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A Special Tribute to Women Leaders

Posted by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao

Each year at the Department of Transportation, we make a special effort to recognize and celebrate the important contributions that women are making to transportation, and to our country. During the current national emergency, it is especially appropriate to recognize and celebrate the contributions of senior women leaders right here at the Department—as well as other women leaders in government- responding to the coronavirus national emergency.   I want to give a special shout out to the tremendous women leaders on the White House Coronavirus Task Force—especially Dr. Deborah Birx, the Task Force’s Response Coordinator and an eminent infectious disease expert, and Seema Verma, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services—who are helping guide our country through one of the most challenging health emergencies we have ever faced.

As many of you may know, I have always been a strong proponent of women in government.  Throughout my entire career, I’ve made efforts to launch initiatives to help women small business owners access greater opportunity through federal contracts, and to help women advance within the ranks of the federal government.  As Secretary of Labor, half of my senior leadership team were women.  And I’m especially proud to have so many senior women leaders on our team here at the U.S. Department of Transportation.  They are a key part of our efforts to ensure that that the Department—and our country’s transportation networks-- remain functioning and strong during the current national health emergency.    Let me name just a few:  FHWA Administrator Nicole R. Nason, and Deputy FHWA Administrator Mala K. Parker, who are working closely with state and local partners to keep our Nation’s vital highway systems running smoothly. K. Jane Williams, Acting Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), and Henrika Buchanan, Associate FTA Administrator and the FTA’s Chief Safety Officer- and their team- who are hard at work helping local communities keep public transit open and safe for the millions of people in critical occupations who need to get to work each day. Drue Pearce, Deputy Administrator of the Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, who is helping her mode ensure that energy and other critical supplies are transported safely.   Deputy Assistant Secretary for Budget and Administration Lana Hurdle, who helps ensure that the Department has the resources it needs to stay open and be there for our stakeholders.  Judy Kaleta and Cristina Aizcorbe, Deputy General Counsels who help the Department navigate the complex legal issues that must be dealt with every day. Laura Genero, Associate Deputy Secretary for Communications, and Tam Somerville, Senior Advisor to the Secretary, who assist me in meeting the huge demand for outreach with, and communication to, all our stakeholders.   And there are so many more, that it’s impossible to name each one!  But you know who you are, and I send you my heartfelt gratitude for everything you are doing during this challenging time.

Let me note that the Department continues to pay it forward by investing in the next generation of women leaders. Through the Women & Girls in Transportation Initiative (WITI), we offer internship opportunities to help young women enter the transportation sector. Additionally, our Women in Aviation Advisory Board was created to promote the education, mentorship, and recruitment of even more women into the aviation industry. And the Department’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization is hard at work helping women-owned small businesses successfully compete for federal contracts.

Through these, and many other professional development programs, the Department is helping to build the next generation of women leaders.  So as Women’s History Month comes to a close, I hope you will join me in celebrating the contributions that women have made—and continue to make—to transportation and to keeping our country strong and safe.

Please stay safe and give your loved ones my best!

Elaine