[00:00:00] Announcer: The following research is part of the National Institute for Congestion Reduction funded by the United States Department of Transportation through the University Transportation Center program. Learn more at www.nicr.usf.edu.
[00:00:25] Wayne Garcia: Welcome to Out of My Lane podcast of the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida. I'm Wayne Garcia, your host and a journalism professor here at USF. With us today is Jodi Godfrey. She's a senior research associate at CUTR and works on several transit safety and security related projects.
[00:00:49] Wayne Garcia: That includes mobility policy, transportation, construction, cost trends, public transit ridership, trends, and training development. Jodi has a background in civil engineering and degrees from the University of South Florida in civil engineering. Jodi, welcome to the podcast.
[00:01:05] Jodi Godfrey: Thanks so much.
[00:01:07] Wayne Garcia: It's great to have you here. We'll start off the same way we start off with all of our guests who make their first appearance on the show. Tell us about your daily commute.
[00:01:16] Jodi Godfrey: So I live about 45 minutes to an hour drive away from USF. , depending on what time of year it is and whether or not I drop my kid off at school. So usually during the school year I drop him off and then, and then commute in.
[00:01:33] Jodi Godfrey: I drive past a lot of cow pastures and wheat fields and so it's, most of my drive is pretty serene until I get to right near the campus where it gets a little chaotic. But you know, now that it's summertime, it's not too bad.
[00:01:48] Wayne Garcia: Are you mostly on the interstate or you got back road?
[00:01:50] Jodi Godfrey: No, all back roads.
[00:01:52] Wayne Garcia: Oh, wow. Well, I kinda like those too.
[00:01:54] Wayne Garcia: I like being on the back roads. At least it's not I4.
[00:01:57] Jodi Godfrey: It's not, and you know, it gives me some time to prepare for my day and then, wind down from my day rather than, you know, during COVID, it was like, open the door and what's for dinner immediately. And so it's nice to have that, that time to myself.
[00:02:12] Wayne Garcia: Yeah. You know, it's, and we've explored this with some of the other people who've been on the podcast that I'm always fascinated by the role of the commute in terms of that decompression from work. And there's a certainly a behavioral aspect of that. I think some people would have a hard time letting go of if they had to stay in addition to all the other things about staying at home and working from home and the benefits and disadvantages of that.
[00:02:39] Wayne Garcia: But that sounds like a show for another day, really. Here today, today's podcast episode is about women in transportation. As of March of this year, according to the US Labor Department and their numbers, women make up 24% of the workforce in the area of transportation and utility workers, which is obviously much lower than the population of women in general, and this is an area that Jodi especially is attuned to and has done research in. Jodi, how'd you get interested in this?
[00:03:18] Jodi Godfrey: Yeah, so the Mineta Transportation Institute out of San Jose University released a call for proposals back in 2018, and I responded to that and was awarded and published a paper on attracting and retaining women in the transportation industry in 2019.
[00:03:35] Jodi Godfrey: And so I've been sharing all of my lessons, learned as much as I can with the industry since then.
[00:03:41] Wayne Garcia: And so what did you find, and how did you do the study first, I guess, and then tell us what you found.
[00:03:45] Jodi Godfrey: Sure. Yeah. So I'll say I've even done a little bit of follow up since then, and transportation and utilities is about 24%, but if you break it down to just transportation, we're at just over 15% as of 2021, which is pretty abysmal, but it's up from the 12% that it started at in 2005 when the American Community Survey started collecting that information. And so we've made slow progress, but some progress. But I found a lot of that had to do with perceptions and that women often perceive the transportation industry as somewhere that's not necessarily family friendly and others have found that their industry actually isn't very family friendly once they get there. So it's not just perceptions all the time. You know, a lot of it depends on where you work and who you work for in the industry and, and that varies a lot. So aside from that, women really love to, in general do things that make them feel good about themselves and what we say fulfilled communal goals. And so oftentimes it's not as clear of the communal goal opportunities within the transportation industry. And again, perceptions dictate a lot of that. Leadership is probably another big influence in, in why I guess women aren't so, um, into transportation and that there aren't very many women leaders to look up to, to see themselves
[00:05:14] Wayne Garcia: Well, how'd you decide yourself to go this route as an undergrad and go into engineering? Because, you know, we hear so much over the last, uh, decade, 15 years about girls and STEM and, you know, trying to get women more involved in, in those, uh, STEM fields. What was your personal path to this?
