To close out 2020, The Women of ITE would like to turn a problem on its head and talk not about why women leave STEM, but to share some techniques fellow ITE members use (no matter their gender) to create personal resiliency and stay. Becoming resilient is especially important in this time where record numbers of women are finding it challenging to remain in the workforce.
So, what is resiliency? According to the American Psychological Association: “Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress—such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. As much as resilience involves “bouncing back” from these difficult experiences, it can also involve profound personal growth.”
Below are stories and tactics by our members. These are hoped to remind us all to create a practice of becoming resilient and to also appreciate that we will all experience challenges. Paula Flores, ITE Past President, talks about the stories or chapters throughout her life where she’s needed to “find my own inner strength to learn from failure, to rise to the occasion even when it’s really hard and you just want to quit.
There is a feeling deep inside that says you are meant to do good, be better and never quit. While during some of those times, it felt like it was the end of the world, like others were judging you, like you were alone, many, many tears were shed. Eventually you get the validation that standing strong was the right thing to do. All it takes is knowing you made a difference in someone else’s life. All it takes is that someone out there was listening and was affected by your actions and words. So, words of affirmation are important. They may seem small by the giver, but so critical to the recipient.”
Here are approaches many of our ITE members have shared to become resilient in difficult times:
When it comes to advancing your career, Jenny Grote, ITE Past President, talks about being patient for the right opportunities. “ITE helped me create and demonstrate leadership skills. I applied often for jobs, which helped give me the interview skills I would later need. I also made sure to let my colleagues know I was ready for greater challenges and was flexible to try new roles, including managing the signing and marking shop. Then after 21 years with the City of Phoenix I started advancing. Looking back it was the right timing for me and when I retired I was the first woman to hold the title of Deputy Director with more than 700 reports. Having my ITE network and staying busy was the trick to my resiliency, I simply had no time to wonder if I could make a difference for the transportation profession.”
To close, the American Psychologists Association shares that becoming resilient is a “like building a muscle, increasing your resilience takes time and intentionality. Focusing on four core components—connection, wellness, healthy thinking, and meaning—can empower you to withstand and learn from difficult and traumatic experiences.” Remember we all have a story and that like Paula, your challenging times will help “define you and help you grow beyond your comfort zone”. And, finally, just like in writing this blog - there are many ITE colleagues who will be willing to help you, if you only ask!
From the Women of ITE, we send warm wishes to you and yours and say bring on 2021!
The demand of a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) continues to increase around the world, preparing the next generation of STEM workforce becomes crucial. A recent article by the Cornell Chronicle shows the percentage of high school seniors intend to major in STEM were 13% and 26% for female and male, respectively. The article also stated, “efforts to reduce gender differences in STEM outcomes need to begin much earlier in students’ educational careers.”
To close the gender gap, STEM outreach engagement needs to happen between kindergarten to high school (K-12). Educators and researchers have shared their observations in classrooms and ideas on how to close in the gap as listed below.
Broaden the goals of STEM – every child learns differently. Math and science are keys to STEM education, but it is also about “curiosity, observation, problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication”.
Instead of having math and science strong students to pursuit STEM, we need to find out what the students are interested in doing and help them get there. Research had shown “making the world a better place” is a stronger motivator to girls than boy. Parents and teachers can show female students how STEM can help them to the world a better place by applying math and science skills.
The article, Keeping Girls in STEM: 3 Barriers, 3 Solutions, referenced recent analyzes showing high school and middle school girls perform better overall in higher-level math than boys. But performed lower on multiple-choice standardized test. The analyzes concluded that girls perform better with open-ended answers test.
This will require a systematic change to standardized tests. Universities and colleges should look at students’ overall performance throughout their K-12 education than simply based on standardized tests.
Role model – female scientists, engineers and others in the STEM field are underrepresented. According to a recent study by Microsoft, many girls and young women have a hard time picturing themselves in STEM roles and do not have a female role model in the STEM field.
If you are a female in the STEM field, volunteer to speak at K-12 schools or have a take your children to workday. Here are sample organizations, which are actively involve on girl-focus STEM education:
If you are a parent with young girls, show them engineers, scientists can be girls and boys by reading them books about famous female scientists and engineers. If you want to inspire young girls in your life to pursuit STEM, here is a list of recommended books: https://www.nbcnews.com/know-your-value/feature/10-awesome-books-young-girls-encourage-celebrate-stem-ncna1047826
To close the gender gap in STEM, we will need to work together, at homes, at schools and as professionals. In the home, parents should encourage that their children, both girls and boys, can grow up to do anything that they want, while providing a wide range of opportunities for children to explore their interests. Schools should be based on female students’ ability in STEM on standardized multiple-choice tests. As STEM professionals, we need to be role models to young girls. Sign up be to a volunteer at outreach programs, we can show young girls how a STEM career can be fun and rewarding and let them ask questions about what we do.
