This year, as we mark Women's History Month, we at PennDOT are doing some reflecting. Transportation needs to work for everyone, no matter who you are or how you travel. At PennDOT, we're working to shift our perspective: we must not only be experts of our transportation system itself, but also in the challenges and inequities that our system perpetuates as we integrate new solutions and plan for future investments.
A core part of this is the concept of transportation equity, a personal passion of mine as Transportation Secretary. As part of this journey, I oversaw the release of the department's first
Dismantling Systemic Racism and Inequities (DSRI) report. This process gave insight into PennDOT's diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts, assessed structural racism in transportation and evaluated programs and initiatives that could help correct these issues.
Last November, we welcomed Nicole Tyler as PennDOT's first Director of Equitable Transportation. Nicole is leading the implementation of the report recommendations and moving forward other important equity, inclusion and belonging initiatives. With a background in creating and delivering DEI training programs, Nicole is a firm believer in the importance of creating and supporting a quality transportation system that works for everyone, regardless of gender, age, ability, ethnicity, or race.
For Tyler, that effort must start from within the department, where she has been focused on shifting mindsets and leading change.
"My vision is to move PennDOT toward a place where our employees value the perspectives of those around them because of, not in spite of, their differences – and that is a big distinction," said Tyler. "I want PennDOT to be a workplace where everyone has a genuine sense of belonging."
From there, Tyler says that employees will be better able to "ensure that equity and inclusion are embedded in all that we do – both in the workplace and out in the community."
From the very start of a project or planning phase, Nicole is working with the PennDOT team to collaborate with partners and stakeholders to best determine how to embed equity in all our short and long-range planning – making it part of the process, not just an afterthought.
It is incredibly exciting to see the changes underway at PennDOT. As a woman and person of color, Nicole brings a needed perspective to the department and our executive team. And she is bringing us new ways to think about, talk about, and advance equity and inclusion across the department and in all that we do. Her focus on valuing what each team member brings to the table has been welcome and needed.
As we celebrate Women's History Month, please join me in recognizing the work PennDOT is doing – large and small – to eliminate barriers to transportation access, foster diverse community connections, enhance mobility, and provide an equitable transportation system that serves all Pennsylvanians.