[00:05:32] Jodi Godfrey: I, I was definitely an unconventional path. I was, first um, generation college student and my dad died pretty young. I was 17 when he passed away, so I was still in high school, but when I would study in high school, he would tell me, "You're going to be an engineer one day." And I was like, I told him he was ridiculous because I was never going to drive a train. And that's all I knew that engineers did . And so, you know, they say you, you listen to words a lot more when someone's gone. And those words did kind of ring in my head a bit. And after working for a while out of high school, I decided to go back to college and so I had no clue what I wanted to do and went for engineering because that was kind of the, the voice in the back of my head and got my associates and then came here and I still had no clue.
[00:06:16] Jodi Godfrey: And I remember Professor Nora telling me, "You have to pick something." And so I was like, well, I don't know. I guess I'll go. Civil, because that just seems like what I like. And then I took, uh, Dr. Pinjari for transportation and he was like the beacon that changed kind of my whole direction. He really told me how much he believed in me and like forced me into a lot of things that I would've never done because it was outside of my comfort zone.
[00:06:44] Jodi Godfrey: He, for instance, forced me into applying at CUTR where I still work now because it was during his help session. So he said, "I know you don't have anything to do right now because you're supposed to be in my class. So I made an appointment for you and you're going to have this interview at CUTR." And he walked me to my interview at CUTR.
[00:07:04] Jodi Godfrey: So I left there thinking there was no way I was going to get that job. And they emailed me the next day. I worked for Dr. Steve Polzin for seven years at CUTR and he, gosh, taught me more about life in general than I ever expected to learn, and then he introduced me to Lisa Staes who is now my boss and the associate director at CUTR, and she is the most incredible leader and has really brought me under her wing and taught me so much and watched me grow into the woman and a professional that I am today that was definitely not who I was when, when I first walked into that CUTR building.
[00:07:40] Wayne Garcia: Those mentors are so important and your own way now you're giving back by doing this research on women in transportation. So when you did that first study that you got the grant for, what did you want to answer and what did you find?
[00:07:55] Jodi Godfrey: So the main point, I had no intentions on finding anything new. I wanted to find what had been done already and what had worked. And so my whole goal was to synthesize all of the previous research and put it in one spot and come up with some actionable items that everyone had already come up with, but put 'me all in one place where you could get 'em almost like a toolbox.
[00:08:17] Jodi Godfrey: And you know, my biggest thing with research is I like research that is actionable. And I hate research that sits on a. My biggest goal of the paper was to find some actionable items that people as individuals and organizations could do to successfully attract and retain more women.
[00:08:35] Wayne Garcia: So what can they do to successfully attract and retain more women?
[00:08:40] Jodi Godfrey: Goodness. So there are so many things. So, and CUTR does a great job at many of them. First, you've already heard me talk about it. Mentorship, right? And mentorship is such an important thing that it's important that especially women see women leaders. And as I've been getting more and more responsibilities, I'll say, so my title changes. I transition into this leadership role, which is strange even to say sometimes coming out of my own mouth. But as you do transition, you have to remember to encourage and, and bring the others up, right? So mentorship is, is really important. Involvement in extracurricular, uh, professional organizations and activities is really important as well.
[00:09:19] Jodi Godfrey: It gives opportunities that are like mutually beneficial for both new professionals and the local professionals that are looking to hire new professionals and new students. And so, you know, it's really important. That's another opportunity to, to show your leadership positions as well is in those organizations. Promote opportunities and scholarships is is another way to really help encourage more women into the industries To go back to college, I qualified for a scholarship for a first time college generation attendee, and so without that, I would've never been able to afford my first semester, which is how I was able to get scholarships to continue to go to college.
[00:10:00] Jodi Godfrey: Right. College wasn't necessarily in my, in my purview. And so having those opportunities and, and providing those opportunities to the parts of the population that wouldn't typically have those opportunities is really important. And so that's why I love our scholarships, the Georgia Brosch Scholarship and the CUTR Scholarship and the New Voice in Transportation Award because they provide these opportunities to young students and new professionals that wouldn't necessarily be there. Aside from scholarships investing in improvements to show career path opportunities within your organization is one really great way to attract and retain women. So in general, no one wants to be hired to stay at the position that they're hired at, right?
[00:10:45] Jodi Godfrey: Yeah. Everyone wants to be hired to move up, and oftentimes we find moving up is not what you know, but who you know, and it tends to be the maybe air quote, "good old boy club," right? And so, um, having these clear paths to promotion really do offer a way to remove that unintentional or intentional bias and, and allow for employees to have clear understanding of how they're going to move themselves up within, within an organization.