 “Gender gaps in STEM college majors emerge in high school,” Cornell Chronicle, 1 July 2020. [Online]. Available: https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2020/07/gender-gaps-stem-college-majors-emerge-high-school.
 “How To Get Young Girls Excited About A Career In STEM,” Forbes, 25 January 2019. [Online]. Available: https://www.forbes.com/sites/biancabarratt/2019/01/25/how-to-get-young-girls-excited-about-a-career-in-stem/#687c9d595601.
 “Keeping Girls in STEM: 3 Barriers, 3 Solutions,” Edutopia, 12 March 2019. [Online]. Available: https://www.edutopia.org/article/keeping-girls-stem-3-barriers-3-solutions
 “Why do girls lose interest in STEM? New research has some answers — and what we can do about it ,” Microsoft, 13 March 2018. [Online]. Available: https://news.microsoft.com/features/why-do-girls-lose-interest-in-stem-new-research-has-some-answers-and-what-we-can-do-about-it/
Yes, it is on odd title for a technical blog. It is the name taken from the Team Drano 2020 LeadershipITE class project. The idea surfaced during the group brainstorm session during the first retreat in January, in Washington D.C. Each team member knew of at least one person who left the transportation industry. The group wanted to determine if this was a coincidence or if there is truly a leak in the industry. If there are leaks, the team wanted to formulate tangible ways to slow or stop the leak.
The team developed a three part system of discovery as shown below:
By performing a three part investigation, the team discovered the combined reasons why individuals chose to leave the transportation industry. Below is the list:
It is important to note the survey revealed nearly 1 in every 2 respondents who have stayed in the profession have given serious consideration to leaving. As well, those who have considered leaving once are likely to have repeat considerations throughout their careers. From the survey results, this table was created:
From the literature review, the surveys and the focus group interviews, a collection of quotes was made. Team Drano discovered that having one or more mentors during a person’s career can address many of the reasons why individuals choose to leave or consider leaving the transportation industry.
The work of Team Drano did uncover the leaks in the transportation industry, the leaks are larger for women, and mentorship is a good solution in slowing and even stopping the leak. Team Drano also learned that thoughts of leaving the industry can be reoccurring. This why mentorship throughout one’s career is important. Each stage of a career comes with new challenges especially when those career challenges are up against life choices.
The findings of this project confirm the findings presented in other blogs published by the Women of ITE, e.g. May 2019, October 2019, and August 2020. Team Drano wants to champion the results of the project to the District, Section, and Chapter levels of ITE. Team Drano presents their findings here in order provide support to women in transportation, strengthen the female talent pool of the transportation profession, and help the industry to not only provide mobility and safety for all transportation system users but to be a profession that provides a fulfilling experience for all who work in it.
Authors: Mahmood Shehata, Elisa Mitchell, Marvin Souza, Amy Jiang, John Habermann
For a detailed reading of the findings of Team Drano, you can access the final report and presentation from the LeadershipITE website:
Back to school has never looked so different. COVID-19 brings about all kinds of challenges and opportunities. This fall, students are navigating new realities for learning. Recent grads are figuring out how to connect into the job market of today. The Women of ITE Sub-Committee is looking at how professionals can support students, the next generation of the transportation workforce.
We spoke to student chapter advisors, a student chapter president, and the creator of a new initiative seeking to pair job seekers with employers. Thank you to everyone who contributed their ideas and perspectives:
How different will back to school be this fall and what are changes are happening for your student chapter?
School is starting off a bit different because most classes at Cal Poly will be offered only in a virtual format. Only about 12% of the 4,300 classes offered will be held in person. It is definitely weird to not be on campus for at least another quarter and not physically seeing our peers and our school faculty. Some key changes at our university would mainly be how the school and students adapt to the new normal and try to “normalize” our everyday school life in a virtual way. One big change that really affects students is on-campus housing. Complying to COVID-19 guidelines, the school has set their own criterions to ensure safety for all students living on campus. Another big change is not having our usual in-person events. Cal Poly is known for our Week of Welcome (WOW) events, where we typically spend a whole week prior to the first day of lecture bringing incoming students around the city to learn more about Cal Poly and San Luis Obispo. Unfortunately, due to the current circumstances, the university has shortened Welcome Week to only be 3 days long—all done virtually. It is sad to say that there are limits to virtuality, as much as we all enjoy the fun of going out and exploring, spending late nights out and meeting new people during and/or outside of WOW…it is very hard to host these kind of events in a virtual format.
