Sound Transit receives Rosa Parks Diversity Leadership Award

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Women's Transportation Seminar recognizes transit agency for ‘extraordinary' efforts in promoting opportunities for women, minorities

Sound Transit was honored last night with the Puget Sound Chapter of the Women's Transportation Seminar's Rosa Parks Diversity Leadership Award. The award, which recognizes organizations, companies and individuals for outstanding efforts in promoting opportunities for women and minorities in the transportation industry, was presented by the WTS local chapter at its annual recognition program at the downtown Seattle Westin Hotel.

Leslie Jones, Director of Diversity at Sound Transit, accepted the award on behalf of the agency. "Sound Transit has worked with tireless dedication to bring training, contracting and other business opportunities to the region's diverse communities," Jones said. "Our organization has established an exemplary track record of hiring women and people of color, and continues to actively facilitate the participation of small and disadvantaged businesses in its construction projects."

Disadvantaged Business Enterprise firms participation on Sound Transit transportation projects

The agency's efforts to create opportunities for disadvantaged business enterprises (DBEs) are making a difference. Of the $108 million in contracts invoiced within the $505 million University Link project for November last year, $26 million, or 24 percent, were performed by DBE firms. Another $14 million-13 percent-were performed by small businesses, for a total of 37 percent of University Link contract work done by small and DBE firms to date.

As part of the pre-bid conferences for University Link, Sound Transit conducted networking and outreach sessions to enable potential prime and subcontractors to meet and begin building relationships that will lead to collaborative work with Sound Transit. The agency has also hosted subcontractor and supplier forums in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.

Building DBE opportunities with other public agencies

Expanding on this effort, Sound Transit initiated "Business After Hours," a program that connects small, women- and minority-owned businesses with prime contractors. Participating agencies have included the Washington State Department of Transportation, the Port of Seattle, the City of Seattle, and King County. The first event in July 2010 addressed construction contracting opportunities; the November session targeted architects and engineers, and attracted more than 100 participants.

Sound Transit's Diversity Programs Office also has developed a quarterly best practice workshop with its counterparts at WSDOT and the City of Tacoma to continually refine and improve Sound Transit's administration of its DBE and Small Business programs.

The agency formerly hosted and continues to participate in the annual Regional Contracting Forum, a reverse trade show that gives businesses face-to-face contact with public agency representatives. Participants also receive information about upcoming contracts, agency processes, business assistance programs and networking.

Sound Transit's ongoing proactive approach to facilitating business opportunities for women and minority owned firms has garnered recognition from various civic and community-based organizations, including Tabor 100, which presented Sound Transit with its 2010 Crystal Eagle Leadership Award for Economic Development.

Employing a diverse workforce

Minorities comprise 22 percent of Sound Transit employees and women, 46 percent. Twenty-two percent of the agency's managers are minorities and 44 percent are female. According to U.S. census data for 2000, minorities represent 20 percent and women 50 percent of the total combined population for King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, the geographic areas served by the agency.

The agency's commitment to employing a diverse workforce dates back to its establishment in 1996, when the Board of Directors developed guiding principles for ensuring diversity throughout the organization. In 2006, the Board established an independent Diversity Oversight Committee, which meets every two months to track agency progress and advise Sound Transit on its diversity plans and programs. Committee members include representatives of small businesses, trade and craft organizations, neighborhoods and community organizations, and other interested parties.

"Thanks to our Board's steadfast leadership, the outstanding work of our Diversity Programs Office, and many other people at our agency, Sound Transit has set the example for achieving diversity in public transportation," said Celia Kupersmith, Deputy Chief Executive Officer for Sound Transit. "By honoring our agency with its esteemed Rosa Parks Award, the local chapter of the Women's Transportation Seminar has recognized the caliber and commitment of the people who make up this stellar organization. Everyone at Sound Transit looks forward to continuing the important work of building a diverse workforce and helping small, minority-owned and woman-owned businesses compete effectively for contract opportunities."