In her own words
Transport it an essential part of daily life, but to get the best outcomes for society we need to integrate transport and land use planning. While this can be challenging, as a career it provides the opportunity to be involved in something that is important and meaningful to people’s lives, the functioning of the economy, and the protection of our environment.
AITPM represents people working in any facet of transport, including transport planners, traffic engineers, modellers, road safety and traffic management professionals. It’s quite a broad constituency, and we are very much focused on connecting and sharing knowledge across the industry. Our members are not just involved in built infrastructure, but also in programs and policies that influence how people travel.
Currently women represent 26% of our membership, with higher proportions of women coming through in the younger cohort; it’s a generational shift. I started as CEO of AITPM just before COVID, and pre-COVID it was largely a state based, in-person association, with beer and pizza after work technical events and networking, which was quite limiting in terms of who the audience could be. We have changed how we do things, and we are continuing to offer professional development online post-pandemic as it opens the door to so many people who couldn’t be involved before. Significantly, our female membership has increased over the past two years since we added our online activities.
The challenge for the transport industry is the breadth of the issues to consider, at a time when the industry is extremely stretched, with skills shortages. My personal focus is raising awareness and knowledge of key challenges we have as a society – gender, disability, inclusion, and climate - and ensuring our members’ work is addressing these. We are increasing our professional development and seminars on these issues.
When we focus on gender, we need to look at the differences and challenges women face in transport both from a career perspective but also in terms of a user experience. The reality is women’s journeys are different to how we have typically considered them, even from a transport modelling perspective. I see it as part of my role to ensure we are offering professional development and shining a light on issues that our members may have engrained biases towards that they didn’t realise – gender is only one of these issues.
In terms of enhancing safety, the challenge is how do we get what we have been talking about for years implemented. Integrating transport and land use planning is critical so we have services and activities in the right locations and connected with routes that are safe with natural surveillance, good lighting, and sensible crossing points. There are some interesting innovations coming through in safety, with technology around surveillance and AI to monitor movements and predict incidences before they happen which can in turn inform improvements to the environments.
Throughout COVID and the series of natural disasters this year the critical importance of maintaining transport networks to the connect communities has been in the spotlight. The Queensland Reconstruction Authority Board, of which I am a Board Member, is very focused on supporting the restoration of essential services and access to disaster affected communities as quickly as possible, as well as looking at how to rebuild back better. This strong focus of betterment and resilience is increasingly important as some communities are experiencing repeated extreme weather events. We need to ensure we have resilience in design, so we are doing things differently to prevent repeated damage and maintain transport connections.
My advice to people coming into the industry is to back yourself and know that sometimes when you are in a room of people you perceive to be more experienced, expert, and important than you, it doesn’t mean your knowledge isn’t worthy. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, because often the question you’ve got is what everyone else around the table is thinking but not willing to say.
I had leadership opportunities in my career quite young, which built upon my volunteer leadership roles. I was 34 when I became Chief Executive of the Planning Institute Australia, and it took me a little while to find my feet, but I had some good supporters and mentors. You need to build a network of people you can call on for advice but the reverse of that is you must provide that support network for others and give back. I work to ensure that I am giving an equal voice to women taking on roles in AITPM. I also volunteer as a mentor in the Mentor Walks program. In these walks you talk with two to three women from a variety of industries and the learnings and clarity come from the cross conversations.