Cal Poly ITE is expected to see some changes in membership recruitment and involvement because of the way the academic year is starting off. However, the student chapter officers have been working hard to bring more alternative events to our members in hopes of increasing membership and student involvement while also building a stronger community. One big difference for the student chapter would be the possibility of not hosting our quarterly social events that aims to further connect our student members to our faculty and professionals. Some of our social events include our usual SLO Transportation Mixer in the Fall, Alumni Night, and the Student Leadership Summit in the upcoming Winter.
Oregon State University anticipates operating 90% remotely this fall. As of this week, OSU has prohibited students from engaging in gatherings in Oregon of more than 10 persons, whether on or off campus. OSU ITE anticipates hosting all or nearly all of our events virtually. Any in-person events we want to host will go through a university review and approval process and would, at the very least, include procedures like social distancing and face masks. In the past, we've engaged in a considerable amount of volunteer and transportation data collection work in our community. I think that will probably be on-hold for at least the upcoming term. However, I think there's a lot of opportunity in going virtual to collaborate with other student chapters on events. For example, just this week, a member of the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez's ITE Student Chapter reached out to us about co-coordinating a virtual event. We couldn't be more thrilled. Our chapter is very interested in engaging with as many chapters as are interested, and we encourage them to reach out. This fall, we are planning to host professionals at virtual speaker meetings, hold virtual social events, and continue mentoring and discussion group programs virtually. We are planning to recruit virtually by asking faculty to allow us to speak about ITE in their remotely-delivered courses and advertise events via the weekly OSU ITE and Civil and Construction Engineering department newsletters.
The virtual platform, I think, also enables us to reach more people and provide more opportunities to our members. We will be able to talk about ITE in more classes because of remote delivery. Remote delivery of conferences and other transportation-related events like the ITE Western District Annual Meeting, PacTrans, and Student Leadership Summits will also enable more of our ITE members to attend. When these events were in-person, sending more than a few members was cost-prohibitive.
The Fall semester is very different – what we are going through is unprecedented. No one has imagined this situation, and definitely not for this long. It has been almost six months since our university has switched to remote work. I have never gone this long without seeing my students. I haven’t met with them in person since March 15th!
This fall, our university looks deserted. The hallways, classrooms, libraries, cafeterias, bookstores, the entire campus for that matter, is empty. Most of the courses are switched to remote instruction. I am teaching online via Zoom. Even though video conferencing is as close as we could get to being normal, it cannot replace face-to-face teaching. I believe that the students learn so much in an in-person setting; I am afraid that the students may not gain as much in a remote teaching environment. However, I understand that it is what it is, and we are all doing our best, considering the circumstances. The one thing I have observed at our university is resilience. Our students and the faculty have adapted to the “new normal” almost overnight.
All I have seen is compassion, empathy, resilience, and understanding. Working from home (and teaching from home) when you have toddlers and pets is not easy. All my students, faculty, colleagues, and staff are so accommodating and empathetic as they understand each others’ struggles. I found the feeling of “we are in this together… and we will get through this together” is quite evident and is reflected in the actions and gestures. I believe that this pandemic has changed us forever. One of the silver lining is that it has brought us together and made us more aware of each others’ day-to-day struggles.
Our ITE Student Chapter is one of the most active chapters in the country; we are a close group of students to work and play together – have several social and fun events – and just try to make the best with the time and resources that we have. Now, with this pandemic and social distancing, our chapter had to adapt – almost overnight, just like all other chapters. We have monthly virtual check-ins just to see how everyone is doing, and just talk about anything - just to remind everyone that we are there for each other. Next week, we are going to have elections online – that is going to be interesting. We are also going to have guest lectures via zoom. We are thinking of having some sort of online fundraising events and also virtual TMC tours. We are excited about the virtual traffic bowl and are looking forward to participating. Since travel is not an option (at least this fall), we are planning to invite high-profile speakers from across the country to speak to our students.
