentor in the Transit Center's
first Women Changing Transportation
Mentorship Program, to being a part of
Leadership APTA's Class of 2019.
I have had many opportunities to
grow and demonstrate my skills and
now have a diverse portfolio and skillset
to draw from as I continue to find ways
to contribute to the industry. If I told
my younger self in the beginning of
my career what my journey would be,

8 |


I would not have believed it.
When I started my career in transit,
I spent the first few years doing mostly
administrative tasks for my predominately male team. I was the only transportation planner who primarily wrote
correspondence, organized meetings
and office parties and helped create
plans and structures that made things
function better and run smoother. I did
not really have the language for the
office housework yet, but looking back,
I did end up doing a lot of it. I also
worked for some male supervisors
who liked the products of my work and
what I was able to accomplish but did
not care as much to make sure I had
the commensurate title and pay for the
That all changed when I started
working for a strong female leader who
had my best interests at heart. With
her help, support and encouragement,
I was able to climb the ladder at Metro.
I was promoted once in the six years
prior to working for her. In the seven
years since I started working for her,
I have been promoted four times into
positions of increasing influence and
When I look back on my career, I am
proud of where I have come from and I
am appreciative of the help I have had
along the way. My goal is to do the
same for people who are sometimes
overlooked-namely women and people of color-that was done for me. As
leaders, we have an obligation to lift up
those who are coming after us and to
constantly look for ways to bring more
perspectives and experiences to the
table. Our industry is stronger when we
raise up and amplify diverse voices and

The best advice that I would give a
woman in the transportation field-or,
honestly, in any field-is to own and
honor your skill set; be generous with
your expertise and time while accepting
and filling the gaps in your knowledge.
Also, recognize that there is always
room to grow and learn. The women of
OLI and in the transportation field have
been so generous with me and I look
forward to paying it forward!
Volunteering with OLI is a great place
to develop your skill set and increase
your rail safety knowledge! Learn more
and consider joining us at

Chief Executive Officer
Los Angeles, CA

gender gap in
the labor force
has persisted.
But now, new
research shows
how equality for
working women
has been dealt a
serious blow by
the COVID-19 pan- Stephanie Wiggins
demic-in particular, for women of color.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau,
2.3 million women 20 years and older
have left the workforce since February
2020. This exodus has widened the
racial divide. Black women represented
14 percent of the female labor force in
February 2020 but have accounted for
a disproportionate 26 percent of female
labor force dropouts since then. Hispanic women were 17 percent of the
female labor force in February 2020 but
have accounted for 27 percent of the
female labor force dropouts.
Women are being forced to exit the
labor market for reasons that have
remained unchanged for generations-
most notably, the role women play in
childcare. Work-life balance is tricky
for anyone, but particularly difficult for
women trying to advance into leadership positions while maintaining an
active presence in their children's lives.
In other words, with all the progress women have made over the last
century, and with all the contributions
made by women recognized annually in


March, the statistics are still sobering.
But sobering does not necessarily mean
discouraging. It just means bearing
down, staying vigilant and making sure
to ferret out discrimination in the fine
print and not simply noticing it in the
C-Suite. Creating an equitable workforce requires changing exclusionary
perceptions in policies and practices
and paying close attention to HR documents-job descriptions, hiring policies,
workplace guidelines-and then revising them with an eye toward inclusion.
After stay-at-home orders were instituted, I announced that staff could work
remotely and would not have to return
to the office before in-person learning
for k-12 returned. This provided relief
for working parents stressed out over
childcare. Soon after, I extended the
telecommuting policy, allowing staff to
work remotely out-of-state. A benefit to
all employees, yet I received the most
praise from our female workforce.
It's important to recognize the nature
of work and the " workplace " is changing. As a leader, I believe that this can
serve to be transformational for women
in transportation and create career
opportunities for our industry.
I am the first woman, and the first
African American to be chief executive
of Metrolink. This is notable because
when I started in this industry, there
were not a lot of people who looked
like me making decisions. And I am
bringing my lived experience to that
decision-making activity; I am, by my
presence in the process, including
the people in the under-represented
communities we serve. I hope my experiences can help pave an easier path
for the many women of color who are
seeking careers in transportation.

As a leader, I believe that the changing
'workplace' can serve to be transformational
for women in transportation and create
career opportunities for our industry.

Passenger Transport March 2021 Vol 79 No 6

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Passenger Transport March 2021 Vol 79 No 6

Passenger Transport March 2021 Vol 79 No 6 - 1
Passenger Transport March 2021 Vol 79 No 6 - 2
Passenger Transport March 2021 Vol 79 No 6 - 3
Passenger Transport March 2021 Vol 79 No 6 - 4
Passenger Transport March 2021 Vol 79 No 6 - 5
Passenger Transport March 2021 Vol 79 No 6 - 6
Passenger Transport March 2021 Vol 79 No 6 - 7
Passenger Transport March 2021 Vol 79 No 6 - 8
Passenger Transport March 2021 Vol 79 No 6 - 9
Passenger Transport March 2021 Vol 79 No 6 - 10
Passenger Transport March 2021 Vol 79 No 6 - 11
Passenger Transport March 2021 Vol 79 No 6 - 12
Passenger Transport March 2021 Vol 79 No 6 - 13