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Monthly Topics 2021


December 2021: Holiday Traditions

This month the Women of ITE decided to take a brief break from transportation topics and share a compilation of various holiday traditions. With the ongoing impacts and stressors associated with the COVID-19 pandemic over the past two years, the importance of taking time to rest and recharge have been reinforced for many of us. To be able to do our best work in the transportation profession, we need to take care of ourselves.


There are also many different reasons to celebrate during this time of year. The holiday season is a great time for the ITE community to take advantage of the opportunity to slow down and spend time with family, friends and loved ones. Below is a collection of recipes and games provided by members of the Women of ITE Committee. We hope this brings you some holiday cheer, provides you with a new idea for festivities this year, or reminds you to take a well-deserved break. Best wishes to all and we look forward to continuing our Information Crusade in 2022!  

Cranberry Orange Cookies (Jodi Godfrey)


  • Salted butter
  • Sugar
  • Egg
  • All-purpose flour
  • Baking powder
  • Baking soda
  • Dried cranberries
  • Orange zest – use a microplane to remove the rind of an orange


  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Using an electric mixer, mix butter and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg.
  • In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Add to butter mixture and mix until just combined.
  • Fold in cranberries and 1 tablespoon orange zest. Chill dough while you make orange sugar.
  • Combine 1/2 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon orange zest. Use your fingers to rub the 2 together until everything is combined and mixture is fragrant.
  • Shape dough into 1 inch balls and roll in orange sugar.
  • Place on baking sheet and flatten slightly.
  • Bake 10 – 13 minutes or until lightly golden.
  • Cool on wire racks.

Boursin Cheese Scalloped Potatoes (Kathi Driggs)

  • Prep Time 20 minutes
  • Cook Time 1 hour
  • Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Servings 8


  • 2 Cups Heavy Cream
  • 1-5 Ounce Package Boursin Cheese with Herbs And Garlic Broken Into Small Chunks
  • 3 pounds new potatoes Peeled And Sliced
  • 2 Tablespoon Fresh Chives Chopped (optional)
  • To Taste Salt
  • To Taste Pepper


  • Preheat an oven to 400 degrees and arrange a rack in the center position.  Spray a 9X13 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
  • In a medium saucepan, add cream, half-and-half and Boursin cheese and heat over medium heat. Stir constantly until mixture is smooth and cheese has melted but don’t let boil.  Remove pan from heat and set aside.
  • Arrange half the sliced potatoes in overlapping rows in the prepared baking dish.  Generously season with salt and pepper and pour half the cream and cheese mixture evenly over potatoes. Repeat with remaining potatoes and cream mixture.
  • Bake in preheated oven until potatoes are tender and the top is nicely browned about 55-60 minutes.  Remove potatoes from oven and sprinkle with chives if wanted.

Potato Chip Cookies (Lisa Miller)


  • 1 cup butter or margarine (2 sticks)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 cup sifted flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans or walnuts)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup crushed potato chips


  • Mix in order given. Drop by tsp on ungreased cookie sheet. Press down with your finger. Bake in 350-degree oven for 12 to 14 min.

Taste of Home Butternut Squash Bake (Carrie Falkenrath)


  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 can (5 oz) evaporated milk or coconut milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups mashed cooked butternut squash


  • 1/2 cup rice krispies cereal
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted


  • In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, milk, and vanilla.  Stir in cooked butternut squash (mixture will be thin).
  • Pour into a greased 11"x7" baking pan.  Bake, uncovered, at 350-degrees for 45 minutes or until almost set.
  • In a small bowl, combine topping ingredients; sprinkle over casserole.  Return to the oven for 5-10 minutes or until bubbly.

Helpful Hint: You can use store-bought, cubed butternut squash or whole squash.  Either way, cooking butternut squash is easy in a pressure cooker (or Instant Pot.)

Sticker Fingers (Erica Myers)

When I was growing up, my family started a tradition of having appetizers for dinner on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.  Since both Christmas and New Year’s Day always consisted of a large, traditional family dinner, serving a simpler meal the night before allowed my mom more time to partake in the festivities instead of being stuck in the kitchen.

This is something I can definitely appreciate now that I’m a busy, working mom myself.  The appetizer dinners are a big favorite with my own kids, and my 4 year-old coined the phrase “sticker fingers”.  We’re not sure where that came from, but it has stuck.  Here are some of the appetizers we serve when we have “sticker fingers” for dinner:

  • Shrimp cocktail
  • Celery and carrot sticks with ranch dip
  • Buffalo wings
  • Cheese & crackers
  • Assortment of olives & pickles
  • Ham roll-ups (see recipe below)
  • Orange jello salad (see recipe below)

Ham Roll-up Recipe:  Add garlic salt and onion powder (to taste) to softened cream cheese and mix thoroughly.  Put a small spoonful of the cream cheese mixture onto a thin slice of ham deli meat.  Roll up the ham and secure with a toothpick.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Orange Jello Salad Recipe:


  • 1 pint cottage cheese
  • 1 (9 oz.) container of Cool Whip
  • 1 (3 oz.) box of orange jello
  • 1 small can crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1 small can Mandarin oranges, drained


Place fruit and dry jello in a bowl and mix well.  Add cottage cheese.  Then fold in Cool Whip.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Magic Cookie Bars / Seven Layer Cookies (Maggie McNamara)

One of the fun things about getting married and starting a new family is the clash of holiday traditions. It turns out our households of origin share a favorite holiday dessert, prepared in different ways. For Magic Cookie Bars (a.k.a. the correct way), follow the layering order stated and keep at room temperature.

For Seven Layer Cookies, put the coconut on over the crust as the third layer and sprinkle the walnuts over the chips instead, then store in the fridge. In our house, I make them the Magic Cookie Bars way, but some of them make their way into the fridge to be enjoyed cold. Pro tip: melt the butter in the pan in the preheating oven while you prep the graham crackers and walnuts


  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips
  • 1 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk


  • Melt butter in 9” x 13” pan. Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs over, mix, and press to form a crust. Layer the rest of the ingredients in order.
  • Bake:    350 F (180 C) for 25 minutes
  • Let cool in the pan, then cut into bars to serve.

Shortbread Cookies (Laurel Flanagan)


  • 1 cup butter
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour


  • Whip butter, sugar and vanilla together. Mix in flour. Roll out dough to about 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters. Bake at 350 degrees F for 12 to 15 minutes.

The Saran Wrap Ball Game (Jodi Godfrey)

  • The saran wrap ball game is best when there are several people around. This helps to build the energy and excitement! First let’s start with the necessary ingredients:
  • Oven mitts (2- one for each hand)
  • Pair of dice
  • Saran wrap
  • Various gifts ranging from desirable to undesirable – my family typically fills the middle with cash, and a scratch off lottery ticket, followed by decent chocolates, and desirable little trinkets, followed by candy-pop rings, and other randomness that no one really wants. This game is especially fun if you have a competitive family. I know our house is never quiet while we play this game!
  • To set up – start with the most desirable gift and begin by wrapping the saran wrap around it. The more you smooth it out, and fold it over, the longer it will take for the players to get the prize released. Slowly add more prizes to the layers as you continue to wrap the saran wrap around to form a ball. The idea is to put the best prizes in the middle, and work out to the less desirable prizes.
  • To play – one player (youngest always starts in our family) starts by putting on the oven mitts, the person to their left is handed the pair of dice. As soon as the mitts are on, the person with the dice tries to roll doubles, while at the same time, the mitted person is trying to unroll as many prizes out of the saran wrap ball as possible, before the person with the dice rolls doubles. Once doubles have been rolled, the person that was rolling the dice gets to put the oven mitts on, the dice is passed to the players left, and the player is give the saran wrap ball to try their luck at unwrapping prizes before doubles are rolled. Each player gets to keep the prizes that they release from the saran wrap ball on their turn. This continues until the prize at the middle of the ball is completely revealed.