Gonzaga University is doing a hybrid model where students can either work fully remote or come in-person. Most students have chosen to come back in-person. Even though that is the case, the student chapter will be switching to host more online meetings and events. This provides a great opportunity for the student chapter to feature non-local speakers and connect students with professionals from anywhere. Even local speakers may find the online format easier to participate.
Gonzaga University encourages students to focus on social justice issues throughout all components of their education. The student chapter plans to discuss and explore many of today’s critical issues – including how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted transportation and travel behaviors.
The school would definitely be very different from what it was before. Personally, I would say a huge difference is found in the people's behaviour and consciousness of their presence and surroundings, changes in the class schedule format, new experiences like virtual teachings and meetings, limitations on gatherings and so on. Along with these differences, other key changes at the school include responsible and limited access to the school buildings with an app called CVKey, frequent cleaning and sanitations of common spaces, combination of online and in-person classroom style settings and many other common practices which ensures the safety of the people on campus. The KU-ITE student chapter has definitely faced and will face some difficulties like conducting in-person ITE guest speaker sessions and meetings, attending ITE conferences, hosting event competitions and sessions at the school and etc. Currently, our student chapter is in the process of transitioning all traditional in-person activities to virtual along with the addition of some new programs to make it more interactive and creative. These new tasks are definitely requiring chapter officers and students to work harder and be more smart and creative than usual as it's a first time for everyone to explore and use this untapped territory of technology as normal in our daily lives.
How can professionals best support students and student chapters?
The best support we get from professionals are sponsorship or involvement in the student chapter’s events. Their involvement shows encouragement, motivation, and inspiration our student members. Cal Poly ITE has a huge alumni network who continuously give back to our student chapter. When we ask our alumnus why they continue to give back or stay involved with our student chapter, most of the answers are very similar: because of the connections and resources that Cal Poly ITE provided to them during their time as a student. One big way professionals support student chapters is through sponsorship. Cal Poly ITE is known throughout Western District to bring the most student attendees to the Annual Meetings. We see value in students attending these conferences because it gives students the opportunity to network and connect with other student leaders and professionals. Each year we plan to bring more students to the annual meeting, if possible. This goal is achieved through the help of our sponsors.
Another way we get support from our professionals are though social events, which are something that may not be possible for the upcoming academic year. Our social events are held locally and are a great way for students to connect with professionals. Making sure to include all our professionals, we usually host the SLO Transportation Mixer in the Fall for our local professionals, the Alumni Night in the Winter for our fantastic alumni community, and co-hosting a joint Central Coast Section Meeting in the Spring where we have professionals from our Central Coast ITE Section. None of the activities, events, general meetings, etc., could have happened without the continuous support from our alumnus and professionals.
Just this past spring term, OSU ITE started a mentoring program to help connect our members with professionals, graduate students, or upper-level undergraduate students. We also frequently host professionals at speaker meetings to talk on various topics, such as their career, projects they've worked on, and the agency or company they work for. These programs have been very valuable for linking professionals and students and we are so happy when professionals want to get involved with these programs. Our members who attended the Student Leadership Summit (SLS) last year also really enjoyed connecting with professionals through SLS--in particular, through resume reviews and mock interviews.
Ultimately, I think it would be great if student chapters had a common platform through ITE that made it easy to contact each other, collaborate, share event information, and connect with professionals.
There are several ways in which professionals can support student chapters. Here are some:
Professionals can participate in online student chapter events. COVID-19 presents a great opportunity for virtual participation. Touchpoints between professionals and students do not have to be big events; even small touchpoints and connections are valuable. Virtual events can have short presentation from professionals; it is easy for people to give 15 minutes of their time and it is easy to structure events like this if they are happening virtually.
Sometimes there can be a lot of pressure in mentorship matchmaking. You do not know if the connection will be right between a mentor and a mentee. Instead, we have organized fun technical events where professionals and students work together. We have held pop-up tactical urbanism workshops where students and professionals work together to set up an installation. This format takes the pressure off and allows for mentorship to happen organically. We have also held rafting trips as part of course work and invited practicing engineers to come and offer insights on technical issues along the river. This has been beneficial for students, who get to hear from people in industry. Field trips do not just have to be for students! Professionals have really enjoyed participating in field trips and meeting students in this format.
Professionals should feel free to reach out to student chapters to see how they can support and get involved.
