The U.S. Department of Transportation offers a number of programs to help disadvantaged business enterprises grow and thrive. Among them are programs for minority and women owned businesses, as well as businesses owned by the disabled and veterans. Additionally, since 2010 the DOT has maintained a Women and Girls Initiative that supports internships and educational opportunities for women in the transportation industry.
History of the Women and Girls Initiative
As part of the federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program, the Department of Transportation is tasked with increasing participation of minority, women-owned and other disadvantaged businesses in federally funded transportation projects. To address gaps in fulfilling that goal, in 2009 the DOT partnered with Spelman College, an historically black women’s college in Atlanta, Georgia, to form the “Pilot Entrepreneurial Training and Technical Assistance Women and Girls Program.” The purpose of the program was to encourage young women to pursue careers in science, technology and engineering, as well as to help women already in these fields to achieve their career goals.
The program focused on two areas. The first was an internship program, which placed 28 young women in positions with the Georgia Department of Transportation, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit and the Federal Aviation Authority and private businesses in the transportation industry. The second was a series of town halls and roundtable discussions with women transportation contractors, which helped to identify the types of technical and financial resources that women in the industry need to achieve success.
After the successful completion of the pilot program, the DOT established the Women and Girls Initiative, which funds internship programs offered by state Small Business Transportation Resource Centers. These internships are now available to women college students in all 50 states.
Focus and Goals of the Women and Girls Initiative
As stated, the main goal of the Women and Girls Initiative is to encourage young women to pursue STEM careers (careers in science, technology, engineering, math) and to help women already in these fields achieve career success. As part of that overarching goal, the program focuses on a number of distinct areas and activities. These include:
- The creation of career and internship opportunities for women in local communities
- Educating young women on the many career opportunities available in the STEM fields (in which the United States had 3 million more jobs than people to fill them in 2016.)
- Creating a Women in Transportation Advisory Committee in each region to assist in establishing strategic partnerships with government and private industry contractors.
- Identifying barriers to economic competitiveness for women in the transportation industry and helping them develop the tools they need to achieve their business, career and financial goals.
How to Locate Resources
The Women and Girl’s Initiative (now the Women and Girls in Transportation Initiative, or WITI) is administered by Small Business Resource Transportation Centers across the United States. In addition to their role in administering this program, SBRTCs also provide business counseling, including training, certification and technical assistance to disadvantaged businesses free of charge.
To find the SBRTC partner in your region, check the Department of Transportation SBRTC web page. If you need additional assistance, contact the Regional Assistance Division of the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization at either of the email addresses shown below:
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