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----------------------------------Facing challenges head on
Kathleen Holst, president, Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association (IRTBA)
Holst grabbed IRTBA's reins in December 2005—the first woman in the association's history to do so. She'd already served as president of the American Traffic Safety Services Association, founded Alternate Construction Controls Inc., and accepted her current position as vice president of NES Rentals' Traffic Safety Midwest division after it bought her company. Although she's been asked several times what it's like to be a woman leading a male-dominated field, she doesn't think her gender is much of an issue.
“Being a woman makes no difference to me, but to others it makes a lot of difference,” she says. Several years ago, when asked what the future would hold for women, Holst said, “I hope that by the time my daughters have the opportunity to lead, no one will notice that a woman is taking on a ‘man's role.' We're not there yet.”
In the meantime, Holst has more daunting challenges.
“Funding needs are at an all-time high, congestion mitigation is an unfunded focus, and the safety of the motoring public and our workers has finally received prominent attention,” she says. Compared to these realities, Holst says, gender matters little.
“I was asked to speak to a group of businesswomen to describe the rocks in the road along the way, and I honestly had to tell them there aren't any rocks—just everyday challenges that we have to face head on,” she says. “If we looked at those issues as ‘rocks,' entrepreneurs would become extinct. We'd spend all our time worrying about what's to come and very little time planning. If a rock falls in your path, just jump over it and keeping running forward.”
— Jenni Spinner