I think professionals can best support student chapters by actively participating and encouraging students to explore new ways and methods of learning through technology. They could start by organizing some interactive and learning programs and events virtually. At the level of the student chapter, ITE activities and events have always been in-person unlike professionals who use virtual methods in their work life very often even before this pandemic. So, the current situation has a big impact on students more than professionals and they need all the help that professionals can provide. KU-ITE student chapter has not started anything yet as the school had just begun but we do have plans to start a mentor program that connects one or group of students to a transportation professional and learn from them, plans for hosting virtual career fair in the spring semester, an initiative of publishing a monthly edition which includes resources and news related to transportation around the world, and virtual guest speaker sessions. Everything is still under discussion and planning stages.
My role with the student chapter is unique. I'm a recent summer graduate from the University of Kansas and was very involved in the student chapter when I was a student. I was fortunate to have found a full-time job at the university as an Assistant Transit Researcher which helped me to stay involved with ITE activities just like when I was a student. Then, our student chapter faculty advisor, Dr. Schrock, and I decided to create a new role called 'Professional Advisor' which would help the student chapter to get more actively involved in ITE activities and events and make ITE resources more accessible to all the students. In this way, I continue to be a part of both my school chapter and as an ITE member.
ITE student chapters are an important part of networking and community building. The fact that the ability to offer more typical in-person meetings are limited right now is yet another reason behind why we needed a virtual networking initiative, like Career Connect. There are a lot of webinars on offer right now and while valuable they do not necessarily offer an opportunity for people seeking jobs to connect with others.
All around the world, people are talking about the importance of gender equality. This month, the Women of ITE are sharing ten internet examples of quotes, campaigns, memes and tweets to show it can be easy, effective and even collaborative to engage. Please take a moment to consider the ways your voice might motivate, educate, or bring friends together in discussion. When we overcome gender bias, we all benefit. Commit to starting the conversation and make a difference!
"No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half its citizens."
-Michelle Obama, Summit of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, 2014
In the Netherlands, where I am from, talking about the differences between the levels of cycling or cycling experiences for men and women is uncommon. Cycling is something many people simply do without much thought. Whether done on a daily basis or just occasionally, people cycling for many different purposes, many considering it ‘hassle-free’. Of course transportation professionals in the Netherlands, on the other hand, do talk about cycling, and work on facilitating and stimulating bicycle use. With 27% of all trips made by bicycle it can’t be avoided, even if you wanted to. Interestingly, the conversations and projects carried out by professionals do not consciously take into account gendered cycling patterns or needs. Still, statistics show that some good things are happening when it comes to women and cycling.
In the Netherlands, we have what you could call a reverse gender gap in cycling. Almost everywhere around the globe, cycling is dominated by men. In the Netherlands however, the cycling modal share for women in 2017 was 28% while for men it was 26%. Out of 10 bike trips made, 5.5 trips are made by women.
We also have a reverse age gap. In most countries cycling is dominated by male adults aged 25 to 55. In the Netherlands the cycling modal share for this group is the lowest with 20% of the trips done by bike. The youngsters aged 12 to 18 are the true Dutch cycling heroes–boys as well as girls. Their cycling modal share is over 55%, cycling on average 26 minutes per day, compared to the national average of 12 minutes per day.
Furthermore, the 65-75 year age group has a higher cycling modal share compared to all other adult age groups and they cycle 2 minutes more per day, compared to the national average. The technical developments around electric assist bicycles* have contributed to the e-bike revolution we see today, and the 65+ age group, especially the women, were the early adopters. Back in 1985 the bicycle modal share for 65+ women was 14%, by 2017 it was over 26%.
Some people belief that women in the Netherlands have a special DNA, or that we cycle because the country is flat and it never rains. Of course, the relative flatness makes cycling easier, but it does rain (and even snow every now and then) in the Netherlands and up to now, no cycling DNA has been identified. What else is going on then?
In the Western world women’s mobility patterns are characterised by multiple, short trips and trip chaining. They also tend to make more non-work trips compared to men, often times accompanied by children. Men, on the other hand, take less trips but travel further distances. Furthermore, men tend to travel more by car compared to women, whereas women use public transport to a larger extent and walk more.
The characteristics ‘multiple short trips’ and ‘trip chaining’ are relevant when it comes to cycling. Take a moment and think about it: isn’t cycling perfectly suited to make short trips and to trip chain? Cycling allows you to combine your roles in your family, at work and in your community. It offers flexible, low cost transportation. Which is relevant, since it is still the case that women earn less compared to men. If you can save on road tax, insurance and gasoline, there is more left that you can use for family expenses!
