Identifying and addressing the unique challenges women face in public transit, particularly in frontline roles, is the mission of a newly formed group at VTA known as Women Innovating Transit, or “WIT,” for short.
From standing in food bank lines on her split shifts to ensure her children were taken care of until the next payday to driving the bus routes she once relied on as a passenger, Shannon's narrative is one of grit and perseverance.
Her climb up the career ladder from a bus operator to a Superintendent overseeing VTA’s Cerone Division is a story of triumph against the odds.
With a small number of inspiring women as her role models over the years, Shannon shattered the proverbial glass ceiling. These role models helped her realize the limitless possibilities in her career and motivated her commitment to fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion within the transit agency.
The Genesis of WIT
Shannon spearheaded the creation of WIT by identifying and addressing women's unique challenges in public transit, particularly in frontline roles.
The group emerged from a necessity recognized by the VTA/ATU Local 265 Joint Safety Committee to address operator assaults and recruitment and retention challenges of women in bus and light rail operations. WIT, a first-of-its-kind initiative at VTA, was brought to life with a core team of ten women, all with former or current experience as bus or light rail operators.
WIT's Mission and Initiatives
The mission of WIT is to empower and support women in the public transportation environment, advocating for safety, inclusivity, and education. The group holds monthly meetings and has already made significant strides in its first six months, creating, among other things, resource corners for all employees. Initiatives like WIT Resource Cubbies, maternity uniforms, peer-to-peer training, and the WIT Leadership Certificate Program reflects WIT's commitment to practical, impactful change.
These initiatives stem from ongoing surveys that capture the voices and concerns of women on the front lines. The members of WIT’s “core team” all have one thing in common: they are passionate about supporting their peers and creating positive change.
Personal Testimonies: The Impact of WIT
Nichole Gallagher, a coach operator for over eight years, shares her connection with WIT. Raised by a single mother, Nichole's story echoes the struggles faced by many women in the workforce. Her ambition for WIT is to empower women, helping them build a secure future for themselves and their families.
dominated environment. Her experience underscores the need for mentorship and support, emphasizing how WIT can continue the legacy of empowering women in transit.
For WIT members, this is not just an initiative; it's a movement dedicated to building a culture of empowerment and inclusivity.
This collective commitment is key to paving the way for a brighter, more equitable future in public transportation, where every woman feels empowered to achieve her full potential.
(Front row left to right) Jessie Anne Cadimas-Rosa, Shannon Arms, Lisa Bradley, Stephanie St Onge
(Middle Row Left to right) Alma Ramirez, Suzanne Palm, Sara Cruz, Kenia Vargas, Alethea Roy
(Back row Left to right) Victoria Reeves, Shannon Rhodas, Ronisha Moses, Nichole Gallagher
VTA In the News
Watch Garvin Thomas’s NBC "Bay Area Proud" segment on our very own Women Innovating Transit (WIT) group and Superintendent Shannon Arms's VTA journey.