November 2021: Pedestrian Safety From Different Angles

As engineers we look at pedestrian safety in a variety of ways. A structural engineer designing a pedestrian overpass will focus on stability and fall protection. A highway engineer will design ways to keep pedestrians separated from the flow of traffic. Traffic engineers will focus on ways to get pedestrians across the roadway at surface level. The common thread is physical safety and movement. There is also a need to focus on the human elements such as generation, gender and disability or pedestrian attitudes, perceptions and habits.

How do we as engineers balance safety, movement and human elements? First, we need to understand the factors to be addressed. This blog will focus on three key categories: gender, pedestrian habits and vehicular interactions.


Numerous studies have been done researching the differences in perception, activity, and attitudes about walking based on gender. In 2004, the Transportation Research Board (TRB) held a conference for Research on Women’s Issues in Transportation. Of which, one of the presentations was related to Gender Differences in Walking Behaviors. The survey evaluated perceptions of neighborhood walkability, attitudes about walking and measured pedestrian activity. Three communities in Maryland were analyzed. The results indicated that women were more sensitive to safety issues, men walked farther but more women walked more often, women were less likely to walk at night and women were more concerned with traffic related safety. The article can be found at https://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/conf/CP35v2.pdf#page=89.

Another article summarized a Stanford study examining walking rates around the globe. In the article it was reported that Sweden has almost no gender gap when it comes to walking. The country has focused on “gender-balanced budgeting”. For example, snow clearing is done on sidewalks and local roads or where pedestrian activity is higher before other routes. For transit rides at night, women can request a special stop if they feel unsafe walking in an area. More information on these efforts can be reviewed in the article. https://usa.streetsblog.org/2018/03/08/what-explains-the-gender-gap-in-walking/

How can we factor these concerns into our designs? Suggestions include creating safer environments with enhanced lighting, sidewalks, gender-balanced budgeting and education.

Pedestrian Habits

Do pedestrian habits contribute significantly to vehicle-pedestrian incidents? More specifically, does distracted walking account for the majority of incidents? According to a study conducted by Rutgers University in 2020, distracted walking only accounts for less than 20% of vehicle-pedestrian incidents. While engineers and planners instinctively focus on education to combat this perception, perhaps vision zero principles of speed reduction and safer roadway design should be more of a focus. One suggestion from the article is to evaluate crashes by not only who or what got hit, but why and how. We as transportation professionals can then design solutions to the risks. The article can be found at https://visionzeronetwork.org/distracted-pedestrians-distracting-from-the-real-issues/

In December 2018, the Journal of Applied Social Psychology published a paper comparing pedestrian habits at marked and unmarked crosswalks. A series of on-site interviews were conducted at locations that previously had crosswalks removed because they did not conform to regulations. The assumptions of the study were that behavior is a consequence of situational factors and that pedestrians are greatly influenced by habits and psychological factors. The main results of the study indicated that removal of the crosswalks reduced pedestrian perceived safety and increased awareness at the location.  This interesting study can be found at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/330645211_Pedestrians'habits_while_crossing_the_road_at_a_former_zebra_crossing

While pedestrian habits certainly contribute to incidents, responsibility is shared between pedestrian and driver.

Vehicular Interactions

With the increase in Automated and Autonomous vehicles, the risk of pedestrian-vehicle interactions is forefront in research and media. A paper published in 2017 by the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands focused on the importance of eye contact and gestures between pedestrians and drivers. Video observation was completed under busy traffic situations where negotiation was necessary. Roadways with and without designated crosswalks were observed. In part this research was conducted to determine if lack of communication between pedestrian and Automated/Autonomous vehicles will be a factor. The research suggests that pedestrians are not dependent on these methods of communication to traverse a roadway and primarily resort to these methods when the movement of the vehicle is not what was expected. The paper can be found at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/320073542_Pedestrian_Interaction_with_Vehicles_Roles_of_Explicit_and_Implicit_Communication

So how do we as transportation professionals raise awareness of both drivers and pedestrians to share the responsibility of this interaction? One agency in Massachusetts recently provided incentives to pedestrians for practicing safe habits. Random visitors to Union Station were awarded gift cards when observed using safe practices. See the news release here: https://www.springfieldunionstation.com/union-station-rewards-people-practicing-safe-pedestrian-habits/

We have only touched on a few elements related to factors effecting pedestrian safety. As transportation professionals we need to not only focus on physical features of the roadway, but also thinking “outside the box” about human interactions, gender-based implications and many other aspects to improve safety for all road users.  Additional resources for pedestrian safety are shown below:



October 2021: Promotion

When I think of the word ‘Promotion’ relative to the workplace, the first definition that comes to mind is - Getting recognition for one’s achievements through job titles, pay increases, being a leader for your team, and being involved in important decision making and thereby leading to advancement in career. The key words in the above definition are ‘being recognized for one’s work efforts and successes’.  ‘Getting recognized for your achievements’ may sound like a no brainer, but plenty of research on gender disparity, as well as our collective experiences, have shown that this is an uphill task for women.  Whether it be from their supervisors and seniors not showing acknowledgement on a job well done, or from not being considered for a promotion to the next level on more than one occasion, women have had to learn to be their own “self-promoters” to get that recognition.

Gender disparity is a huge topic but the focus of this blog is to highlight “Self-promotion” as an effective strategy for women to getting recognized and advancing their career. Self-promotion can be defined as taking actions to make others aware of your achievements. Being pro-active in efforts to make your achievements and progress visible can be a game-changer in getting that positive response needed to get to the next level.

In a perfect world, our supervisors and employers will learn about and recognize each employee’s achievements without self-promotion.  However, we live in a less than perfect world where we have all heard the phrase ‘The squeaky wheel gets the grease’. This phrase brings home the importance of self-promotion that includes actions like visibility (online and offline) and making others aware of your skillset and successes.  Taking steps to gain acknowledgement for your successes can help with your career promotion in the literal sense, though sometimes that is easier said than done. Those of you, who find it difficult to self-promote, you are not alone. Over the years I have developed a list of some of personal mantras that have helped me:

  1. You are the best person to talk about your work and your achievements – at the risk of repeating myself, these are your achievements.
  2. If you do not believe you are the best and most qualified person for the promotion, why would your supervisor believe that.
  3. Assess your achievements and worth fairly and keep a diary. Have an ally or friend review it and identify if you need to modify your threshold.
  4. Keep a diary/written record of all achievements - small or big. If you organization uses self-reviews as part of annual reviews, this diary can help both you and your supervisor to see all your achievements and not just the recent ones.
  5. When reviewing your projects for specific achievements that you can list, focus on the positives and how you overcame the negative situations to successfully complete the project. Consider the negative situations as lessons learned rather than failures.

When you feel promotion is your right and you should not have to remind someone why you deserve that promotion, consider this –

  • Supervisor is only one person who should not be expected to keep track of every employee’s individual achievements and provide suitable recognition without any input from you.
  • Supervisors are not intentionally overlooking anyone’s efforts from getting recognized.
  • Employers want their employees to succeed and be happy.
  • Right or wrong, self-assessment is considered a reflection of your confidence in your abilities.

Stay positive in making every project a success despite lack of recognition and continue to promote yourself, your team, and others around you. Look for ways to bring attention to your work and not get discouraged.

Several studies (some are listed below) have shown that self-promotion is a proven strategy for women to achieve career advancement and provide specific case studies for those who might be interested in learning more about self-promotion.