It makes you wonder why women in countries like Canada, the US and the UK do not cycle more?
A number of studies and articles have been written about what women’s needs are, when it comes to cycling for transportation. These needs are:
So, how can this become a reality in the years to come?
The cycling potential currently ‘hidden’ in the short trips and trip chains that women make can be unlocked by using an integrated approach, combining a mix of measures. Together, they would address different aspects of the cycling mobility needs as listed above. Of course, making streets safer for cyclists is an important piece of the puzzle, but certainly not on its own. Moreover, there are many discussions about what safe cycling infrastructure is, and this has close links with the image of cycling (is it a sports or for utility cycling?) and with whether or not you bring need to carry your children and purchases with you (different style of bicycle, different size, manoeuvrability etc.). Also, the location of the bicycle infrastructure to be implemented is important. Is it in the city centre to accommodate commuters on bicycles? Or is it in the neighbourhoods, so that children can go to school by bicycle and parents (mothers) no longer need to chauffeur them in a car?
To get to a place where trips to school and kindergarten by bicycle are hassle-free, access to suitable bikes and accessories is key. A growing number of cities and NGO’s have been experimenting with programs such as ‘bicycle libraries’ and borrowing schemes. This also contributes to a more positive image of cycling, showing what is possible rather than focussing on the dangers of cycling.
When thinking about the effect that more bicycle-friendly spatial planning practices may have, it should be taken into account that these will not be seen soon. That being said, however, it is far better to begin working on it now rather than tomorrow. As the Chinese proverb says: ‘The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago’.
*Electric assist bicycles are bicycles that have a battery that assists pedaling up to 25km/hour – once you go faster the electric assist stops.
Author: Angela van der Kloof, Mobycon
“Due to COVID-19, the school district has decided to permanently move towards e-learning.” My palms started to sweat, my heart skipped a beat and I tried to take a deep breath in. I felt as though my brain short circuited for a split second or two. So much change in such little time, all my planning skills were definitely put to the test and I felt like my “system” was completely overloaded. Sure, I had a “Plan A, Plan B, Plan C and Plan D.” But, who plans for a “Plan Z”? Working, keeping the family safe and healthy, getting masks, going to the supermarket, being active, managing work staff, finding work solutions through this pandemic, checking on family, checking on friends, attending zoom meetings, arranging backgrounds for zoom meetings, finding out what will happen with doctor appointments, dentist appointments, camps and extracurricular classes that were already paid for, and now - homeschooling. My mind started to go wild thinking about how I could manage such a hefty new task into my already hectic day-to-day activities. It has been through this pandemic that I have realized that the mental load I carry is HUGE. While the impacts of COVID-19 are unique for every family, I believe we can all agree that it has resulted in performing extra tasks that we did not do previously. But let’s take a step back, what is mental load? Who is affected by it and what can we do to help?
What is a ‘Mental Load’?
Mental load is referred to as the phenomenon that primary caregivers experience when they take care of the household/family management in addition to their daily jobs. “Sometimes called the “third shift”—following your first shift at work and the dinner-and-homework shift once you get home—it is the planning, scheduling, negotiating and problem-solving work that goes into running the business of your family. The mental load is the behind-the-scenes work that makes anyone in your family show up to anything (dentist appointments, volunteer shifts, play dates, child’s birthday party) on time, properly dressed and if necessary, with a gift in hand.” (Women Are Overburdened With Their Families’ “Mental Loads” by Jennifer Owens) Traditionally, this role has often been filled by women. However, I recognize that while this is the case in my household, there are other households where this is not necessarily the case. This article is written from my perspective as a mom, but no matter what the makeup of your family is, the lessons still apply because someone is always carrying the ‘mental load’.
As I started thinking about my ‘mental load’, I realized that in my head I have this constant ‘to-do list’ which I add onto, even when I’m trying to relax. Matter of fact, I think I have added “need to relax” as a to-do item in my list for years. I think about things like color-coding the family schedule, decluttering the linen closet, making sure I have full documentation on vaccines, refilling the hand soaps in all of our household bathrooms, etc. As I dove more and more into understanding this, I came across a book called “The Mental Load: A Feminist Comic by Emma.” This book hit close to home as it described the concept of “mental load” in a way in which it was easy for me to understand but most importantly, easy for others to understand as well. The book begins by describing a situation in which a mom is trying to cook a meal while trying to feed her kids. Overwhelmed, the mom explodes at the dad to which the dad basically responds, “you should have asked me to help.” See the comic here depicted on the right. "It's permanent and exhausting work. And it's invisible," says the mental load comic artist Emma. "When a man expects his partner to ask him to do things, he's viewing her as the manager of household chores.
