The National Academies

NCHRP Synthesis 20-05/Topic 54-20 [Active (Synthesis)]

Advancing Gender Equity in the DOT Workforce
[ NCHRP 20-05 (Synthesis of Information Related to Highway Practices) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $55,000
Authorization to Begin Work: 4/29/2022 -- estimated
Staff Responsibility: Trey Joseph Wadsworth
Research Agency: University of Memphis
Principal Investigator: Dr. Stephanie Ivey
Fiscal Year: 2023

Final Scope

In 2021, the United States Department of Transportation issued a Request for Information for Transportation Equity Data. More than 300 comments were received. The results demonstrate the lack of representation of women in transportation agencies and the lack of equity in compensation by gender leading to low gender diversity (including those who do not self-identify as a man or woman). In addition, commenters called for a reliable system for monitoring diversity in the transportation workforce, including gender, race/ethnicity, and ability. State departments of transportation (DOTs) acknowledge the lack of gender diversity in their internal workforces. Women comprise only 15% of the transportation workforce, and this statistic declines in executive and leadership positions and does not reflect those who may not identify as men or women. For women of color, the numbers are even more disparate. 

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) prioritizes creating pathways to equity during the term of its current President, Dr. Shawn Wilson. This priority includes fostering a culture within and across the DOT community that expands opportunities for under-represented populations based on age, gender, ethnicity, and race. DOTs have implemented programs, policies, and practices to address gender identification and equity. However, a synthesis of current practice does not exist to examine challenges and solutions to take a step toward gender equity in the DOT workforce.

The objective of this synthesis is to document current DOT practices related to advancing gender equity in their workforce.

Information to be gathered includes (but is not limited to):

  • Practices and policies focused on employment lifecycle, including (1) recruitment, (2) retention, (3) promotion, and (4) succession planning;
  • Engagement practices with universities, including minority-serving institutions, to create opportunity pipelines for future DOT employment (student recruitment, internships, or career guidance);
  • Practices in response to variations in governance and hierarchies including (1) civil service systems versus open hire capabilities, (2) union or non-union, (3) where human resource/talent management departments are on organizational plans, (4) if a diversity, equity, and inclusion officer is in place (and their location in the organizational structure), or (5) cross-functional or multi-disciplinary decision-making (interview panels, advisory or focus groups);
  • Practices on workplace experience such as (1) onboarding and workforce acculturation for new and mid-career hires, (2) how DOTs make their employees feel safe to be who they are, (3) use of employee resource groups, (4) training on gender diversity and equity, (5) targeted benefits like daycare programs, family and adoption leave (beyond FMLA), gender equity-focused workplace benefits (for example, health care and wellness initiatives); (6) supportive work schedules and telework opportunities, (7) practices to advance leadership opportunities and diversity, and (8) mentorship and career development (for example, support participation or membership with WTS, COMTO, SWE, SHPE, NSBE, or other growth opportunities);
  • Targets, metrics, or measures, and systems or tools in use by DOTs to track demographic information and uses of the data to advance gender equity;
  • Workplace complaint processes or harassment investigation and enforcement practices related to gender (above and beyond Equal Employment Opportunity requirements and where complaints are directed); and
  • Leadership actions and principles addressing gender equity.

Information will be gathered through literature review, a survey of DOTs, and follow-up interviews with selected agencies for the development of case examples. Information gaps and suggestions for research to address those gaps will be identified.

Information Sources (Partial):

  • American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, 2021. Presidential Emphasis Areas. https://www.transportation.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/21_22-Dr- Wilson-EA-brochure_web.pdf.
  • Godfrey, Jodi, and Bertini, Robert L. 2019. Attracting and Retaining Women in the Transportation    Industry.    Mineta    Transportation    Institute. https://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/mti_publications/259/.
    Hanson, Susan, and Murakami, Elaine. 2010. Women in Transportation. Public Roads, Volume 73, No. 5, FHWA-HRT-10-003. https://highways.dot.gov/public- roads/marchapril-2010/women-transportation.
  • Karimian, H. R., Rouhanizadeh, B., Jafari, A., Kermanshachi, S. 2019. A Machine Learning Framework to Identify Employees at Risk of Wage Inequality: U.S. Department of Transportation Case Study. ASCE International Conference on Computing in Civil Engineering 2019. https://doi.org/10.1061/9780784482438.004.
  • Metro, Kristal, Harper, Christopher, and Bogus, Susan M. 2021. Factors Affecting Workforce Resilience in Public Transportation Agencies. Journal of Management in Engineering, Volume 37, Issue 4. https://doi.org/10.1061/(ASCE)ME.1943- 5479.0000920.
  • National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2007. Racial and
    Gender Diversity in State DOTs and Transit Agencies. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/22010.
  • National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2019. Transportation Workforce Planning and Development Strategies. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25624.
  • National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2020. Promising
    Practices for Addressing the Underrepresentation of Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine: Opening Doors. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25585.
  • National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2020. "Finding, Keeping, and Advancing Women in the Transportation Workforce." Transportation Research Board Blog. https://www.nationalacademies.org/trb/blog/women-in-transportation.
  • National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2021. Attracting, Retaining, and Developing the Transportation Workforce: Transportation Planners. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/26429.
  • National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2021. Resource Guide for Improving Diversity and Inclusion Programs for the Public Transportation Industry. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/26230.
  • National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2021. Insights, Inclusion, and Impact: Framing the Future for Women in Transportation. Transportation Research Board Circular E-C268. https://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/circulars/ec268.pdf.
  • National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2022. TRB Snap Search: Workforce – TRB's involvement in research on workforce from 2020-2022. https://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/snap/workforce.pdf.
  • Ng, W. and A. Acker (2020), "The Gender Dimension of the Transport Workforce", International Transport Forum Discussion Papers, No. 2020/11, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/0610184a-en. Rouhanizadeh, Behzad, and Kermanshachi,
  • Sharareh. 2021. A Gender-based Analysis of Workforce Promotion Factors in U.S. Transportation Agencies. Transportation Research Interdisciplinary Perspectives, Volume 12, December 2021, 100457. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trip.2021.100457.
  • USDOT, 2021. Summary of Public Comments Received on the Department of Transportation's Request for Information on Transportation Equity Data, Docket No. DOT- OST-2021-0056.    https://www.transportation.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/2021- 11/Summary%20of%20Public%20Comments%20DOT%20Equity%20RFI.pdf.
  • White House, 2021. Fact Sheet: National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/10/22/fact-sheet- national-strategy-on-gender-equity-and-equality/.
TRB Staff
Trey Joseph Wadsworth
Phone: 202-334-2307
Email: twadsworth@nas.edu  
Meeting Dates
First Panel: September 29, 2022
Teleconference with Consultant: November 18, 2022
Second Panel: June 8, 2023

Topic Panel
Dani Doorn, South Dakota Department of Transportation
Lorri Economy, Utah Department of Transportation
Dr. Alireza Ermagun, Mississippi State University
Kiersten Hall, New York State Department of Transportation
William Hartwell, West Virginia Department of Transportation
Brenda Moore, Retired / NCHRP 20-05 Synthesis Oversight Panel
Dr. Hilary Nixon, Mineta Transportation Institute San Jose State University
Amanda Olive, North Carolina Department of Transportation
Kimberly Webb, Michigan Department of Transportation
Martha Kenley, Federal Highway Administration Liaison
William Anderson, Transportation Research Board Liaison

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