  1. Shelley Correll and Lori Mackenzie, “To Succeed in Tech, Women Need More Visibility,” Harvard Business Review, September 13, 2016
  2. Nancy M. Carter and Christine Silva, Report: The Myth of the Ideal Worker: Does Doing All the Right Things Really Get Women Ahead?, Catalyst.org, October 1, 2011
  3. Carol Schmidt, “Bragging Rights: MSU Study Shows That Interventions Help Women’s Reluctance to Discuss Accomplishments,” (includes discussion of a study by Jessie L. Smith), Montana State University, January 10, 2014
  4. Jessi L. Smith and Meghan Huntoon, “Women’s Bragging Rights: Overcoming Modesty Norms to Facilitate Women’s Self-Promotion,” Psychology of Women Quarterly, vol. 38, no. 4, December 20, 2013

Note: This blog is not meant to suggest that women should change themselves to receive promotions but is meant to provide some research findings and my perspectives on importance of self-promotion.

September 2021: GBA+, Lenses, and Empathy

Gender Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) is a tool that ‘helps to identify who benefits and who is excluded from an organizations' decisions’ (Government of Alberta). The City of Edmonton does a great job of explaining this in a video and describes this work as 'applying lenses' of people with different lived experiences to the policy, construction, and operation of the city infrastructure. In that light, GBA+ then becomes a tool to help work through this exercise of lenses.

The idea of lenses and empathy has always been of interest to me as an 'engineering cartoonist'. In a recent comic book I published on walkability and I imagined superpowers for myself that I could evoke to help make changes to our transportation environment. In that comic, one of the powers was 'Empathy Awareness Goggles' and they would be used to highlight some of the issues that can often go unnoticed.

Panel 1: A first-person view of a sidewalk on a city street with several hazards ahead. A caption states, “When it seems like no one notices our disabling streets, I’d use my…” Inset Panel: A pair of goggles in an inset splash bubble, labeled in decorative text: “Empathy awareness goggles.” Panel 2: The same streetscape is shown, this time with green highlights over the hazards: a crack, a puddle, a bump in the sidewalk, the location of the pedestrian call button on a pole, and the crosswalk entering the streets. The caption continues, “to highlight the design details that need to be fixed.”

Panel 1: A first-person view of a sidewalk on a city street with several hazards ahead. A caption states, “When it seems like no one notices our disabling streets, I’d use my…”

Inset Panel: A pair of goggles in an inset splash bubble, labeled in decorative text: “Empathy awareness goggles.”

Panel 2: The same streetscape is shown, this time with green highlights over the hazards: a crack, a puddle, a bump in the sidewalk, the location of the pedestrian call button on a pole, and the crosswalk entering the streets. The caption continues, “to highlight the design details that need to be fixed.”

Cartoons and comics aren't just limited to superpowers, though, and one thing that I love about this medium is the ability to create an environment, real or imaginary, to convey a specific message or stories. Prior to my comic book on walkability, I made a comic book on equity and the built environment where I provided some examples of exclusionary design.

Panel 1: The caption reads, “The tools that we need to access our city should not mean we can’t participate fully in our day to day requirements or desires. A few examples of this are…” The panel depicts person in a wheelchair outside a building with a sign on the door that says “Open.” There is a small raised platform in front of the door. The caption continues, “A small lip at an entrance” Panel 2: The same scene, with the small lip replaced by a wall covering half of the door. The caption continues, “… may as well be a wall to a person using a wheelchair.” Panel 3: A street corner with standing water along the curb that has flooded up onto the sidewalk. The caption reads, “Or a flooded catch basin blocking a wheelchair ramp because of poor maintenance,” Panel 4: A lighthouse overlooking an ocean at night, its beam directed onto the sea. The caption continues, “May as well be an ocean between where you are and where you want to be.” Panel 5: A city street corner in winter, with plowed snow fully lining the sidewalk along the curb. A person in a wheelchair rolls along the sidewalk but has no path to enter the crosswalk. The caption states, “or a poorly managed snow drift at a street crossing or slippery sidewalks in your neighborhood,” Panel 6: The same scene is shown with a chain link fenced topped with barbed wire along the snow drifts. The caption continues, “May as well be the edge of the cage you live within until the seasons change.” A second caption reads, “The tools we use to get around should not mean we must settle for a different standard of living or level of human dignity.”

Panel 1: The caption reads, “The tools that we need to access our city should not mean we can’t participate fully in our day to day requirements or desires. A few examples of this are…” The panel depicts person in a wheelchair outside a building with a sign on the door that says “Open.” There is a small raised platform in front of the door. The caption continues, “A small lip at an entrance”

Panel 2: The same scene, with the small lip replaced by a wall covering half of the door. The caption continues, “… may as well be a wall to a person using a wheelchair.”

Panel 3: A street corner with standing water along the curb that has flooded up onto the sidewalk. The caption reads, “Or a flooded catch basin blocking a wheelchair ramp because of poor maintenance,”

Panel 4: A lighthouse overlooking an ocean at night, its beam directed onto the sea. The caption continues, “May as well be an ocean between where you are and where you want to be.”

Panel 5: A city street corner in winter, with plowed snow fully lining the sidewalk along the curb. A person in a wheelchair rolls along the sidewalk but has no path to enter the crosswalk. The caption states, “or a poorly managed snow drift at a street crossing or slippery sidewalks in your neighborhood,”

Panel 6: The same scene is shown with a chain link fenced topped with barbed wire along the snow drifts. The caption continues, “May as well be the edge of the cage you live within until the seasons change.” A second caption reads, “The tools we use to get around should not mean we must settle for a different standard of living or level of human dignity.”

The metaphor of 'lenses' got me thinking about how we 'see' a street. For example, how historical transportation practices would compare to that of, say, a mother. In the spirit of GBA+, lenses, and empathy, I made the cartoon below for this blog post to illustrate how our lived-experiences and backgrounds influence how we view our environments.

One panel begins with the caption: “Our lived experiences and backgrounds influence how we view our environments and can affect how we set priorities.” The image shows two people looking over a street cross section showing six lanes for vehicular traffic. One person looks skeptical and gives a thumbs-down, with a thought bubble showing a well-signed crosswalk labeled “safety & convenience,” a family with two children labeled, “All ages – all together,” and people playing jump rope labeled, “play.” The second person looks sad or concerned but gives a thumbs-up to the design, with his thought bubble containing stopwatches labeled “delay,” a volume graph with the peak hours labeled, a front-on view of a large vehicle labeled “maintenance > comfort,” and a speed gauge from slow (turtle) to fast (hare) with the dial pointing towards fast. The bottom caption reads, “When we listen to people with different experiences and lenses on issues, we can create environments that are more inclusive, caring, and welcoming for everyone.”


One panel begins with the caption: “Our lived experiences and backgrounds influence how we view our environments and can affect how we set priorities.”

The image shows two people looking over a street cross section showing six lanes for vehicular traffic. One person looks skeptical and gives a thumbs-down, with a thought bubble showing a well-signed crosswalk labeled “safety & convenience,” a family with two children labeled, “All ages – all together,” and people playing jump rope labeled, “play.” The second person looks sad or concerned but gives a thumbs-up to the design, with his thought bubble containing stopwatches labeled “delay,” a volume graph with the peak hours labeled, a front-on view of a large vehicle labeled “maintenance > comfort,” and a speed gauge from slow (turtle) to fast (hare) with the dial pointing towards fast.

The bottom caption reads, “When we listen to people with different experiences and lenses on issues, we can create environments that are more inclusive, caring, and welcoming for everyone.”

As I reflect on the work that I have been a part of that incorporated GBA+, the importance of empathy is so apparent to me, for instance:

  • making sure we do our homework about a community before we engage with them so that they know that their previous input was appreciated and has been incorporated
  • using the idea of reciprocity when we ask for feedback on our designs and strategies (e.g. what can we offer back to the community as appreciation?)
  • making sure the languages and concepts we use to engage in are the ones that are familiar to the community (e.g. plain language, not jargon)
  • engaging at times and in locations that are convenient and accessible to the community
  • ensuring that a wide age range is included in the planning and design of spaces (e.g. kids, multi-generational families, older adults)
  • considering the range of mobility, visual, auditory, and cognitive requirements that must be designed for so that people can live and age in a dignified and safe community (n.b. there are co-benefits to this design that are realized, too, e.g. curb-cuts and strollers)
  • providing a wide range of transportation options to our communities so people can choose what is convenient, safe, and comfortable (e.g. without the need for significant personal capital investment).

