A couple months ago, my nine-year-old daughter came into my office with a list of priorities, things she would do if she had my job as Secretary of Transportation. (Her first priority, by the way, was to move every seat on the plane into first-class.)
Besides being one of those moments that every father wants to have on videotape, it was also a small reminder of what we know at the U.S. Department of Transportation: that there are many young girls who dream of a job in transportation – of learning to fly, for instance, or of becoming an engineer that designs a magnificent bridge.
Supporting these dreams isn’t something we should just do as parents; it’s something we should do as a nation.
Because from Amelia Earhart, to Emily Roebling, who helped build the Brooklyn Bridge, to my predecessors – Secretaries Elizabeth Dole and Mary Peters – countless women have left their mark on American transportation. They’ve broken barriers, including the sound barrier. And we should be encouraging more women to follow their lead.
That’s why we’ve developed a career pipeline at DOT – one that, at every step from the classroom to the boardroom, helps women and girls pursue careers in our industry.
For example, we’ve worked with the advocacy group, WTS International to launch Transportation YOU, a program that lets young women between the ages of 13 and 18 explore careers from air traffic controlling to running DOT’s Crisis Management Center. More than 600 girls have already taken part in the program, the vast majority of whom say the experience has changed what they want to study when they go to college.
That’s why, when they reach college, we have resources for them, as well. DOT is now working with 80 colleges and universities across the country to give young women first-hand experience in transportation jobs, including the opportunity to intern.
We’re also making it easier for them to access those jobs later on in their careers. Our Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization has an initiative that helps women-owned firms have a shot at building this country’s infrastructure. In 2012, we awarded more than $130 million to women-owned businesses.
All told, I’m proud that DOT, in concert with the President’s Council on Women and Girls, is honoring women and the history they make.
Because, one day, my daughter may have to abandon her dream of moving every seat into first-class, but I never want her – or any girl – to stop dreaming about the difference they can make in our skies and seas, or on our roads and rails.
Anthony Foxx is the Secretary of the Department of Transportation.