IBTTA Task Force on Diversity, Social and Racial Inclusion Marks Second Anniversary

As part of his tenure as president of International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA), Transportation Corridor Agencies (TCA) CEO Samuel Johnson instituted a Task Force on Diversity, Social and Racial Inclusion. The Task Force, formed in August 2020, works to implement practices and programs that contribute to social justice and expanding recognition for black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) and the LGBTQ+ community.

“Establishing the Task Force at such a pivotal time in our society (in the wake of George Floyd’s murder) was an important step, but the continuation and expansion of the vision to make IBTTA even better is what elevates my spirit,” Johnson said. “The Task Force has excelled in its efforts to broaden inclusion, creating an environment that fosters understanding through enlightenment, best practices and recognition. This combination has created not just a foundation, but also a road we must continue to travel to ensure that we welcome sustainable representation from the abundance of talent which exists throughout our industry.”

IBTTA, the worldwide association for the owners and operators of toll facilities and the businesses that serve them, recently marked the Task Force’s second anniversary by having a conversation with the co-chairs, Ferzan Ahmed, Executive Director of the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission, and Joi Dean, CEO of the Richmond Metropolitan Transportation Authority, who were selected by Johnson to champion this effort. 

“Ferzan and Joi are incredible people. Our association is better because of their leadership. The immediate success of the Task Force is visibly evident in the diverse faces and voices we are seeing/hearing at our conferences both virtually and in-person,” Johnson said. “I now know that when I attend/participate, I am going to meet and build even more new relationships with people who are making a difference in the industry and that more of them will look like me!”

The following blog post was originally published by the International Bridge Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA)

Formed in August 2020, the  IBTTA Task Force on Diversity, Social and Racial Inclusion was created to listen to the voices of those in our association and society who truly understand and recognize the depth of the inequity caused by racial and social injustice. With this knowledge, the Task Force has created and implemented practices and programs that contribute to racial and social justice in the IBTTA family and beyond.

As we look towards the second anniversary of the Task Force’s first meeting on August 25, Tolling Points spoke with co-chairs Ferzan Ahmed, Executive Director of the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission, and Joi Dean, CEO of the Richmond Metropolitan Transportation Authority, to visit the work it’s accomplished over its tenure.

What accomplishments are you most proud of over the last few years?

Joi: There are a couple accomplishments that make me most proud. The first is that over the course of a very short time period, we were able to organize ourselves, set goals, and work towards accomplishing them. As an HBCU alum and as someone who is passionate about young people and ensuring that they have resources to succeed, I am most proud that we established an HBCU Scholarship.

Ferzan: I am most proud of the fact that each working group created tangible goals and met them.

The Task Force has three working groups. Could you provide some insight on what you’re focusing on now in those groups?

Ferzan & Joi: Based on feedback from all members we created 3 groups – Enlightenment, Recognition, and Best Practices and Growth. The Enlightenment Group is focused on education and uses book clubs, safe space conversations, as well as a new lecture series, to promote awareness about racial inequities and inclusion. The Growth and Best Practices Group is focused on partnerships with groups such as COMTO, WTS, as well as collecting best diversity and inclusion practices from both public and private sector entities. The Recognition Group is focused on working with the IBTTA Foundation to award scholarships to minority students and to select public and private sector entities/projects for DEI awards to be presented at annual meetings.

You’ve held safe space discussions both in person and virtually. Can you talk about the progress and growth you’ve seen over time during those discussions?

Ferzan: The safe space conversations started with the annual meeting in Anaheim.  It provided an opportunity for people to open up and share what was weighing heavily on them. The topics have ranged from racism to LGBTQ issues. These are no judgment safe zones and many people have commented about how much they have learned from these conversations.

Joi: The Enlightenment Group really believed that it was important for the IBTTA community to talk to one another, listen to one another and learn from one another. The safe space discussions provide an opportunity to speak freely in an environment that is a judgment free zone. We have had safe space conversations via Zoom and in person at both the Annual Meeting in Anaheim and the Technology Summit in Orlando. These conversations helped us to be comfortable in the uncomfortable. With each of the conversations, there has been a level of greater understanding and growth. I am certain that everyone who has had the opportunity to participate in at least one of the conversations has learned not only more about the topic that was discussed but has been able to take away some type of lesson that can improve the way in which they may perceive the world.  

What are the best ways an IBTTA member can become involved and help push the work of the Task Force forward?

Joi: Participate in the safe space discussions, join the IBTTA Book Club (best kept secret: we like for you to read the books, but it isn’t mandatory) and check out the diversity program best practices on the IBTTA website. If interested in greater participation, join the Task Force. 

Ferzan: Anyone interested can reach out to me or Joi Dean. Several people have joined recently based on what they heard at a conference.

The IBTTA 90th Annual Meeting & Exhibition is being held Sept. 17-20, 2022. What meeting events and opportunities do you have for members at the meeting?

Ferzan: We plan to have a safe space conversation which will be facilitated by a professional facilitator. We will also have a Diversity & Inclusion panel where people from different organizations will share their thoughts and experiences.  

Joi: A public sector entity will receive the Diversity Award, and for the first time, a private sector entity will be awarded as well.  

Anything else you would like members to know?

Joi: Over the course of the last couple of years, I have been fortunate to serve as one of the Co-Chairs of the Task Force, but it is the work of the entire group that should be celebrated. Every member of the Task Force is committed to ensuring that we fulfill the mission set forth by former president, Samuel Johnson. I know that anyone who has participated in any of our programming has been impacted by the work of the Task Force and I am hopeful that impact can be felt in the communities that they serve.

Ferzan: Participation in a meeting, a book club or a safe space conversation will have a lasting impact on the participant. I find that I am a kinder and more patient person as a result of learning from and listening to my peers.

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