It can be simple stuff but can be overlooked so easily as we are constrained with schedules, budgets, and scopes. But, as I note in the cartoon above, 'when we listen to people with different experiences and lenses on issues, we can create environments that are more inclusive, caring, and welcoming for everyone.'


August 2021: The Benefits of Being a Strengths-Based Organization: UDOT’s Story

Turnover is expensive. Low employee morale impacts productivity. What’s key to not only keeping your staff but the key to keeping them happy?

There are dozens of personality assessment quizzes available for leadership development and self-improvement. The assessments can tell an employee a lot about their communication styles, risk tolerance and areas for improved focus. The goal of every one of these assessments: increase employee engagement through self-understanding. 

Over the past few years, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) has renewed its emphasis on employee engagement as a way to harness the sense of purpose that helps make UDOT successful. Happy and engaged employees who are focused on the tasks they love to do are proven to be a valuable resource for the organization they work for and strong indicators of employee wellbeing. 

“According to Gallup, disengaged employees have 18% lower productivity and 15% lower profitability. When that translates into dollars, you're looking at the cost of 34% of a disengaged employee's annual salary, or $3,400 for every $10,000 they make,” said Mat Allred, UDOT’s Internal Communications Manager and Gallup Certified Strengths Coach. 

UDOT has implemented a strategic plan to help employees identify and apply their strengths:

  • Each employee participates in the Clifton StrengthsFinder* assessment. Individuals are encouraged to talk with their supervisor about their strengths and share their strengths with team members. 
  • A dedicated employee website provides monthly topics to discuss with teams, additional assessments that can improve leadership skills and tips on how to invest in individual strengths.
  • Strengths are integrated into UDOT’s culture for every employee. The investment in strengths is based on the idea that when we’re happier at work, we’re more engaged in daily activities and likely happier at home. 

A simple phrase to remember what strengths-based means is “grow the good.” It is an approach that starts with what’s working, and looks to build relationships, processes, and products from there. The Clifton Strengths assessment works from the strengths-based model to “grow the good.” It identifies people’s natural talents so that they can intentionally use and develop their strengths everyday. 

At UDOT, the goal is for employees to feel that their work has purpose and meaning because each employee can see how their talents contribute to team success and fulfill UDOT's mission to enhance quality of life through transportation. 

In the 2020 UDOT annual employee survey, nearly 68% of UDOT staff responded with their assessment of their experience working at UDOT. Overall employee satisfaction was rated a 3.85 on a scale of 1 to 5, which is a moderately positive score with room for improvement. When asked “at work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day,” employees responded with a 3.96 rating out of 5. UDOT will repeat the employee survey for at least two more years to have measurable results that indicate how the strengths-based focus influences employee engagement and wellbeing. Already, strengths conversations are connecting people with what they’re good at and providing a description of the unique contributions of each person on a team. This recognition and feeling of meaningful purpose builds a sense of lasting value where people can see how their work makes a difference to the organization and our communities!

2020 Survey Question and Answer to UDOT Staff





2020 Survey Question and Answer to UDOT Staff






UDOT Poster Topic for June 2021











*The Clifton StrengthsFinder is one example of many assessments available.


July 2021: ITE Road Trip Playlist

Road Trips mean different things to different people.  For some, it’s the changing scenery and the changing light of a long day; for others, endless views, and an endless stream of wind through the window.  Some, like my kids, are excited about all the convenience store snacks they’ll meet along the way, while others love to discover an unknown roadside diner.  A road trip is the ultimate box of chocolates.  What you’ll find along the way and what you’ll remember most are complete unknowns when you fire up that engine. 

For me, a road trip always means music.  Long stretches of scenery and its own personal soundtrack.  Early road trips with my husband meant agreeing on a stack of cd’s that would be played in a carefully chosen order (from a portable disc-player connected via a cassette adapter, for those who remember).  Current road trips include a curated playlist of the family’s favorite songs (yes, even the kids get to weigh in) and the hope that we can maintain the cell phone connection to play it.  And just once in a while, a moment and a song come together in a perfect vacation memory.  Like the way I see the sunrise on the eastern Rockies every time I hear “Satellite” or see a Southwest red sandstone vista when I hear “Moondance”.  Like I said… a box of chocolates.

Therefore, in the spirit of an uncertain summer of vacations and the probability of more than a few road trips on the horizon (pun intended) the Women of ITE have assembled a playlist for our fellow Transportation professionals.  We dug deep through the jukebox for a wide variety of songs to fit a single shared passion – Transportation.  We hope that you might find some new (old) favorite songs and make some new favorite memories of your own.

Did we miss any of your favorites?  Let us know on twitter!  Use the hashtag #iteroadtrip to make your suggestions and find some additional playlist chapters!

The playlist is printed below, or if you can find it at the following links on:

Amazon Music: https://music.amazon.com/user-playlists/3c4dbaad78ab47aa83a5e1a726ca9dd9sune?marketplaceId=ATVPDKIKX0DER&musicTerritory=US

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/7ispx3iFmkLtFqcYcoRjdJ?si=0ade57299922489b


ITE Road Trip Playlist

  1. I’m Walking – Fats Domino
  2. Big Yellow Taxi – Counting Crows
  3. Fast Car – Tracy Chapman
  4. Green Light – Beyonce
  5. Running – No Doubt
  6. Wheels – Cake
  7. Little Black Submarines - The Black Keys
  8. Interstate Love Song – Stone Temple Pilots
  9. Travellin’ Band – CCR
  10. Rocketman – Elton John
  11. Getaway Car – Taylor Swift
  12. Bus Stop – The Hollies
  13. Hit the Road Jack – Ray Charles
  14. Airplanes – B.o.B
  15. Bicycle Race – Queen
  16. Maps – Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs
  17. Holland Road – Mumford and Sons
  18. Fast Cars – U2
  19. Running Up That Hill – Kate Bush
  20. Submarines – The Lumineers
  21. Traffic in the Sky – Jack Johnson
  22. Drive My Car – The Beatles
  23. High Horse – Kacey Musgraves
  24. One, Two Step - Ciara
  25. Exodus – Bob Marley
  26. Midnight Train to Georgia – Gladys Knight & the Pips
  27. Runnin’ Down a Dream – Tom Petty
  28. Metro – Berlin
  29. Cars – Gary Numan
  30. These Boots Are Made for Walkin’ – Nancy Sinatra
  31. Love Train – The O’Jays
  32. Go Your Own Way – Fleetwood Mac
  33. Jump – Van Halen
  34. Born To Run – Bruce Springsteen
  35. Drive – R.E.M.
  36. Pickup Truck – Kings of Leon
  37. Jet Airliner – Steve Miller Band
  38. Cab – Train
  39. Drive – The Cars
  40. One Headlight – The Wallflowers
  41. Train – Neyla Pekarek
  42. Counting Blue Cars – Dishwalla
  43. Magic Bus – The Who
  44. Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin
  45. Crosstown Traffic - Jimi Hendrix
  46. Runaway Train – Soul Asylum

June 2021: Gender Inclusive Language in the Workplace

Language is an important tool to drive diversity and inclusion. The way we talk about things both demonstrates what we care about and has an impact on how we think about them. In honor of Pride, this blog will talk about how to use gender-inclusive language to foster an environment where everybody can be their best self.

Gender inclusive language means “speaking and writing in a way that does not discriminate against a particular sex, social gender or gender identity, and does not perpetuate gender stereotypes.” (https://www.un.org/en/gender-inclusive-language/ ) It is a way to show respect of people regardless of sex or gender, and while some of the suggestions here may seem either trivial or like too much work, even small changes can make a big difference in inclusivity.

