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Federal Highway Administrator Mary Peters
Excerpts from remarks as prepared for delivery
Annual 'Woman of Inspiration' and Scholarship Award Banquet
Greater New York Chapter of the Women's Transportation Seminar
Thursday evening, October 9, 2003, New York City

Thank you very much for this honor. I know WTS well. In fact, I'm one of you.

As I look around this room, it's hard to believe that 25 years ago, women in transportation needed to search for other women to talk to. We needed friends and role models to help us figure out how to get established in the industry, how to manage all the tasks of daily life, how to hold on to quality time for ourselves and for our families.

WTS is an organization for women and for men. WTS broke the mold for how industry groups exercise their power and influence. We use networking, empowerment, collaboration, and most important, inclusion.

As a member, I am proud of the tradition of networking and empowerment that WTS has nurtured. I think most of us look for the best and the brightest whether it's to find someone to go to for advice or for new talent to hire. Gender is not the issue. Qualifications, competence and capability are. We have our place at the table . . . we're working on occupying more of the chairs.

It is important for the industry and for our country to have women in positions of leadership. I am the first woman to head FHWA. Elizabeth Dole was the first woman to head DOT, from 1983 to 1987. There haven't been any more, yet.

Secretary Mineta and President Bush are committed to nominating and appointing women to positions of leadership within the Department -- the most in DOT history.

Now at U.S. DOT:

  • Jenna Dorn at FTA
  • Annette Sandberg at FMCSA
  • Marion Blakey at FAA.

Beyond these three, Nicole Nason is Assistant Secretary for Governmental Affairs. Others appointed by the President during this Administration are Ellen Engleman at RSPA, who has since moved to the NTSB as Chairman, and Read Van de Water, who was Assistant Secretary of Aviation. This spring, Secretary Mineta received an award from the National Foundation for Women Legislators for his commitment to appointing women to leadership positions.

Within FHWA:

  • Cindy Burbank
  • Chris Johnson (also a long time WTS member)
  • division administrators:
    Lucy Garliauskas in RI (past WTS National President)
    Sue Klekar in Nevada
    Kathy Laffey in NH
    Sandy Otto in Arkansas
    Jan Brown in Montana
  • others just one step from heading a core business unit.

Transportation is no longer a men-only industry. The glass ceiling and the concrete barriers are broken.

The presence of women in transportation as leaders and expert staff has helped make it better - more customer responsive, more environmentally sound, more intermodal, more collaborative.

Dealing with Congress is so much of my job right now. Cooperation is definitely needed. I know states want long-term stability from the reauthorized bill, not a short-term extension. While legislation is on hold, FHWA has been advancing environmentally sound process efficiencies through inclusion and shared decision-making. Sounds a little like WTS, doesn't it?

We are finding common ground with the help of the President's Executive Order and resolving disputes - some go back ten years or more.

  • Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges
  • Chittenden County Circumferential Highway -- Vermont
  • I-80 in Nebraska
  • Lower Manhattan Recovery Project - 9/11 recovery effort for transit

In the next few years, I want FHWA to make important contributions to America. To make great strides in saving lives on our roadways, relieving congestion, and completing needed projects while protecting the environment

That would truly be a great contribution to our nation.

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