“Paying it Forward” by giving back through WTS

February 21, 2012

For the last 35 years, the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) has promoted the professional advancement of women in transportation around the world. Its 5,000 members include both women and men dedicated to helping transportation professionals find fulfilling careers and recognition within the industry through professional development activities, networking opportunities, and access to industry and government leaders.

This is the first article in a series that will feature an inside look at WTS from a few long-standing members. In each article the member will share how they have benefited both personally and professionally through their involvement with this organization.

When Julia Kuhn began working as a transportation engineer in 1993, she received some sage advice from Gary Katsion, a senior principal engineer with Kittelson & Associates, Inc. (KAI):

I had just graduated from college and we were a pretty small firm. Gary introduced me to WTS in Portland and told me it was a great way to build your professional network and to develop yourself both personally and professionally. He was absolutely right. It’s a wonderful organization for both women and men and it’s been phenomenal for me. I’ve developed my leadership skills, am constantly learning new things, and it has provided me with longtime and dear friends.

Julia, now a principal engineer in KAI’s Portland office, dove right in, first attending meetings and then volunteering to help WTS plan its 1996 International Meeting in Portland. She served on the board of the Portland chapter for a decade before joining the board of the WTS’ international Foundation six years ago. As vice president of the WTS Foundation Board, Julia helps further the organization’s objectives related to scholarship, professional development, education and research.

The role requires travel to quarterly meetings held across the country. Later this month, Julia will travel to Raleigh, N.C., to meet with her fellow WTS board members. She says the group is particularly excited about the results of a recent research survey called MOVE. The survey evaluates women’s professional development and advancement in all aspects of the transportation industry. It included both public and private employers and will provide report cards for each participant later this spring.

The MOVE factors are:
M - Money: How do organizations ensure equal pay for equal work? (MOVE is not a salary survey and does not collect data about specific pay levels.)
O - Opportunity: What leadership and professional development programs are proven to advance women, and how are results measured?
V - Vital supports for work-life: What benefits and work/life policies are in place to mitigate logistical concerns and minimize obstacles to advancement caused by a conflict between business operations and personal responsibilities shouldered by employees?
E - Entrepreneurship: How do organizations foster innovation and career-building business acumen, both for employees and in their supply chains?

During her WTS membership and board service, Julia has seen the organization grow and evolve in myriad ways. She is particularly excited about the new program Transportation You, a hands-on, interactive, mentoring program that offers young girls ages 13-18 an introduction to a wide variety of transportation careers. Through the program, WTS chapters work to make a difference in the lives of young girls by offering programs and activities that will spark their interest in all modes of transportation and encourage them to take courses in math, science, and technology, which are the stepping stones to exciting careers that can change the face of the transportation industry. She sees this program as a great step to providing professional development for girls and women in all stages of their career. And, nearly two decades into her career, Julia continues to reap the benefits of her involvement as well.

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