First, some definitions

The language around gender and sexuality can seem confusing and ever-changing because of growing acceptance and understanding of the richness of the human experience.

  1. ImageSource:
    Sex: a biological distinction based on genitals, hormones, and chromosomes
  2. Gender: an identity and related social expressions, often assumed to align with biological sex. Exists on a spectrum between masculine and feminine.
  3. Nonbinary: someone whose gender identity is outside of the assumed binary of male and female
  4. Transgender: a range of identities that cover people whose gender identity and sex assigned at birth do not match or conform in the traditional way
  5. Cisgender: someone whose gender identity matches their assigned sex at birth

It’s common for non-LGBTQ+ folks to feel confused by the separation of sex and gender – if it’s foreign to your own experience, it can be difficult to understand. To be inclusive and use inclusive language though, you do not have to understand LGBTQ+ identities, only respect them. There are also many different ways to present oneself to the world – always respect what someone wishes to be called rather than dictating pronouns by dress or appearance.

Gender-Inclusive Language

The first step forward is to listen and always be open to learning. Nobody expects you to get everything right on day one, and even people within the LGBTQ+ community have new things to learn from each other.

Normalize sharing your pronouns rather than making assumptions based on how people present. This can include in e-mail signatures, social media bios, on nametags at conferences, and in introducing oneself. When cisgender (i.e., not trans) people share pronouns, it creates a more open environment in which trans people can also feel comfortable sharing their pronouns. It is not helpful to make this mandatory. Though this can be a well-meaning expression of inclusivity, it can put people who are transitioning or in the process of coming out in an uncomfortable spot – let them tell you in their own time.

Try to avoid gendered language or phrases that lean on stereotypes. Opening a speech with “ladies and gentlemen” leaves those in the middle feeling unheard – try “Welcome, everyone!” instead. For “men and women,” substitute “people” or “folks.” The pronouns “they” or “one” can replace “he/she.” Becoming aware of gendered language, like “manning up” or referring to all of our race as “mankind” is the first step to welcoming all people in every aspect of your speech.


Be willing to admit mistakes and move on. Trip up on somebody’s pronouns? Address a mixed crowd as “gents?” Simply correct the mistake and continue. Dwelling on it serves to increase guilt and (even when not intended) asks minorities to do the emotional work of forgiving the person who made the mistake. Changing your language is a process. Give yourself the time to learn and grace when you misstep, and the folks in your life will lend you the same.

How to Support Someone Who is Transitioning

You may find yourself in the position of having a friend or colleague tell you that they want to be known by a new name and/or set of pronouns. Recognize that coming out is a vulnerable time for someone, and it is something they will have to do over and over to many different people. For instance, a coworker may have been out to friends for months before transitioning at work, and not quite ready to be out to clients yet. You can ask to clarify how they want to be addressed, and thank them for letting you know.

The best thing to do is practice their new names and pronouns. Let’s say your coworker Bob has come out as Alice and wants to use she/her pronouns. From that point forward, Bob is her “dead name,” and it is respectful to avoid using it wherever you can – it can be painful to trans people to hear their dead name repeated. Practice talking to yourself about this coworker – “I have a meeting with Alice today, and I will have to ask her about the latest designs on this project.” This is also a useful way to get accustomed to pronouns you may not have used before, such as the singular they/them for a nonbinary person.

If you mess up, correct yourself quickly and move on: “He said yesterday – I’m sorry, she said – that the project is near completion.” We’ve all said the wrong thing sometimes, the trans people in your life will understand the occasional slip up.

Lastly, you can be an ally around others. This can mean correcting the pronoun use of other people – gently at first, and more forcefully if they double down. Help others learn gender inclusive language. Call out insensitive jokes that put people down. Support minorities in reporting offensive and inappropriate behavior through the proper channels.

Ask your friends and coworkers what they need and how you can help. Showing up for them is incredibly meaningful and respecting one another brings us closer to a more equitable world.

Other Resources






May 2021: Transportation and Equity

While actually in my office one day recently, I overheard one of my colleagues having a circular “discussion” with one of his students on what I could only guess was an equity-related assignment in senior design. It sounded very frustrating and this colleague impressed me with their patience because the one line that this student said that stuck out to me the most was:

“Employers should have the choice to discriminate if they want to and employees can make the choice not to work there.”

Despite ongoing efforts, there is still a lot of misunderstanding of equity as an issue, particularly what it means and why it’s even necessary. As human beings, we struggle to see and understand anything outside of our own bubbles of experience. In my admittedly limited scope of experience, misunderstanding of equity efforts stems from an assumption (conscious or otherwise) that other people’s experiences are always similar or the same as your own. How you experience the world must be how it always works, for all people.

Think of this blog entry as a very brief, bare-boned primer to the issue of equity in transportation.

Disclaimer: I am a white, straight female and do not claim to be the authority on all things equity nor do I claim to represent all (or any) marginalized groups.


  • Equity: Merriam-Webster defines as equity as “justice according to natural law or right, specifically: freedom from bias or favoritism.” In a broader sense, equity or equitable actions are efforts to “level the playing field” by raising up individuals and populations that are unfairly burdened due to something they cannot (or cannot easily) control, such as race/ethnicity, gender, age, physical/mental ability, sexual orientation/gender expression, religion, physical location, etc.
  • Marginalized, Vulnerable, Underrepresented: These populations are most often identified as people who are different in some way from what is considered the “default”, predominant, and/or in-power population. As in the definition above, marginalized groups can be based on race/ethnicity, gender, age, physical/mental ability, or sexual orientation/gender expression. However, it can also be location-based as well. In the US, citizens in rural communities are sometimes considered vulnerable within the area of transportation since funding priorities are most often focused on urban areas. Also, a marginalized group in one location may not be so in another location.
  • Intersectionality: Dictionary.com defines this as “the theory that the overlap of various social identities, such as race, gender, sexuality, and class, contributes to the specific type of systemic oppression and discrimination experienced by an individual.” Nobody falls into one single “box” perfectly and no label adequately describes the people within that group. It is important to note that there are no “rankings” in this theory and checking a certain number of “boxes” does not guarantee a specific experience.
  • Unconscious Bias: While anti-discrimination laws, affirmative action, and other such policies have reduced (to an extent) the prevalence of scenarios like the student described above, there is still work to do in the area of unconscious bias and its impact on marginalized groups. I will state right now that everyone has unconscious bias, stemming from how they were raised, their education, and their experience. The best remedy for this is to train yourself to recognize this bias so that you can recognize how it may be impacting how you act. Think of it almost as muscle memory for a bad habit; you may not even realize you are doing it!

The Transportation Side of Things

In the broad area of transportation, we are mostly considering the bigger picture of equity, rather than individual interactions. While improving workplace equity and office behavior is important, it’s not the focus of this blog entry. Instead, there is more focus on issues such as: higher pedestrian crash rates in communities with higher populations of non-white or disabled persons; disconnected transit or active transportation facilities in low-income communities; land use patterns that are not conducive to providing affordable housing close to places of work; etc. Discriminatory practices, policies, and designs created decades and decades ago, whether or not they may still be in effect, have had long-lasting impacts. For example, while red-lining is no longer legal, the echoes of that practice can still be seen today in the form of informally segregated neighborhoods. Designers have “started to realize that if these different forms of oppression are by design, then they can be redesigned” (Carroll & TED Archive, 2019). Our goal as a profession going forward needs to be to move away from “this is how it’s always been done” to “how has this burdened vulnerable people and what can we do to improve?”

