By Jessica Loi

In any industry, diversity is crucial to achieving a healthy work environment. For this purpose, the Women in Transportation Seminar (WTS) is committed to equalizing opportunity for disadvantaged employees in transportation. The WTS is an international organization devoted to improving the transit industry by encouraging women to further advance their careers in the field. They offer programs, networking channels, fellowships, employment resources, and scholarships with the purpose of attracting women to professions within transit agencies.

The San Mateo County Transit District is an employer of many active members in the WTS San Francisco Bay Area Chapter. Of these members, April Chan—Chief Officer for Planning, Grants, and the Transportation Authority (TA)—was bestowed with the 2016 Rosa Parks Diversity Leadership Award, which honors individuals who have advocated for cultural awareness and diversity within their organization. Chan is a longstanding member of the WTS, and presently serves as Chair of the Chapter Leadership Committee. She was recognized for her support of the Chapter’s leadership program and encouragement of diversity and multicultural understanding within the District. “I think it’s really important not to be afraid to try different things,” said Chan, “and be confident about your skills and what you can bring to the table.”

The Women’s Leadership Program began in spring of 2014 and is unique in its emphasis on peer-to-peer interaction and close guidance from facilitators. “We have started a movement by keeping the graduating groups together throughout the program and encouraging them to continue networking with each other throughout their careers,” said Camille Williams, president of the Women’s Leadership Program and Diversity Liaison of the Chapter. Williams had an integral role in the creation of the program by formulating early drafts of the curriculum and ensuring its affordability to gain participants from various backgrounds.

In addition to April Chan’s award, Caltrain also received the Innovative Transportation Solutions Award for the Peninsula Corridor Electrification Project (PCEP). This honor is awarded to projects led by women that make a significant contribution to the welfare of a community. The PCEP intends to electrify the Caltrain corridor connecting San Francisco and San Jose by the year 2020. With this upgrade, the rail service will increase in performance, efficiency, safety, and reliability for passengers and workers alike.

The San Mateo County Transit District strives to remain a leading agency in diversifying the transportation workforce. In doing so, they aim to better the lives of people living in the Bay Area. “Transportation isn’t only about moving people,” Chan said. “It mobilizes the public and helps the environment, making it a big contributor to everyone’s quality of life.”

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