As a full-time civil engineer home-schooling momma, I can relate SO MUCH with this mom. I can also relate with the frustration that you feel as a woman when someone says “you should have JUST asked me for help.” Seems trivial – I know – but sometimes it feels quicker to ‘just do’ then to have to guide someone through step by step instructions on completing a task that you know how to do well. It is as if you are the manager of everything and everyone, like a full-time job as a MANAGER. Let’s think about that for a second. Management is a whole career that most go to a 4-year university to become experts on. Most of us can agree that managing people is one of the – if not the hardest task –in a business. However, in a business, most managers have help in managing the business (hello assistant managers!) So, who helps primary caregivers with this mental load? How can primary caregivers get help? I know plenty of dads (especially you single dads out there…RESPECT!) that do help but unfortunately, research tells us this is not the norm. When we ask women to manage AND execute household tasks, most of the time, this results in women doing 75% of the work. So, what can be done to help? Keep reading below for some recommendations on helping those around you carrying a mental load.
HOW EMPLOYERS CAN HELP
HOW CAREGIVERS CAN HELP EACH OTHER
We’ve all heard this pandemic knows no borders: COVID-19 is a global health crisis with far reaching impacts. But the nature of those impacts will be different depending on your age, family makeup, health status, where you live – and even your gender. This month’s blog shares gender insights on how to support and protect your personal and local communities during COVID-19.
Many are studying the COVID-19 impacts on women, including the United Nations who last month released a policy brief on the impact of COVID-19 on women. Like other major emergencies, these impacts include:
Review of the worldwide data shows that men may have a lower survival rate than do women when it comes to COVID-19. Take the time to learn about symptoms and the advice of your local medical experts on when friends, colleagues and family members should seek help. Men are traditionally less likely to seek help, so listen for warning signs and check in regularly.
Succession planning is a strategy. It requires intentional thought, communication, training, and collaboration. Because of the time involved, it can feel like an overwhelming process and burden. Training people takes time. Training people to do your job can be threatening. But what happens when there too few opportunities to advance, or you don’t want a change, or you are thinking about retiring? The perception that career trajectories only go up with seniority creates undue pressure and barriers to succession planning.
With the complexity of emotions and feelings surrounding transition planning, it becomes more complicated when you add the layer of historical underrepresentation of women in leadership roles. Some ideas to consider in the process are noted below:
Successful succession planning takes conscious and on-going investments of energy, time, and financial resources to identify and develop leaders at key positions in an organization. For people exploring leadership roles, they must invest in diversifying their assignments, building networks, taking organizational ownership personally, developing complete perspective or context of issues, in addition to listening, solving problems, and expanding their negotiation skills.
International Women's Day 2020 centers on the hashtag #EachforEqual. Celebrated around the world on March 8, it asks us to think about how we can help forge a gender equal world. To celebrate women's achievement. To raise awareness against bias. To take action for equality.
As we prepare for this important day to celebrate, raise awareness, and take action; we mustn't forget to reflect on and raise awareness for the unique challenges and biases faced by the transgender community.
A 2017 Center for Disease Control and Prevention study highlights some hard to digest statistics that frame the challenges that this community faces. Following a survey of more than 130,000 students in ten US states and nine large school districts, an analysis was conducted on the correlation between self-identified trans youth and various forms of violence victimization and suicide risk. The results of this study indicate that 35% of transgender youth had attempted suicide in the past year, 44% had seriously considered suicide in the past year, and 53% felt sad or hopeless for two weeks or more in the past year.
Faced with these statistics, it is important to ask what actions we might take as transportation professionals in the face of challenges that the transgender community faces.
As transportation professionals, we are in a unique position to shape the way different people move around their communities, and how we can influence the comfort and discomfort they experience as they do so. Building on a past blog post relating to the experiences and challenges women face on public transit systems, we can seek to explore, with empathy, how transgender women might uniquely experience a transportation project we are involved with. This might include such questions as:
During a 2019 Complete Streets Workshop in Calgary, Alberta, hosted by the Southern Alberta CITE Chapter, participants were asked to consider how different users would change their travel patterns with the introduction of a new Light Rail Transit (LRT) line in the city, The Green Line. Personas were established to represent a diverse range of the city's population, with a detailed characterization of their perceptions, challenges, and desires for a transportation experience. Participants organized into small groups, and were asked to provide recommendations on how the transportation journeys could be improved from the perspective of a particular persona.