What You Can Do

  • Promote not just regular engagement of marginalized communities but also hiring from them.
  • Promote diversity in panels and discussions by suggesting the inclusion of experts from marginalized or underrepresent populations.
  • Hire an “equity expert” to provide input on new and existing policy, proposals, engagement, etc.
  • Consider the use of equity-focused performance measures in decision-making and evaluation.
  • Encourage both quantitative and qualitative assessment of transportation resources, infrastructure, etc. in marginalized communities.
  • Recognize that those with the loudest voice are not often the ones that need to be heard.

Just a Few Resources…

Carroll, A., & TED Archive. (2019, January 17). Designing for a more equitable world. Retrieved from [YouTube Video]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9XKBgdOrHU

ITE. (2021). Transportation Equity Listening Sessions. Retrieved from https://www.ite.org/technical-resources/transportation-equity-listening-sessions/

Litman, T. (2021). Evaluating Transportation Equity: Guidance for Incorporating Distributional Impacts in Transportation PLanning. Victoria, BC, Canada: Victoria Transport Policy Institute.

Rodriguez, A., Davis, V. O., Meehan, L., & Riegner, J. (2020, November 2). A New Roadmap for Transportation and Health Equity. [Webinar]: ITE.

USDOT. (2013). Equity. (US Department of Transportation) Retrieved from https://www.transportation.gov/mission/health/equity

April 2021: Pandemic Fatigue

Pandemic fatigue, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), “is an expected and natural response to a prolonged public health crisis – not least because the severity and scale of the COVID-19 pandemic have called for the implementation of invasive measures with unprecedented impacts on the daily lives of everyone, including those who have not been directly affected by the virus itself[1].  The pandemic has impacted all of us, mentally and physically.  In this article, we will look at two types of fatigue and some simple ways to cope. 

Having the flexibility to work from home has been a blessing for many during the pandemic.  But many of what used to be a quick five-minute conversations, turn into conference calls, where Virtual Meeting Fatigue happens.  During those calls, we focus more intently on conversations in to absorb information.  If it is a call with video, we are looking at the screen for 30 to 60 minutes without any breaks, because we think by staring at the screen intensely, is how we show that we are paying attention to the meeting.  Or it is required by some managers for their staff to turn on the videos.  Video conferencing fatigue, a survey conducted by Robert Half, showed approximately four in 10 have experienced video call fatigue during the pandemic.  Women are experiencing a higher percentage of burnout than men by videoconferencing, 47% and 32%, respectively[2].  

Source:  https://www.ted.com/playlists/245/talks_for_when_you_feel_totall

The pandemic challenges working mothers in different ways than working fathers.  Prior to the pandemic, women accounted for more than 50% of the non-farm labor workforce while still taking on 70% of childcare responsibilities during the work week?, which was already stressful for many women. 

For working moms, the stress level went through the roof, having to setup a place to work from home, while taking care of their children and/or elderly and making sure everyone stays healthy (mentally and physically). This caused Overload Tasks Fatigue. [3] In the 2020 Women in the Workplace report, done by McKinsey & Company and LeanIn.org, they found during the pandemic, in addition to 40 hours on their jobs, women spent 20 hours per week on caregiving and housework[4].  In addition, a study by Understanding Coronavirus in America Study found that women, particularly those without a college degree, have a higher job loss rate than men and carried significantly greater responsibility for childcare during the pandemic.

Ways to Cope

It is important for us to take good care for ourselves, so we can serve others. Here are some simple ways especially for the two types of fatigue discussed above.  

  • 20-20-20 rule[5] (For every 20 minutes you are looking at a screen, look away from the screen and focus on a spot 20 feet away for 20 seconds).
  • Take regular breaks.
  • Get fresh air, go outside.
  • Appreciate family time.
  • Reach out to people you act (in-person or virtual)
  • Remember to eat (healthy)
  • Don’t be shy to ask for help.
  • Another place to checkout is your health provider, many of whom have dedicated resources for helping with the pandemic.

[1] Pandemic fatigue Reinvigorating the public to prevent COVID-19, https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/335820/WHO-EURO-2020-1160-40906-55390-eng.pdf

[2] https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/nearly-4-in-10-workers-are-suffering-from-video-call-fatigue-robert-half-research-shows-301171753.html

[3] https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/10/more-than-half-of-us-women-are-burned-out-heres-how-to-cope.html

[4] https://news.usc.edu/171617/covid-19-women-job-losses-childcare-mental-health-usc-study/

[5] https://www.uwhealth.org/news/managing-covid-fatigue-is-crucial-to-our-health-and-wellbeing-during-the-pandemic/53530


March 2021: Women in Engineering

In honor of National Women’s History Month (#womeninhistory), we took a look at Women in Engineering. According to a 2019 study by the Society of Women Engineers1, only 13% of engineers are women. In addition, over 32% of women switch out of STEM degree programs in college, only 30% of women who earn bachelor’s degrees in engineering are still working in engineering 20 years later and 30% of women who have left the engineering profession cite organizational climate as the reason.

Women have a long history of making important contributions to transportation. A great timeline of events can be found on the U.S. Department of Transportation website (https://www.transportation.gov/womenandgirls/timeline/accessible). Most notably, on January 1, 1876, Elizabeth Bragg Cumming became the first woman in the United States to receive a civil engineering degree when she graduated from the University of California at Berkeley.

Our Sub-Committee is very engaged in promoting diversity and equity. Below we asked our Women of ITE (#womenofite) Subcommittee members “Why did you become an engineer/transportation professional and why do you think a career in transportation is great for women?”

Carrie Falkenrath: I chose Transportation Engineering because I thought interchanges were interesting puzzles that I wanted to solve.  

In the 25 years since I made that choice, the Transportation field has really opened up as we (as a profession and a society) have realized how much impact Transportation has on quality of life. It's so, so much more than roads and bridges. It's access. It's mobility. It's delivery.  Women are needed in the Transportation field more than ever to bring their own individual perspective to Transportation needs, characteristics, design, and implementation. The more unique voices we have at the table, the more people we can effectively serve - and the more our complex Transportation System will reflect all of us.

Melisa Finley: Love for math and physics, so my dad (who worked in construction for over 40 years) started introducing me to engineers that he knew. My dad also encouraged me to go to college and get an engineering degree. When I went to college I started civil engineering not even realizing transportation was one of its many fields. Like many before me, I thought I wanted to be a structural engineer. However, after my first undergraduate transportation class, I was hooked. While we may not have perfected traffic signal timing yet, it is vastly improved with innovation and technology. 

Transportation engineering is great for women because you can connect with people, as well as apply the math and science we all love.  We can impact our families, communities, and the world in the transportation profession.  We are challenged to uphold safety while maximizing efficiency and ensuring equity, which leads to great innovation.

Laurel Flanagan: In high school I did well in science and math and my physics teacher encouraged me to apply to engineering programs as I began considering options for university. After specializing in civil engineering in my second year of university, I had my first transportation engineering course and I became fascinated by the subject. Transportation engineering was exciting to me because it’s so easy to see the direct impacts on the lives of others. Whether it be using some form of transportation to get to work every day, for vacation or exercise, or to access essential services, transportation is a significant aspect of many people’s lives. Becoming a transportation engineer allowed me to pursue a career in which I could see the impact of the work I do.

A career in transportation is great for women because it allows us to create a positive impact in the world with our technical skills and knowledge while also having the opportunity to be creative in finding solutions to problems. The transportation profession provides opportunities to come up with solutions that save time and save lives. People who work in the transportation profession also have a great opportunity to create a more equitable world and design transportation systems that work for everyone. Increasing the number of women in the transportation profession brings more diverse perspectives to the table and contributes to the development of more great ideas.  

