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Opening the Door for Women in Transportation

Because of the success of students like Chanel Johnson, the U.S. Department of Transportation is expanding its internship program to get more women working in transportation nationwide.

Cross posted from the DOT blog.

I have to tell you about a most extraordinary young woman.

Chanel Johnson is a rising transportation star.  Even though she's only entering her sophomore year of college, she's already decided to major in math and mechanical engineering.  She's completed an internship in the Office of Road Design at the Georgia Department of Transportation.  And she's spending the summer here with us in Washington at as a safety defect engineer at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Chanel Johnson at the Women's Small Business Day at DOT Headquarters

Chanel Johnson at the Women's Small Business Day at DOT Headquarters.

You see, Chanel is part of a transportation pilot training program at Spelman College that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) began last September.  This program is designed to encourage young women to pursue careers in transportation by matching them with relevant internships in their areas.  And because of success stories like Chanel's, I was pleased to announce an expansion of this program during Monday's Women's Small Business Day at DOT headquarters.

Even though women are an essential part of today's labor force, they're extremely underrepresented in the transportation industry.  This internship program is designed to change that. 

Secretary LaHood, Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement Christina

(From left to right) Secretary LaHood, Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement Christina Tchen, Chanel Johnson, DOT Deputy Chief of Staff Marlise Streitmatter, and OSDBU Director Brandon Neal.

We're expanding from one region of the country to ten, so that wherever a young woman is enrolled, from California to Maine, there's a DOT Small Business Transportation Research Center nearby.  These Centers will provide resources, technical assistance, and outreach to all 50 states and U.S. territories. 

This is just the latest in a series of initiatives DOT has underway to encourage women in transportation.

In May 2010, I signed a cooperative agreement with the Women's Transportation Seminar International to encourage young women to complete undergraduate and graduate degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). 

Monday's Women's Small Business Day was another step in the right direction.  This meeting enabled female entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs to speak with DOT's small business specialists and share best practices. 

And last year, we were able to make over $30 million in awards to women-owned small businesses.  That's 12% of DOT's total contract awards.

DOT is committed to opening doors for women and allowing them to pursue their dreams – whether it’s in ports, engineering or aerospace firms, railroads, transit agencies, or even their own businesses. And I can't think of a better way than our internship program to encourage accomplished students like Chanel Johnson to devote their talents to successful transportation careers.

Ray LaHood is the Secretary of Transportation