Diversity is a collection of differences. Inclusion ensures that all those differences are heard. Equity means that every employee and project partner have what they need to be their best and most successful. When we are mindful of these three things, we can embrace what makes us all unique and collaborate for the benefit of everyone.

There has never been a more relevant time to take bold steps to strengthen diversity, equity, and inclusion across the board. These efforts will minimize bias, recognize inequities, and foster an inclusive and respectful culture that are reflected in each organization’s mission, vision, and values.

Leaders across all sectors must invest time, resources, and courage to make progress on creating an inclusive work environment. We asked key transportation thought leaders to share perspectives on this important topic.

"With women only making up around 15 percent of the transportation workforce, it’s imperative that we continue to do all we can to inspire and attract staff that’s more representative of our state. It’s not only good policy but necessary as we work to build the nation’s first high-speed rail system, while taking into account the diverse gender and ethnic populations we serve.”

Melissa Figueroa
Chief of Strategic Communications
California High-Speed Rail Authority  

“Our HNTB Partners Program has long served to help small business partners conduct self-evaluations and business plans to grow as a company, for example. Our aim is to be intentionally inclusive on every project and around everything we do to provide meaningful roles, equitable opportunities, and build diverse teams to create a positive impact on the regional economy and the communities we serve."
Avygail Sanchez
Vice President, West Division Government Relations Director
HNTB Corp.

“At Metro, we believe small businesses are essential to building and maintaining our fast-growing transportation network. Over the next 30 years, we are going to need an almost unimaginable range of products and services – architects, builders, contractors, engineers, communicators, truckers, printers, graphic artists, financial analysts, construction managers, commodities suppliers, media buyers and advertisers, and the list goes on. We want and need large and small businesses to help do the work taxpayers have entrusted us to do – build and operate a world-class transportation system in LA County.”– Olga Mireya López
Senior Representative, Strategic Business & Construction Careers
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority

“Diversity— in gender, race, and culture, as well as thought, experience and age—is an often-untapped resource that can drive us toward the next generation of solutions. When we begin to welcome diverse people and ideas to the table, it can generate breakthrough thinking that improves project results, engages community stakeholders, and builds the foundation for future collaboration.
I believe it is time to reframe the conversation about diversity so that it will be perceived not merely as an obligation, but rather as a competitive advantage. In other words, it’s time to reframe ‘This is something I must do to win the contract’ to something more like ‘This is how I can differentiate my company and give my client the best possible solutions.’”
Diana Mendes
President of Infrastructure and Mobility Equity
HNTB Corp.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest we have witnessed and experienced in 2020 has highlighted issues of systemic racism and lack of equity in this country. Caltrans recognizes our leadership role and unique responsibility in State government to eliminate barriers and to provide more equitable transportation for all Californians. As a public agency we have a responsibility to improve people’s lives and communities.
Addressing these complex and emotional issues require conversations that are not necessarily easy to have. Caltrans is engaging in a series of conversations and listening sessions about the role of equity in transportation. These conversations are important and will shape how Caltrans moves forward. Caltrans has also committed to implement concrete actions to reduce disparities in our transportation system for underserved communities as outlined in our Equity Statement and Race & Equity Action Plan in the areas of People, Programs & Projects, Partnerships, and Planet.

Equity efforts are also about our Caltrans family and the communities in which we live. We will achieve equity when everyone has access to what they need to thrive.”
Tony Taveras
District 7 Director

“As a Black woman who grew up in Los Angeles, I have experienced years of dialog around improving diversity and inclusion as major incidents have disrupted the local scene.  Over the years, I realized that equity has often been just a buzz word. Each time something happens I have wondered—will this be the time—will this incident cause lasting change? The truth is that we should not even have to think about equity in the context of a response to the latest incident or headline.
Equity is an imperative and should be ingrained into our DNA. Collectively, we in the business community must address the economic and social issues that have limited access and closed doors to a large proportion of our community. It is time for us to recognize our responsibilities to the community as a whole and to sustain commitment to equity not only in words but also in our deeds, with intentional actions to eliminate disparity.”
Carolyn Flowers
Managing Principal
InfraStrategies, LLC

While we are achieving progress, there is much that must be done.

As leaders collectively make inclusion, diversity, and equity a corporate and personal priority, we strengthen the ability to collaborate, recruit, nurture and retain a diverse talented workforce. Executive leadership working in close collaboration with all employees, serve as change agents so we can all achieve successful best-in-class organizations.

Yoga Chandran is Los Angeles Office Leader for HNTB Corp.

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