Angela Garland: I originally wanted to pursue either an acting career or a law career. After some research and a few basic classes, I quickly realized I just didn't have the passion for either career path. My father suggested that I had always been good at math and seemed to enjoy it, so why didn’t I become an engineer? He introduced me to a friend who was in the transportation field who gave me some great advice and inspiration. I next met with a co-worker’s father who was an engineer and he quickly dismissed women as engineers!!! Well, I wasn’t one to be told I couldn’t do something so my mind was made up on the spot! I think a career in engineering is great for women because we are natural problem solvers and critical thinkers. Math and science are important in engineering but more important is the ability to think outside the box and be able to solve problems. Women can and do excel in these areas and just need the support of other professionals to promote STEM careers.

Jodi Godfrey: When I was a little girl, I loved to build with Lincoln Logs, play with trains and cars, propose solutions to every challenge, and I was so competitive in math from the time that we started memorizing multiplication tables, that my dad used to tell me I would make a great engineer. I always dismissed his suggestions naively thinking that all engineers drive trains, and I was not interested in driving trains. When I was 17 years old, my dad died in a motorcycle crash at the young age of just 47. That loss and pain transformed me from a stubborn teenager to a young woman who was now yearning to hear those words of wisdom that I had previously dismissed. That drive pushed me to go to college and pursue engineering. However, it was my transportation professor who saw more in me than I saw in myself. He pushed me to apply for the job that propelled me into the career I have today. Through it all, there is something extremely important about being true to yourself, and focusing on what really motivates you. For me, I know that I want to make my community, better, safer, stronger, because I am part of a team that works collectively to achieve more than an individual alone. That sense of companionship, pride in the work we do, and ability to make a real difference, makes me proud to say I am a transportation engineer. 

Jen Malzer: I first knew I would be a transportation engineer after hearing a talk about emissions and the environment and realizing that my research could make a difference. Since then, I’ve worked to improve community health, children’s freedom and mobility, connections for families, and have planned rail transit projects. I’m hooked and I think there are a lot of young women who would enjoy a career in transportation as much as me for the chance to collaborate to create better communities.



Maggie McNamara: I got into transportation because it's an optimization problem that's never done. It's also a system that is vital to everybody's day-to-day lives, but that most people don't give much thought, and now I get to teach students about it and it's like letting them in on a secret that's been right in front of them.

We talk a lot about engineering careers being for people who are good at math and science, but I've come to believe that engineering, especially in transportation, is a caring profession. Everything we do impacts how people get around, how they access goods and services and employment, and the decisions we make have wide-rippling impacts. More diversity in the profession is going to lead to a more equitable and just transportation system.

Michelle Mekker: I became a transportation engineer because of the human element, multidisciplinary nature, scope, and general visibility. Transportation is a field that is very personal to both the professionals within it and the people using the transportation system. There are as many perspectives of the system as there are human beings on the planet. I think that transportation is a great career for women because, while engineering has traditionally been gendered, transportation is a necessity of life regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, etc. We need as many different perspectives as we can get.

Lisa Miller: I'm a transportation professional because I believe in the power of sharing good information. We have a responsibility to message to our customers - road and transit users, those who need a first-mile/last-mile connection and those who choose active transportation - so they understand the investments in their transportation network. Engineers and transportation professionals have a keen eye for detail, and women who make a career in the transportation field have a great ability to listen, plan and respond in order to facilitate great outcomes.

Erica Myers: Growing up, my 2 favorite subjects in school were math and art.  When it came time for me to apply to college and decide on a career path, I was leaning towards an art history degree.  But my dad steered me towards engineering, believing it would be a better fit for my natural abilities and a more stable profession for a female.  While I pursued a Civil Engineering degree in college, I naturally gravitated toward a focus on transportation and have never looked back!  It has been a great career because my work is often very technical (which fuels my love of math) but also gives me a sense of accomplishment that I am making a difference in the work that I do.  It is very fulfilling when you see a project come to fruition.  I think a career in transportation is great for women because it provides so many opportunities that allow you to match your abilities with your passions.  Whether you choose to focus on technical work, big picture planning, policy making, or even the public relation side of the industry, there is a place for you.


February 2021: Benevolent Sexism: What Is It and How Can You Respond?

What is it?

Benevolent sexism – it sounds contradictory at first, but have you ever witnessed someone make a comment to a female colleague that is seemingly positive but somehow feels unsettling? Maybe you have also been on the receiving end of such a comment. Perhaps it’s a male colleague apologizing for cursing in front of a female colleague (implying that she is too delicate to hear this and must be protected) or letting her know how great she is at being the “office mom” because of her natural caring ability. Or it may be a female colleague directing a similar statement towards another female colleague. While it may seem easy to ignore or brush off such comments, benevolent sexism can be very degrading and create damaging stereotypes towards women that minimize their professional capabilities in the workplace.

The ambivalent sexism theory was first presented by Peter Glick and Susan Fiske, which distinguishes between hostile and benevolent sexism. Hostile sexism refers to the more typical connotation associated with sexism, including derogatory beliefs such as women are less competent than men, or women are unfit to carry out certain duties. Benevolent sexism is defined as attitudes towards women that are sexist due to stereotyping and reinforcing traditional gender roles, but are subjectively positive to the person who holds them and are often related to helping or caring duties (i.e. women are naturally more compassionate), or ideas such as women are delicate and need protection.

For a great illustration of how benevolent sexism can hold women back in their career, check out this comic by Emma. (This is the same artist who is famous for her comic on the Mental Load which was featured in our June 2020 blog – if you missed it, be sure to check it out!) Additionally, this article in Scientific American provides some more context and great examples of benevolent sexism in everyday life.

Benevolent sexism is just as harmful as hostile sexism as it normalizes gender inequality, reinforces traditional gender roles and damaging stereotypes and can encourage justification of the status quo or beliefs that sexism no longer exists.  

Techniques for Handling Benevolent Sexism:

Below are some techniques for handling benevolent sexism in the workplace, for those on the receiving end, bystanders, and organizations as a whole!

  • Give yourself permission to be offended – Feeling angry or frustrated when hearing a sexist comment in the workplace is normal and you don’t need to ignore or suppress your feelings. It can be helpful to keep in mind that even if you feel that people should know that this is inappropriate, they sometimes don’t, and you can think about how you can help to educate them. [1]
  • Have a follow up conversation with a smaller group or individual – You don’t have to address the situation in the moment, especially if the troubling comment occurs in a larger group setting. It may be easier to have a follow up conversation with a smaller group or the individual who made the comment in order to explain why you were troubled by the comment and how it can hurt morale in the office. [1]
  • Provide a counter statement to highlight what is relevant in the professional context – If someone makes a comment that is benevolently sexist, you can counter it by highlighting your female colleagues accomplishments and skills that are relevant to the discussion. [1]
  • Scale your response and avoid making assumptions – Don’t assume that a comment was made with ill intentions. It may be a lack of awareness and you can view this as an opportunity to educate someone, while scaling your response to that person based on their understanding. [2]
  • Call In instead of Calling Out – Instead of responding in a confrontational or scolding manner, create opportunity for personal growth in the person and ask them a question to engage them in a conversation about their comment. You may ask “Why did you say that?” or “Can you explain that?”, which causes them to pause and consider their thoughts rather than introducing shame or embarrassment and defensive feelings. [2]
  • Be intentional in your response – Be thoughtful as your respond and use your knowledge of the people involved when deciding how to respond. [2]
  • Create a growth mindset in your organization – Focus on developing junior female employees, not protecting them. Be sure to give assignments that provide challenge, develop skills, and give exposure. Provide honest critical feedback to convey a growth mentality. [3]


[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/sianbeilock/2020/01/07/how-to-address-subtle-friendly-sexism-at-work/?sh=6b5205b6350c

[2] https://www.catalyst.org/reports/interrupting-sexism-workplace-men/

[3] https://neuroleadership.com/your-brain-at-work/peter-glick-on-how-benevolent-sexism-undermines-women/

January 2021: Using Social Media to Grow Your Profile

Whether you are promoting a business, educating the public, inspiring others to get involved, coaching and mentoring or simply promoting yourself, social media can play a huge role in growing your online presence. We decided to interview some social media influencers, presenting them with six questions on their tips and tricks for online success. Please check out the bios of our contributors and connect with them on social media.

