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Women's History Month 2023

March 27, 2023

Women's History Month began as a national celebration in 1981 when Congress authorized and requested the President to proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982 as “Women’s History Week.” It wasn't until 1987, after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project, Congress designated the entire month of March 1987 as “Women’s History Month.”

Women's History Month celebrates women who have built, shaped, and improved the world in which we live. Women like Caroline Le Count who played an integral role in successfully integrating Philadelphia's streetcars; Rosa Parks who resisted segregation by refusing to move to the back of a bus; and Jane Jacobs whose book "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" is one of the most influential books in the history of city planning and her concepts still influence pedestrian and transit planning efforts today.

Globally, women constitute the majority of public transportation users. The latest data from the American Community Survey (ACS) of the United States Census concludes that women are more likely to ride public transportation to work. In fact, in the United States 55% of mass transit riders are women. On SEPTA, the number of women riding is closer to 61%!

Women have different needs and behaviors when it comes to transportation and mobility. Studies show that whereas men’s travel patterns are fairly easy to predict, women’s are more complex due to the social roles ascribed to them. Women are also more likely to "trip-chain:" where they engage in multi-purpose and multi-stop trips along their journey likely due to household obligations such as childcare, assisting elderly family members, and making grocery stops. The difference is significantly higher among women who have young children. Having a young child in the house increases women’s trips by 23%. This data is one of the reasons why SEPTA moved to free transfers on transit in 2020. It's also why we're revolutionizing our bus network to be more efficient, reimagining Regional Rail to go beyond the commute, modernizing our trolleys so that they are not only ADA accessible, but also stroller-friendly, and creating an easier-to-navigate metro system with better wayfinding and safety at the forefront. As an agency, we recognized the need to improve equity, affordability, and ease-of-travel for our customers. 

Historically, transit has not been a highly accessible career space for women. Even today - women comprise only 15% of the transportation workforce - and even less at the CEO and C-suite level. SEPTA's workforce is 23% women - and growing! 

At SEPTA, we are proud to be opening those pathways and supporting all of our employees in their careers and providing opportunities for growth and advancement. For example, Melissa Cooper, RA, has been a devoted employee at SEPTA for 16 years and currently serves as the Manager of Architectural Engineering for Buildings and Bridges. Melissa has worked tirelessly to extend the lives of all of the buildings, bridges, facilities, and stations every day so that they will be there for the next generations to continue to improve. SEPTA and the community are undoubtedly stronger because of Melissa’s enthusiasm and diligence in striving to leave the organization better than they found it. 

Pamela Terrell works at Olney Transportation Center where she "loves the energy." Since she grew up in the area, so many of the riders she sees are friends, neighbors, and even relatives! She knows ASL (American Sign Language) - so if anyone who is hearing impaired has a question - Pamela is able to go above and beyond to help them. 

Tricia works at 69th Street Transportation Center in Upper Darby as a Cashier and is celebrating 21 years as a SEPTA frontline employee. She enjoys working at SEPTA so much that she encouraged her daughter to work at SEPTA too.

Althea has worked in Passenger Services at Jefferson Station for 11 years. She is most proud of the work she did on the front lines helping riders for the first two years of the pandemic.

SEPTA General Manager/CEO Leslie S. Richards is SEPTA's 11th General Manager/CEO. Ms. Richards oversees a budget of more than $2 billion and 9,500 employees as the sixth largest public transportation agency in the U.S. SEPTA operates across six transportation modes and has 2,800 vehicles in service, 285 subway and rail stations, 13,000 bus and trolley stops, and 150 routes. Prior to joining SEPTA in 2020, Ms. Richards served as the first woman secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), one of the largest and most innovative transportation agencies in the U.S. She teaches a graduate transportation planning program at the University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design. A staunch advocate for women and diversity in transportation and government, Ms. Richards has been recognized for her leadership in the industry and commitment to public service.

SEPTA is extremely proud of these and all of the women at SEPTA whose hard work and commitment continue SEPTA’s legacy and have made a positive impact on the community at large.

To join our team, please visit to explore open opportunities!