Moving Women Leaders Awards Event
Inspires Unity Toward Transportation Excellence
LONG BEACH, CALIF. -- More than 130 Southern California people gathered to salute six leading transportation officials making a difference at the premier Women Leaders of Southern California Transportation Awards on March 22, 2016.
The special awards program at the Grand Long Beach Event also commemorated national Women’s History Month, according to Gwendolen Gray, president of the Southern California Regional Chapter of the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO).
“We’re excited to honor extraordinary women leaders whose public service contributions have significantly impacted the surrounding communities and the transportation industry,” Gray said.
The inaugural awards were presented to the following individuals:
Lifetime Achievement Award
Honorable Hilda Solis, Supervisor, 1st District,
Los Angeles County and L.A. Metro Board Chair
Lifetime Achievement Award
Leilia Bailey-Leahy, Deputy General Manager of Operations
Excellence in Diversity
& Inclusion Leadership Award
Gwiin Correa, Chief Equal Employment Opportunity
California Department of Transportation, District 7
Executive Leadership Awards
Debra Johnson, Deputy Chief Executive Officer
Long Beach Transit
Beth McCormick, General Manager, Transit
Orange County Transportation Authority
Stephanie Wiggins, Deputy Chief Executive Officer
Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority
During their remarks, award recipients credited their success to other women whose sacrifice and dedication paved the way for continued service and leadership excellence – even during turbulent and challenging times.
“No matter what your industry, no matter what your race, there are still challenges. But we as women, we bring as much to the table as anyone else,” said Bailey-Leahy, a pioneer in the transit industry when she became the first female post-World War II bus driver. “I know that breaking into any industry that had been almost completely male-orientated is a very, very difficult task.”
During her acceptance speech, Correa took an opportunity to told a story about the care and consideration that First Lady Michelle Obama received when she met Nancy Reagan who shared helpful woman-to-woman advice. It’s that reliance on counsel from other women that has helped Correa succeed.
In a state rich with diversity, Correa understands the importance of inclusion and cultural awareness. She recognizes “the need for action that must be taken in order to ensure a more welcoming environment within the transportation industry and neighboring communities.”
Correa works with a small team to plan events and execute programs that introduce different cultures to each other, empowering them to embrace and celebrate their differences.
“It’s all about the people. It’s about our employees, but it’s also about the public,” said the Caltrans executive with more than 20 years of equal rights, training and public speaking experience.
Standing on the shoulders of great women who spearheaded equal-opportunity changes in transportation before her, Correa is also leaving her mark.
“We are ordinary people, but we’re doing some phenomenal things at Caltrans to make changes in terms of equal opportunity and civil rights,” Correa said.
During her acceptance speech, McCormick also shared her gratitude of the mentoring she received that led to her participation in COMTO.
As a way to give back, McCormick is highly focused on mentoring young people and mentoring women in the transportation industry.
“We mentor a lot of people, and I love that part of my job. It’s really the most fun … but you can’t do it alone,” said McCormick, whose wealth of experience spans from her 30 loyal years in the transportation industry from helping to start the Metrolink service in Orange County to the development of a paratransit program. “Mentoring gives you an opportunity to have that one-on-one time with people who are exactly where you were 30 years ago.”
During the event, a table of women transportation veterans from L.A. Metro recognized younger professionals seated at an adjacent table and vowed to continue to provide mentorship to help emerging professionals assume future leadership positions.
Gray hopes that the new awards program will sow the seeds for future generations of transportation leaders to come.
“The overriding factor of this year’s awardees is a demonstrated commitment to advancing and strengthening our nation’s transportation infrastructure across their diverse areas of influence and affiliations,” said Gwendolen Gray, COMTO Southern California Regional President. “We are proud to host an event recognizing these amazing women, and we are thankful for all they’ve done and all they continue to do.”
With over 1,700 members, COMTO’s mission is to ensure a level playing field for minority individuals and business on the transportation industry through advocacy and information sharing.
“The inspiring afternoon highlighted the work, dedication and passion of these six incredible individuals along with all individuals who are improving transportation today for generations to come,” Gray concluded. “We are grateful for these leaders, sponsors and volunteers for making the inaugural awards event a resounding success that touched all of us and inspired us to strive to be better and pave the way for future generations of leaders.”
On behalf of the Southern California chapter of the Conference of Minority Transportation Officiais (COMTO) I would like to extend greetings to you and welcome you to our website.
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