Dale Bracewell is the Manager of Transportation Planning for the City of Vancouver (Canada). Dale and his team lead the citywide and community planning implementation of Transportation 2040, the city’s long range transportation plan for all modes. Dale previously led Vancouver’s transportation planning and operations for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. With more than 20 years of transportation planning and design experience, Dale is a Professional Engineer who has worked for both municipal and provincial governments as well as the private sector.  He currently enjoys working in one of the world’s most livable cities encouraging and realizing sustainable transportation legacies for Vancouver.

Zaki Mustafa, ITE International President 2013, is the founder of Jackets for Homeless – Transforming a Life. Zaki states he is the retired guy who still believes in helping us promote our quality of life…..Together we are the best!  www.transformingalife.org

Shelley Row is Founder and CEO of Blue Fjord Leaders, Shelley Row, PE, CSP, is an Inc. Magazine top 100 leadership speaker and Certified Speaking Professional. An engineer and former senior government executive, Shelley engineers leaders to see beyond the data by creating skilled self-awareness, empathy, and communication for decision-making, delegation, teaming, and more. www.bluefjordleaders.com.

Social Burro

Heather Wright Schlichting has more than 15 years of corporate communications experience creating thoughtful campaigns to improve customer relations and drive results. She founded The Write Blend to develop persuasive digital marketing strategies for organizations to enhance their awareness, increase revenue and foster growth.

Question 1: What social media platforms do you find most effective and why?

BRACEWELL:  I use social media not as official representative of the City, but to showcase the City’s goals. I incorporate the evidence and thoughts about what we are doing at the City. I use Twitter to help expand followers’ thoughts around mobility and how it is consistent with where they are trying to go. My goal is for followers to see it, like it and retweet. If a tweet is worth my time to post, I don’t worry if it gets a lot of attention. If it does, then that’s a bonus. I used LinkedIn more as a professional rather than a focus on mobility.

MUSTAFA:   My objective is to inspire others to host a jacket drive to help our friends in need, to care for others and improve their quality of life. With that objective in mind, I find Facebook is most effective to reach the older generation. The younger generation does not tend to use Facebook as much. LinkedIn is effective to get companies involved.

ROW:   For my audience who are mostly technical professionals, we have found that LinkedIn and Twitter are best.

SCHLICHTING:   One of my clients, Melissa Wandall (https://www.melissawandalladvocate.com), states “LinkedIn! I feel this platform is full of people that are looking to be educated about any topic, are willing to agree to disagree, and are honestly open to "listen and learn." They are not looking to be aggressive and genuinely support and encourage more than any other social media platform. I have also received many speaking engagements from LinkedIn.”

Question 2: How often do you post on social media?

BRACEWELL:   I post on Twitter an average of once a day and on LinkedIn once a week at most, sometimes more if I have a post of substance. I also find that time of day is critical. I find posts most effective when posted mid-morning and around lunch time.

MUSTAFA:  I post almost every other day but it depends on the topic I am promoting. If I am targeting companies, then the beginning of day or Sunday night is best. If I am targeting their staffs, then right before quitting time. If I am targeting everyone, then Friday at lunch.

ROW:   I post at least once per day M-F on LinkedIn and up to five times per day on Twitter. The frequency depends on the topic and purpose of the post.

SCHLICHTING:   Typically, I post 3-5 times per week. Some of the social channels measure analytics and tell you what days of the week and times are best for you to post based on when your audience is interacting with your messaging. This information will help determine how often you should schedule your posts.

Question 3: How much time do you spend on creating social media content per week?

BRACEWELL:   Not very much. I try to post major milestones for the City and may preplan out graphics. I have a habit of staying consistent to stay relevant (scanning at least once a day). Get a narrative of what’s out there to get your own thoughts on things and to develop or share posts.

MUSTAFA:   On average a couple of hours a day, actively. However, I spend a lot of time developing my posts, such as gathering information and taking pictures.

ROW:   Creating compelling and meaningful posts takes time. As a small business, my time is limited so I work with Social Burro (@SocialBurro) to create, post and manage my social platforms. They spend 14-18 hours/week creating content from my newsletters, books and other resources.

SCHLICHTING:   To create imagery to accompany your social posts and write the actual content, you could spend 30 minutes per week. These posts can be repurposed for different channels including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram. To make the process easier, find an image template that you can alter per post. Canva is a great, free tool that offers templates for all types of social media channels.

Question 4: Any advice on dealing with negative comments?

BRACEWELL:   Ignore them. I ask myself what will the public get out of responding?

MUSTAFA:   Ask them to contact you directly if possible. Do not get into a back on forth on the platform. Listen to them to understand their complaint to maybe alleviate the problem.

ROW:   It’s rare that we receive a negative comment. It’s more likely that someone may disagree with my opinion.  Unless the comment is over-the-top, we always respond politely and calmly. If possible, we use the opportunity to validate the commenter while also restating or clarifying our opinion.

SCHLICHTING:   My client, Melissa Wandall (https://www.melissawandalladvocate.com), states “Do not engage. If there is a solid argument over a topic it is okay to reply.  We will not all agree and most of the time will agree to disagree. In my opinion, the negative comments come from a place of hate.  People like to hide behind their screen and personally attack - this is not okay.  We all have the power to delete a comment - It is okay! It does not mean we are hiding away or trying to "step around" a sensitive subject. I like both sides to be respectful on my sites. So, for me I make the choice to not engage and so far I have not been retaliated against.”

Question 5: What are some lessons learned from either social media successes or failures?

BRACEWELL:   It is far better to delete a tweet if you regret the post. Give credit to others, source of graphic, or point to another city’s success. Success of a post resonates more with positive posts about others.

MUSTAFA:   I have several success stories. If it wasn’t for Facebook, I may not be spearheading Jackets for Homeless – Transforming a Life. Social media helped me win the Western District Secretary/Treasurer position and finally, there is no way I would have won the ITE International VP position without a social media presence.

ROW:   You have to either be in social media or not. You can’t be effective halfway. Once “in,” I’ve had terrible experiences over-relying on automation. It’s too easy to stack up a pile of posts into Hootsuite and appear tone deaf when the posts don’t reflect current events. Some programs automatically pull content and that can result in useless information that isn’t helpful to anyone. We also find that it’s okay – good, actually – to let your authentic voice come through. Your posts should sound human like you.

SCHLICHTING:   My biggest success on social media is when I post video, whether live video or videos posted on YouTube or a website. Users are reading less, so shorter posts that get right to the point are more impactful. This is a great way to show your personality and your passion for your business or cause.

Question 6: What type of social media post have you found to be most successful?

BRACEWELL:   The most successful posts are those that incorporate humor or cleverness, make someone smile as they read it and also a message, idea or thought that the reader wants to attach themselves to.

MUSTAFA:   My posts are most successful if there is a pretty picture or a post about someone else doing something good.


  1. Be useful. Short, meaningful snippets that are easy to remember have been most powerful.
  2. Time sensitive. Posts about happenings today or tomorrow command more attention.
  3. Be intentional. Know what the purpose is for each post Are you providing a tip? Answering a question? Making an offer? Be clear to be effective
  4. For those of us who have offerings to sell, use the 80/20 rule. Post 80% useful content with only 20% (or less) advertisements or other pitches. 

SCHLICHTING:   Sharing your story is a great way to show who you are and how your business can help others. Testimonials from your customers also highlight your business and how you have helped them succeed. Content that is authentic and shows your humanity will resonate with your followers and will attract new ones.


The Women of ITE would like to thank our contributors to this blog. We hope our readers connect with them through their social media links. Tag us in your posts about Women in Transportation, Diversity and Inclusion and ITE. #WomenofITE