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ATDA Celebrates International Women’s Day

Cleveland, Ohio – On this International Women’s Day of 2024, the ATDA celebrates the women of our organization, and their valuable contributions to our collective success. As equal members in all we do, their voices are vital in shaping the future of our union for all. The ATDA has 25 system committees, 6 of which are led by women.  With that in mind, we asked those 6 women to share perspective about their work, their challenges, and their success:

Tracy Bainum

ATDA:  Tracy, as General Chairwoman of the SunRail System Committee, you have almost 30 years of railroad experience. What has it been like for you as a woman to build a career in this male-dominated industry? Also, to what do you attribute your success?

Tracy: What has it been like? To say it’s been challenging would be an understatement. I feel like I was too busy writing history to read it. What do I contribute to my success? Never let anyone else define you. Keep your sense of humor, and most importantly remember that the road to success is always under construction.

Caitlin Elison

ATDA: Caitlin, as General Chairwoman of the Alaska System Committee, you represent members whose work is complicated by an unforgiving natural environment. What is it like to be the lead representative on such a unique property and what challenges have you faced being a woman in that role?

Caitlin: I have lived in Alaska my whole life and have worked at the Alaska Railroad for the past 11 years. I am currently the 2nd General Chairwomen to serve our members and am only the 5th woman Train Dispatcher the Alaska Railroad has had in over its 100 years of serving the people of Alaska. To say we are in a male dominated industry is an understatement.

      The extreme weather conditions and remote locations the Alaska Railroad operates in present logistical hurdles that require meticulous planning and resilience. From addressing avalanches and earthquakes, to ensuring the safety of our coworkers in challenging terrains, the operational challenges are indeed significant. All while you are surrounded by men that may or may not take your advice seriously.

      As a woman in this role, one of the challenges I’ve encountered is breaking down traditional gender stereotypes within the industry. Knowledge is key. There have been instances where gender biases needed to be addressed, but I view these as opportunities to foster a more inclusive workplace. It’s crucial to emphasize that diversity, including gender diversity, brings a variety of skills and perspectives that contribute to our overall success.

      Additionally, building trust and credibility as a female leader in a male-dominated field has been an ongoing process. As a lifelong Alaskan I’ve worked hard to showcase my expertise, dedication, and ability to make sound decisions with the hurdles that the Alaskan weather and terrain throw at us. Encouraging open communication and mutual respect has been key to overcoming any initial skepticism.

Susie Inman

ATDA: As General Chairwoman of the NJT RiverLINE System Committee, what advice would you give to other women who aspire to be leaders in the ATDA?

Susie: Know your worth as an empowered leader and what you can bring to the table. Apply your skill set to better your organization as an ATDA leader.

August Miles

ATDA: August, as the General Chairwoman of the ATDA’s KCS System Committee, you are the lead representative for employees of a large, class-1 railroad. What inspired you to take on such an important role and what is it like to serve as a female GC in that environment?

August: I was inspired to become General Chairman for the KCS committee by my love for positive change and structure. I’ve always had a knack to seek out clarification on discrepancies between management and our (dispatchers’) interpretations of railroad rules and our written agreements between the Company and Union. I also have the urge to support and represent my fellow dispatchers who have become like family over the years.

     As a woman General Chairman in a male-dominated work environment, there is always an expectation to be exposed to some hint of sexism or disrespect due to my gender. However, I am proud of the people I work with and the lack of negative experiences I have encountered regarding me being a woman leader.

Erica Ray

ATDA: As General Chairwoman of the Tri-Rail System Committee, do you ever think about the women who may follow in your footsteps as a leader? What legacy do you hope to leave for them?

Erica: Absolutely! We as women are expected to be soft, seen and not heard. As time evolves, we are bursting through those barriers and showing that we are tougher than one can imagine. Strength and resilience is our superpower!!

The door has been open to those quietly standing by watching, listening and observing to move mountains.

     My hope is when the day comes for me to potentially step back (which is many years away, lol) those coming behind me will understand the obstacles (and there were many) which were defeated and the opportunities which were created for us to continue fighting the fight and will say “job well done.” My passion and integrity never wavered. For what I do is never for one, but for ALL!

Jessica Veltri

ATDA: Jessica, you are the General Chairwoman of the ATDA’s Amtrak System Committee. What is it like to work in that leadership role and what challenges do you face as a woman in leadership?

Jessica: I am extremely honored, but honestly also annoyed to be the first female ATDA General Chairman at Amtrak. It should not matter what gender our General Chairman is. Unfortunately, being female does come with its challenges.  I have been with Amtrak going on 28 years, anyone that knows me supports me 100%.  It seems like I have to work harder to gain the respect of those that do not personally know me. I do not let that bother me though, I know without a doubt I can be just as productive, if not better than, a male leader.