WASHINGTON, D.C.— A chief state transportation engineer, a vice president at HNTB Corp., two transportation policy project managers, and a women-led civil engineering firm are the 2020 winners of the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) Foundation’s “Women Leaders in Transportation Design & Construction” awards.
The awards were presented in three categories Oct. 20 at the ARTBA National Convention, held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ethel Birchland Lifetime Achievement Award
This award is named after a top ARTBA executive from the mid-1920s and is given to individuals who have demonstrated outstanding leadership, long-term service in the industry’s public or private sectors and dedication to the advancement of innovation and other women leaders.
Meg Pirkle, chief engineer, Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT)
Pirkle has been with the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) for more than 30 years and has been chief engineer at GDOT since January 2015 – the first woman to hold the job. She oversees management of the agency’s statewide Engineering, Construction, Operations, P3 and Intermodal Divisions. During her term as assistant to the chief engineer, Pirkle took on the enormous role of managing daily operations of the federal stimulus program and successfully guided GDOT’s implementation of the $930 million initiative, meeting every national deadline and criteria. She spearheaded the initiatives to implement the governor’s Winter Weather Taskforce recommendations for the Department.
Mary Jane O’Meara, vice president, HNTB Corp.
O’Meara is a collaborative, innovative senior transportation leader with a proven track record of leading and working with diverse groups, including city, state and federal transportation officials to accomplish complex goals. Her more than 40 years of experience includes two decades working for the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport), serving as operations manager and director of the Tobin Memorial Bridge. She is also a past president of the International Bridge, Tunnel, Turnpike Association (IBTTA).
At HNTB, O’Meara plays a major role in growing the firm’s toll practice. She continues to be a strong advocate for professional development and serves as an active mentor to many professionals in the transportation community. She is a longtime member of the Women’s Transportation Seminar, Inc. (WTS), having held various leadership positions, including Boston chapter president, Boston chapter board and WTS International president.
In 2015, O’Meara joined a prestigious list of women who’ve made a difference in the transportation industry and was featured in the book, Boots on the Ground, Flats in the Boardroom: Transportation Women Tell Their Stories by Grace Crunican and Elizabeth Levin.
The Glass Hammer Award
This award honors companies in the transportation construction industry that have innovative programs and activities directed at successfully promoting women leaders within their organization.
A. Morton Thomas and Associates, Inc. (AMT), Rockville, MD
Women have held influential leadership positions with A. Morton Thomas and Associates, Inc. throughout the firm’s 65 years. AMT was co-founded by A. Morton Thomas, PE, LS and his wife Georgia Thomas, who served as chief financial officer until 1983 when Christine Teates became president.
As one of the first female presidents of a civil engineering firm in the mid-Atlantic region, Teates worked to continue elevating female presence in the A/E/C industry. The objective of empowering female employees remains firmly embedded in AMT’s company culture and is reflected in the diverse roles and contributions of women across departments. With 12 female licensed professional engineers, more than 20 female staff within marketing and operations, and representation on the board of directors, AMT boasts more female management than it ever has. AMT female project managers and marketing managers have been at the helm of many of the projects recognized for engineering excellence and innovation.
Future Industry Leader Spotlight Award
This award recognizes students enrolled in undergraduate or graduate studies at a U.S. college or university who have achieved an outstanding academic record and demonstrated extraordinary leadership skills within and outside of the academic environment.
Peyton Gibson, University of Colorado, Denver
Currently the Associate Program Officer at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in Washington, D.C., Gibson collaborates with leading industry, academic and public sector experts to advise the federal government on issues of the built environment. She is pursuing her master’s degree in Transportation Engineering at the University of Colorado Denver.
Gibson’s career goal is to help American communities live higher quality, happier lives in sustainable places by influencing the design and policies of transportation and the built environment. The research topics she covers at work and in school range broadly from the economics of bike lanes and sidewalks to national appliance energy efficiency standards and management of nuclear waste sites.
Smita Yamgar, Columbia University
Smita Yamgar’s strength is in construction project management. While pursuing her master’s at Columbia University, she was selected as the representative for the Civil Engineering and Engineering Mechanics Department and represents the Engineering School as a delegate at the Interschool Governing Body of Columbia. Throughout her tenure at Columbia University, she has demonstrated her leadership skills while proving herself as tenacious, undaunted student. Yamgar is the first woman to receive Indian Government Scholarship for her graduation. Prior to enrolling in the master’s program at Columbia, Yamgar completed her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from a top university in India, seizing the Gold Medal Award for achieving the highest grades in engineering. Finally, she has seven years of field experience in transportation, infrastructure, residential, commercial, power plants and industrial construction projects.