Elaine Chao, Secretary of the Department of Transportation
Elaine Chao (1953 – present) was born in Taiwan and immigrated to the U.S. when she was eight years old. They settled in New York, and her father worked to go finish a college degree while working to support the family – eventually establishing a lucrative shipping company. Chao attended school and learned English. After college and earning an MBA from Harvard, she began a career in banking, working for corporations like Citibank and Bank of America. Chao was also interested in policy and governance and began working intermittently with the federal government in a range of appointed positions, ranging from work on the Domestic Policy Council to the Federal Maritime Administration. After Chao married Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 1993, she became even more interested and involved in policy. In 2001, she was selected to serve as the Secretary of Labor with the Bush administration, where she served until 2009, making her the first Asian-American woman to serve in a presidential cabinet. Chao was again appointed to a presidential cabinet when she became the first Asian-American Secretary of Transportation under the Trump administration – a role in which she still serves. Her top priorities for U.S. transportation are ensuring safety, rebuilding and maintaining transportation infrastructure, and leveraging technology for innovation.
Zaineb Abdulla, Self-Defense Warrior
Zaineb Abdulla (1991 – present) is an Iraqi-born activist and social justice advocate whose work has centered around women’s empowerment. Specifically, Abdulla works to provide self-defense classes for women who are deaf or hard of hearing, physically or intellectually disabled, and who wear hijab. Abdulla is dedicated to providing women the tools to protect themselves, especially for those who may face more harassment as a result of bias and Islamophobia. For women of all ages, abilities, and identities, a major fear about public transit is the harassment they face. And for many women, these fears are all too real – for women riders across the globe, transit can be a place of fear. And, with rising incidents of Islamophobic harassment and hate crimes, including “hijab grabs,” Abdulla knew that it was important to help women feel safe. It’s important for women to have confidence and feel safe on public transit – that they are not public property and that they have control. Abdulla, who is the Vice President of Deaf Planet Soul, wanted to ensure that tools for defense were not only available, but accessible. That’s why Abdulla has not only made many of her self-defense videos public on Youtube, but also signs the instructions.
Andrea Jenkins, Politician and Activist
Andrea Jenkins (1961 – present) is a Minnesota-based politician whose career has been dedicated to inclusionary policy and social justice. After earning a master’s degree, Jenkins began her work in public service in 2001 when she helped on the campaign for Robert Lilligren’s Minneapolis City Council seat. After his election to office, Jenkins became a staffer for his office. In 2005, Jenkins began to work for the office of City Council member Elizabeth Glidden. Under Glidden, Jenkins worked to create the city’s Transgender Issues Work Group in 2014. During that same year, Jenkins dedicated her efforts towards hosting a summit focused on transgender equality in Minnesota. After the end of Glidden’s term in 2016, Jenkins decided that she would run for the Minneapolis City Council, herself. She was elected to office in 2017, making her the first black openly transgender woman elected to public office. As a council member significant issue that she promised to address was that of equity in transportation. In particular, she emphasized the importance of active transportation infrastructure, especially in low-income communities and communities of color. Jenkins seeks to make Minneapolis more pedestrian and bike-friendly, prioritizing protected bike lanes and development projects for neighborhoods of color.
Mary Golda Ross, Aerospace Engineer
Mary Golda Ross (1908 – 2008) grew up in the Cherokee Nation in Tahlequah, OK. Ross earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics at just 20 years old and began a teaching career in math and science in rural Oklahoma. She quickly earned her master’s degree in mathematics in Colorado and became first known woman Native American engineer. After the start of World War II, Ross began working at Lockheed Aircraft Company (now Lockheed Martin). While there, Ross evaluating design issues on aircrafts, including assessing the P-38, the first military plane to fly faster than 400 miles per hour. In 1952, Ross was invited to participate in a top-secret project at Lockheed, in which she was the only woman and only Native American, that looked at the possibility of space travel. She spent a majority of the later part of her career encouraging Native American youth to pursue engineering. Ross participated in the dedication ceremony for the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian when she was 96 years old.