April 21, 2016

Women's Transportation Seminar International
Women's Transportation Seminar International

Multnomah County has received the 2016 Employer of the Year Award from Women’s Transportation Seminar International.  WTS International is dedicated to building the future of transportation through the global advancement of women.  The organization includes hundreds of chapters around the world with more than 5,000 members (women and men) that help women find opportunity and recognition in the transportation industry.  Joanna Valencia, Multnomah County’s Transportation Planning and Development Manager, will accept the award at the annual WTS conference in Austin, TX, in May.  

The Employer of the Year Award honors an organization for recruiting, retaining and advancing women.  Multnomah County’s nomination noted that:

  • The county’s Board of Commissioners includes four women and a woman commissioner (Diane McKeel) provides leadership in transportation by chairing the East Multnomah County Transportation Committee and representing the county on the region’s Joint Policy Advisory Committee on Transportation.
  • Women lead the county’s Transportation Planning and Human Resources positions in the Department of Community Services, that includes transportation.
  • Women manage the following transportation planning and engineering projects at the county:
    • Transportation System Plan Update
    • Bicycle and Pedestrian Program
    • Burnside Bridge Maintenance and Seismic Feasibility Study projects
    • Cornelius Pass Road Safety Improvement project
    • ADA Transition project
  • At the time of the application, the county employed nine women in roles traditionally held by men: five engineers, three engineering technicians, and the project administrator for the Sellwood Bridge project.

The county’s application stated that it “strives to be an inclusive organization for recruiting and retaining its employees.”  Some of the ways the county demonstrates this inclusivity are:

  • Having flexible work schedules
  • Providing work out-of-class opportunities
  • Offering apprenticeships that attract non-traditional employees
  • Assessing minimum qualifications for positions that emphasize transferable skills, such as life skills gained through household management or volunteer opportunities. This assessment encourages candidates to apply that might traditionally believe they lack the skills.

The county is a strong advocate for training employees to grow in their position and prepare them for future advancement within the county. The county provides an Executive Leadership Series for all executive management at the county and a Leadership Academy to develop a diverse group of management and non-management employees for leadership positions.

The county supports employee groups such as the Women’s Employee Network Group that focuses on identifying challenges and opportunities faced by female employees to gain better self-awareness, advance their ability to leverage skill and experience to achieve their full potential, and develop the county workforce.

Another example is the Lean In group of women working on the Sellwood Bridge project organized by Jill Wolf, the county’s administrator for the project. The group meets to discuss professional development topics such as speaking with confidence, negotiating, and mentoring. The group includes 24 women, including 10 county employees.

The county works to encourage women students to enter the transportation field through participation in two internship programs (College to County and the Summer Youth Program) that introduce high school and college students to careers in the public sector.

Multnomah County supports the involvement of its employees in programs offered by WTS, encouraging participation in the local WTS Portland Chapter and International boards of directors. Karen Schilling, the county’s former director of Transportation and Land Use Planning, served as chair of the WTS Portland chapter and the WTS International board, and current county employee Joanna Valencia serves on the WTS Portland chapter board.

Multnomah County maintains 300 miles of roads and 26 bridges, including six Willamette River bridges.   For information, visit www.multco.us/transportation.  For more information about WTS International, visit www.wtsinternational.org or the Portland chapter’s website at www.wtsinternational.org/portland