President Biden’s Open Table Bodes Well for Our Collective Future
April 13, 2021
By Teresa Stepic, Senior Vice President of Client Relations
President Biden is taking an “open table” approach to building his administration, bringing together an exceptionally diverse array of individuals representing virtually every facet of American life. Administration appointees include African Americans, Indian Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Whites, and Hispanics. Half of his Cabinet members and his Vice President are women. Cabinet members range in age from 39 to 75. Administration members are Catholic, Jewish, Hindu, and Christian, as well as non-religious.
As the head of DDC’s transportation and infrastructure practice, I was particularly interested to see President Biden select Pete Buttigieg as his Secretary of Transportation. As the country’s first openly gay Cabinet member “Secretary Pete” is a member of a minority group, citizen of a Midwestern state, and former local elected official representing not a major metropolitan area but a growing mid-sized city. All of that means he brings both a multi-faceted perspective and valuable on-the-ground experience with national policies and how they ultimately translate into local transportation challenges, opportunities, and investments.
Secretary Buttigieg certainly has his work cut out for him: released last month, the American Society of Civil Engineers 2021 Infrastructure Report Card currently gives our transportation infrastructure a “D” rating. But Secretary Buttigieg comes to the job with a unique life experience and has demonstrated his ability to bring distinct people to the leadership table. Both of these attributes will be especially important in the transportation space where our clients engage with people from every walk of life every day, and where the work they do supports the work of every other economic sector. He has indicated that his department has goals in four key areas: climate, job creation, equity, and safety. He has emphasized electric vehicles and public transportation as key priorities to address all four of the department’s larger priorities.
Secretary Buttigieg supports the President’s agenda and also recognizes the need for legislative action—for the President and Congress to be working together across party lines for long-lasting change. He sees possibilities in the challenges we currently face—from the pandemic to a once in a century energy transition—that will ensure every community is brought along as we work to innovate and modernize our nation’s transportation infrastructure. He demonstrated this commitment through his recent testimony before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee where he called “infrastructure status quo a threat” and emphasized the need to make a “generational investment” in transportation infrastructure.
As the founder of DDC’s Women’s Leadership Forum (WLF), I’m equally excited to see how the representation of women on President Biden’s Cabinet shapes national policy, especially in the Treasury and Defense Departments, which have never before been led by women. Or Interior, which for the first time is being led by a woman who is also a Native American. President Biden’s Cabinet is the first to achieve gender parity, and I’m thrilled that we have reached that milestone as a nation during my professional lifetime.
A commitment to equity and inclusion is at the heart of everything we do at DDC, not only because it’s the right thing to do but also because having a diversity of perspectives ultimately yields better experiences for our team and better outcomes for our clients. We hope that same holds true for the new administration. President Biden’s appointees have impeccable and diverse professional credentials. Their array of backgrounds, life experiences, and political perspectives will ensure a multitude of viewpoints are represented as the administration puts forward policies and defines official positions on everything from infrastructure to trade policy to human rights and foreign relations. We are confident that open tables, whether at a relative’s house or in the senior leadership of a presidential administration, lead to better discussion, decision making and achieving the progress we all hope to make.