Details on one of the personas shared was as follows:
Angie is a young professional who takes the Green Line from her apartment in Highland Park to her office downtown where she works as an accountant. On Tuesdays and Thursdays she travels to 16 Avenue after work where she volunteers with a local non-profit supporting trans youth. She is also transgender, and despite a successful career and many close friendships, she still carries fear of intense bullying she experienced after coming out as transgender in high school. She wants to use the Green Line every day of the week, but doesn't feel comfortable walking from the non-profit to the 16 Avenue Green Line Station after her volunteer shifts, so she ends up driving on those days.
By drawing on the fictional persona for Angie, rich and meaningful conversations were possible to unfold from transportation professionals considering how to change the travel environment to be more comfortable for someone like Angie. This is a simple tool that can help us, as transportation professionals, uncover biases that we might carry about the transportation experience for different people. It also offers a powerful space for us to take action in our transportation work for gender equality.
As you reflect on other actions to take and habits to form in celebration of this year's International Women's Day, consider what you can do to help steward inclusion for transgender women in the transportation profession. Here are some easy-to-take actions to consider:
Happy International Women’s Day 2020!
Have you ever felt as though you can’t possibly measure up to the expectations of others? Or that any success you’ve experienced is simply due to luck or some kind of mistake? Perhaps you have recently set several challenging and unrealistic goals and experienced disappointment when you could not achieve them.
If this sounds familiar, you could be suffering from impostor syndrome. As discussed in this short video, impostor syndrome impacts many people at least once in their lifetime, and well-known experts or prestigiously viewed individuals are no exception.
The phrase impostor syndrome was first coined by Dr. Pauline Clance and Dr. Suzanne Imes, to describe high achieving individuals who believe themselves to be phonies despite outstanding academic or professional accomplishments. Individuals suffering from this syndrome believe that their successes have come from luck or the mistakes of others, and that they have fooled anyone who believes them to be intelligent and capable. The article The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention presents initial investigation of the phenomenon, including origins of the syndrome related to early family dynamics and societal expectations, behaviors of those suffering from the syndrome, and therapeutic techniques which may be effective in combating the syndrome.
Some additional definitions of impostor syndrome presented following Dr. Pauline Clance’s initial research are included within this article written in 2011 by Jaruwan Sakulku and James Alexander. Other phrases describing similar phenomenon include perceived fraudulence and neurotic imposture. The correlation of traits such as neuroticism, conscientiousness, and perfectionism with impostor syndrome characteristics are also explored. A more recent study completed in 2015 also demonstrated the relationship between personality traits and impostor syndrome and explored the impact of impostor syndrome specifically in the workplace.
While impostor syndrome was originally thought to only impact high achieving women, subsequent research has shown that it impacts all genders, and people from all backgrounds in various academic or professional settings. Different individuals may be impacted by impostor syndrome in different ways, and research suggests that women may be more likely to be held back by feelings of impostorism.
Dr. Valerie Young, an expert on impostor syndrome and author of the book titled “The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It”, indicates that despite the title of her book, she has worked with many men who suffer from fear of being a fraud. Dr. Young provides seminars and workshops for various organizations about impostor syndrome and strategies for combating it, which are often attended by women and men in roughly equal numbers.
What strategies can be used to combat Impostor Syndrome?
Overcoming feelings of impostor syndrome may seem to be a daunting task initially, but the following strategies may be considered to work towards recognizing yourself as a competent individual:
Bringing Gender Based Analysis into your work can help take you from caring about equity to truly becoming an ally. Gender Based Analysis (GBA) is a framework that can help you bring the right data and viewpoints into your decision making. GBA+ takes one giant step further and helps you view the world through many lenses. GBA+ recognizes that people experience the world as a result of not simply our gender. Rather, a term called intersectionality, reminds us that many of our characteristics affect how we are perceived and treated. Women may also be single-mothers, men may be more likely colour blind, and it is the intersection of many characteristics that need to be understood to hire the best candidates and design our best transportation networks.
This month’s blog is a collection of research and approaches transportation professionals are applying to onboard GBA+ in their decision making. You can:
Review your own projects and practices:
Adopt a strategy by learning from others:
Learn about GBA and bias: