Kristin White, ITS America: 'We must bring different voices to the table'

Kristin White, chief operating officer of ITS America, explains how the MobilityXX initiative is evolving – and why community voices must be heard
April 25, 2023
Kristin White, chief operating officer of ITS America
Kristin White, chief operating officer of ITS America

ITS America partnered with The Ray and WTS International Foundation to launch the MobilityXX initiative in 2021 to address gender inequality in transportation. In the last two years, the emphasis has broadened, explains Kristin White, chief operating officer of ITS America: “I have friends and colleagues and mentees that are transgender and non-binary, so that's why this year we're rethinking the title of MobilityXX because it's not about a gender binary. It's really about this commitment to increase the number of women, women of colour, and people who identify as women in this sector, at least grow the number by 10% in the next 10 years.”

A workshop and forum at the ITS America Conference & Expo in Grapevine is designed “to reset expectations” of MobilityXX. “It's about amplifying women, finding sponsors for them, committing true resources to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging work, and to really talk about this,” White continues. “Because a lot of allies and people of power don't understand the experiences we face, not just within the workforce but in the transportation system - largely personal safety and security issues: for example, the fact that women are sometimes 70% more likely to die in a car crash just because cars weren't designed for women that looked like me.”

Inclusion of all kinds is a key driver for White. Her question in committee meetings and internal staff meetings at ITS America is: “Who's missing from the table that needs to be here?”

To that end, ITS America Events (RX Global) and ITS America are partnering to help pay “for these voices that have not been well served by transportation innovation”to come to Grapevine for sessions on transportation equity.

The money may be used for air fares or for caregiving services, White explains. “If we're not even including the community voices in these events - even if we have all the diversity within the professionals - we are still not achieving our goals,” she says. “And so it's not just about looking around about the professionals missing from the conversations; it's about looking around to see what community members must be empowered to help us solve these solutions together.”

This sense of inclusion needs to go further, she thinks. “I don't know if you've noticed this, but in a lot of these conferences we talk about solutions for the end users - but we don't have an end user on the panel!

We don't have a someone in a wheelchair or someone who's been in a near-fatal accident because a car missed them on a crosswalk. We don't have people from, for example, Texas communities who have been dissected by the interstates. We must bring those voices to the table if we're going to achieve our goals.”

White is naturally optimistic but accepts there are challenges. The United Nations, for example, believes gender equality is “300 years away”. White says the US workforce as a whole – not just transportation – has lost nearly “a third of women either leaving their jobs or just downshifting, choosing not to become a manager, just being a frontline worker”.

This is why she is committed to this work. “That really saddens me I really want to see gender equity in my lifetime. I think this is one small niche where we can make some progress. But even the Mineta Transportation Institute research shows us that from 2005 to 2019, we only increased the number of women in transportation jobs in America by 3%. So we have a lot of work to do in 10 years,” she concludes. “But every movement is meaningful, right? I'll echo Martin Luther King's words: ‘We're just trying to bend the arc towards justice’. And it's a long arc.

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