[00:11:16] Wayne Garcia: How much of the transportation world, from transportation planners to engineers, to people who study it, to the folks who are building the various systems, whether they be transit systems or roadways or things like that. How much progress have we made in, in bringing those companies, those industries into thinking this way, into using these tips?
[00:11:41] Jodi Godfrey: We are making progress for sure, and especially at the leadership levels. Recently I've seen a lot of women CEOs being promoted, especially in the transit industry, and that's very promising to me because women tend to make up, you know, while we make up 15% of the whole industry, we make up a minuscule portion of the CEO, you know, C-Suites. And so it's really important, I think, that we continue to, to promote and give those women that are in leadership the opportunity to promote themselves as well.
[00:12:11] Wayne Garcia: It's the risk of, uh, veering into stereotypes, but what do you think women bring to transportation that maybe wasn't there before?
[00:12:19] Jodi Godfrey: Yeah, we are all stereotyped talking right now. Right. Of course.
[00:12:24] Wayne Garcia: It's, it's tough. It's a very thin line.
[00:12:26] Jodi Godfrey: It is, it is. And I've always kind of been the outsider when it comes to a lot of those stereotypes. Women have unique perspectives for sure. And I think all of our life experiences give us unique perspectives.
[00:12:38] Jodi Godfrey: I can guarantee you that no women has lived the same life experiences as a man, and if only men are at the table to solve the problems, then, uh, you're never gonna have that unique perspective. One clear case that I like to use as an example is stroller policies on buses. And so many transit agencies have a policy that you must fold up your stroller before boarding your bus.
[00:13:02] Jodi Godfrey: And if you think of a single mother with, let's say a double stroller, with two children and a diaper bag, and you try to take them all out of the stroller at once, carry everything and try to fold it up. Let's add some groceries to the mix. And now you've made it completely impossible for, for a woman to use transit on that trip.
[00:13:22] Jodi Godfrey: And so I think having women at the table, especially when you're coming up with even policies that might seem minuscule, like whether or not you need to fold up your stroller on a bus, really does make a big difference. Security is big difference that women tend to have versus men, and that we value lighting and people and crowds more so than men, and so we're much less likely to maybe use an underpass that was likely built for our safety, but not necessarily considering our security.
[00:13:54] Wayne Garcia: Yeah, I mean it's such a barrier to people using those modes of transportation, and I think, again, we've spent a lot of time on this podcast talking about the wide range of transportation options that are, are available now and need to be available more and need to be more accessible regardless of income level, education level, gender, so forth and so on, for people who think of the transportation system as just design and build roads and lots of asphalt, which I think probably served the male dominance of the industry for many, many years.
[00:14:32] Wayne Garcia: But now we're seeing that's not the best answer. Climate change, cost. Entry level for people who can't afford a car, for instance. Obviously CUTR is real open and receptive to this topic. In your example, industry-wide, are are, are women making gains? You mentioned earlier that you, you see some CEOs and things like that.
[00:14:53] Wayne Garcia: Is it still hard for women to assert themselves in this industry like many other industries that are male dominated?
[00:14:59] Jodi Godfrey: Yeah, it is tough to be assertive sometimes, and I think especially the feminine females struggle with assertiveness. I've kind of always been a little outside of the box and I came from a very large blended family.
[00:15:12] Jodi Godfrey: We were Brady Bunch ish, which, I now realize dates me because my, my son has no clue. This is like,
[00:15:18] Wayne Garcia: What are you talking about, huh?
[00:15:19] Jodi Godfrey: Who the Brady Bunch is... but my mom had four children and then she married my stepdad who had four children. And so we became a family of eight pretty quick. And as the youngest girl, I learned to be loud because that's how you got what you wanted.
[00:15:32] Jodi Godfrey: Life experiences, again, they, they shape who you are and change you, and it's important to learn, grow from the good ones, and also learn from the bad ones as well, and assertiveness. comes naturally for some of us and not so naturally for others. So it's important that for those of us that are assertive, we stand up for those that aren't.
[00:15:50] Jodi Godfrey: And we recognize kind of when they are choosing to not be assertive and use our voices for the, for the greater good. I think especially as we are still such the minority, it's tough to, if you're the only girl at the table, you know your opinion is different from everyone else. No matter how assertive you are. It's tough to bring up that point, especially if you know it's gonna ruffle some feathers. Right. It's important that we have allies in the room, even if they're not other females. Sometimes we have a male that will repeat, let's say what the only female said. There's a term that we say is he-peating where you take what a female said and and a and a male repeats it and all of a sudden everyone agrees.
