Women assume prominent positions in ITD leadership
Women hold a variety of leadership positions within the Idaho Transportation Department. Its director is a woman and more than a dozen female engineers are scattered throughout the state, including Fran Hood, Construction Engineer and Kathleen Slinger, Bridge Inspector – both of which are statewide positions.
“ITD is one of the more progressive transportation departments in the country when it comes to gender,” Hood said. “Women here don’t think of themselves as ‘female engineers’ - we are engineers on equal standing with men, and are treated as such.”
The ITD Web site has links for women who seek engineering degrees, scholarships, and for anyone who wishes to apply for ITD’s Engineer-in-Training (EIT) program. Among them are engineergirl.org and constructmyfuture.com
Of the 12 engineers participating in the latest class of EITs, two are women.
From 1952 to 1980, just five of the 207 EITs participants were women (2.4 percent). Since 1990, however, 15 of 78 EITs have been women (19.2 percent), reflecting a surge in interest among women in the engineering field and greater acceptance of their contributions.
“Women in the 70s did not go into engineering,” Hood explained. “We are moving into those roles now.”
According to the Federal Highway Administration, more than 60 million women are in the workforce today, yet women make up only 8 percent of engineers, 18 percent of engineering technicians and 30 percent of natural scientists, such as chemists and geologists.
Beyond engineering, the transportation industry offers a range of careers, from design, safety, project managers, estimators and schedulers to contract officers, surveyors and material technicians, among others.
The jobs that form the backbone of the transportation industry, skilled labor, also offer a variety of occupations including carpenters, concrete workers, equipment operators, teamsters, electricians, pipe fitters, etc. There’s also the Division of Motor Vehicles, transportation planning, consulting, contracting and public transportation.
“There are a lot of women on the design side. And there are a lot of women-owned contracting companies,” said Rita Wilson, a Connecting Idaho Partner project manager with 30 years of experience in construction.
“I encourage both women and men to open their eyes to opportunities in transportation planning, design and construction,” Wilson said. “This is a growing industry, and with the potential for increases in federal funding, transportation – and the construction industry in general – is a good place to be.”