Still a Long Way to Go? by Dave Feehan

I read last week in the Minneapolis Star Tribune that in the wake of the firing of the athletic director at my alma mater, the University of Minnesota, for sexual harassment, the university president had extended contracts and given substantial raises to a number of coaches. Talk about income inequality! In the field of college athletics, male coaches sometimes make double, triple, or even quadruple what female coaches make in the same or comparable sports. Of course, the revenue sports—football, basketball, and hockey—are the places to make big bucks if you’re coaching, and women’s sports don’t generate the revenues that big-time men’s sports produce. Further, any athletic director will tell you that if you want to be competitive in big time college athletics, you have to be prepared to pay seven-figure salaries to male coaches in football and basketball.

What does this have to do with parking?

I also happened to be perusing the August issue of The Parking Professional this morning and was delighted to see a good friend, Kim Jackson, CAPP, IPI’s board chair, featured on the cover. This afternoon, I’m finishing up some final chapters for a book on women and downtowns I’ve been working on for a couple of years. (Full disclosure—a few prominent IPI members are contributing authors.)

In our research, my chief co-author, Dr. Carol Becker, and I found that women are generally thought to make or influence around 80 percent of retail decisions, residential decisions, and healthcare decisions. Women control more than half of the private wealth in the U.S. and represent nearly 60 percent of college graduates today. Yet women are woefully underrepresented in the professions that design the downtown experience.

Parking, like architecture, urban planning, urban design, landscape architecture, real estate development, commercial real estate brokerage, civil engineering, construction, and a host of other related professions, has been and is still male-dominated. More women have moved into these professions, yet they have not achieved parity in the upper levels of management, and it is here where the tone is set.

We surveyed about 200 women who were business and civic leaders and asked what they liked and disliked about downtowns. The number-one dislike was parking, and more specifically, parking garages. If women designed parking garages, how would they be different? And when women do manage parking, what are they doing to dispel the notion, as one survey respondent said, that parking garages are “dull, dirty, dark, and dangerous.”

It’s very encouraging that IPI has taken leadership in creating opportunities for women not just to work in parking, but to lead. Kim Jackson, Immediate Past Chair Liliana Rambo, CAPP, and the many other women who serve on IPI’s board and committees are but one of several examples of successful women who have proven that parking is not just a profession for male leaders. As the old saying goes, “You’ve come a long way, baby.” But my sense is that until more women are in the driver’s seat in terms of top management, we’re not there yet.

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