[00:16:29] Wayne Garcia: Agrees. It's a great idea.
[00:16:30] Jodi Godfrey: Yes. And so while sometimes it can be looked at as a negative connotation, it's also ultimately serving the purpose of getting that female's. Served. I think allies are really important to have in the room to allow women to be assertive.
[00:16:44] Wayne Garcia: These best practices you found in your research, your literature review of reviews, these findings of things that need to happen to track and retain women in transportation, is that part of NICR now that, that there's an aspect where you're putting that out? Are you working on any NICR grants related to this?
[00:17:04] Jodi Godfrey: I'm not exactly sure where the NICR funding crosses, but I don't think NICR is directly included. We are working, I know through an FDOT project where we've recently interviewed 80 transit agencies or close to 80 transit agencies asking questions about what they're doing to attract and retain talent in general, not just females, but you can see that they are following at least some of the suggestions that they heard a few years ago. So that's promising.
[00:17:33] Wayne Garcia: That sounds good. Perhaps out there in the audience listening to this is a teenage young woman. Young lady who's thinking, "Wow, I wonder if I could do that." What would you tell younger women who have an aptitude for these kind of skills that we need in transportation? What steps should they take?
[00:17:49] Jodi Godfrey: Well, first I'll say you can do it if you put your mind to it, no matter how you feel. And imposter syndrome is real. And so often, even once we get started, we feel like maybe we're not sure that, we can actually do what we got started in doing and you can do it. And I'm proof of that. And I've done it day after day, no matter how much I felt like I wasn't sure if I could or not.
[00:18:12] Jodi Godfrey: And it's not gonna be easy. But oftentimes it's in those uneasy moments that we grow and it's important to continue growing. So I guess my biggest focus of point of suggestion would be to get comfortable being uncomfortable. That's life in general. No matter what you pick, stick to engineering because it's really awesome to get to solve problems and see that you're making a big difference in the world.
[00:18:37] Wayne Garcia: And there is a communal aspect to it. You, you're right. And you talked about this earlier, but as we've explored in this podcast, so many of these aspects of transportation, whether it's the type of transportation or how we do it or access to it, are such community issues are, are such, they cut really deeply into very real community problems.
[00:18:58] Wayne Garcia: And so you can make a difference. So if you're out there, whether you're a young man or a young woman, or a person of color or anything, this is not what you generally think of, like, I'm gonna change the world. But you are, you can. It's one of those fields where that is a possibility for you. You've done this research, you have this knowledge, and you have your advocacy.
[00:19:18] Wayne Garcia: Where do you want to see this all go next for you?
[00:19:22] Jodi Godfrey: Well, gosh, you know, I would love for this to not be a topic in let's say 10 years. Right now I'm working with ITS America on their Mobility XX Initiative, which is a goal of increasing women in the transportation industry by 10% in the next 10 years. So I think that's a very attainable goal, and I'm really hopeful that with all of our initiatives together and kind of everyone fighting to promote all of these opportunities that they can to attract more women, that we might be able to make a difference and not have to talk about this in the future.
[00:19:54] Wayne Garcia: That's great. Yeah. In 10 years, it's just, "Hey, you remember back when it used to be, there weren't women in here." Now it's, it's more representative of the community at large. Well, Jodi, thank you so much for bringing us this topic. When this, when this first showed up on our, our list of episodes, I was like, This is great cuz a lot of times we talk about cool technology or driver behavior or connected vehicles and all kinds of cool stuff, but we, we sort of forget the basics of the people who are doing this work and whether they're fully representative of our larger community.
[00:20:27] Wayne Garcia: Thanks so much for your research and, and your insights and thanks for coming in.
[00:20:31] Jodi Godfrey: Yeah, it's been my pleasure, Wayne.
[00:20:33] Wayne Garcia: All righty, and uh, everybody out there, we will see you in our next podcast episode of Out Of My Lane. Thank you very much. This is Wayne Garcia, your host, signing off.
[00:20:47] Announcer: The National Institute for Congestion Reduction NICR is a transportation research center focused on innovative congestion strategies. The center is composed of researchers from the University of South Florida. The University of California, Berkeley, Texas A & M University, and the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez, and funded by the United States Department of Transportation.
[00:21:09] Announcer: For more information, please visit www.nicr.usf.edu.