Threatened, condescended to, vilified—many women faced big obstacles yet rose to the top of the transportation world. “Boots on the Ground, Flats in the Boardroom” (Levin/Crunican) may appear to be a niche book aimed at a specific audience. But the stories of 18 women, including former Federal Highway Administration chief Mary Peters and former Federal Aviation Administration chief Jane Garvey, are innately compelling.
Through WTS International, authors Grace Crunican and Liz Levin contacted and interviewed the subjects. Often, the stories are dramatic: LaVerne Francis Reid lost an air-traffic-control job due to injuries from domestic violence; her two sons died in a traffic accident. Fighting grief as well as sexism and racism, she reaches the top ranks of the FAA.
The book is a paean to the women it chronicles, not an objective or critical collection of mini biographies. Speaking of the book’s impetus, the authors state that, while “women do lead agencies, authorities and corporations … the numbers in no way represent true equality …Boards of directors of most U.S. architecture-engineering firms have, at best, one or two female members.”
Even those not passionate about women’s issues or transportation should find many elements fascinating, from Ann Hershfang’s experience with the shadier elements of the Central Artery/Tunnel project and Garvey’s recollection of 9/11 and its aftermath to Jane Chmielinski’s participation in AECOM’s growth to Susan Martinovich correcting President Obama’s assumption that her husband, not she, is the Nevada transportation director.
The interviewees’ thoughts regarding success and work-life balance are not new, but the book fulfills its goal to inspire women—and men—in non-traditional professional roles who face stereotypes and prejudice.