Trinity Industries Inc. CEO and President Jean Savage has been named as the League of Railway Women 2022 Railway Woman of the Year, the company announced.
The award recognizes Savage’s drive for operational excellence, her commitment to enhancing the safety and sustainability of the railroad industry, her dedication to fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace, and her passion for volunteerism, the company said.
“This is such an honor for me to now be part of this amazing group of women that have shaped the rail industry,” Savage said in a statement. “Trinity has proudly supported LRW since 2013, and I am appreciative of the great work this organization does to promote women, which brings diversity to our entire industry.”
Savage accepted the award virtually as part of the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association conference on Jan. 7.
Savage became the first non-family member and first woman to lead the 80-year-old company when she took the reins in February 2020.
Inspiring the next generation of women in STEM
According to a Dallas Regional Chamber profile on Savage, her former boss and mentor Billy Ainsworth, a CEO at Progress Rail, once compared her to coaching legends Bear Bryant and Nick Saban.
“With her poise and her self-confidence, she has a unique ability to hold people accountable and take them to the next level,” he said.
Savage talked about her career, women in STEM, and innovation in the railroad industry at the Dallas Regional Chamber’s Q3 Board of Advisors event last year.
Savage grew up in Middletown, Ohio, the daughter of a welder. As a child she worked in a garage gapping spark plugs and changing tires.
“I saw some of the equipment my dad made, and he was a big influence on me,” she said. “Becoming an engineer really came naturally from the experiences I had.”
She said that she learned early that women made strong engineers because they are diverse thinkers and empathetic leaders.
“I used to talk to females in high school about STEM, but by then, they had already lost interest in the field,” Savage said. “The difference happened when I started to visit elementary schools. I could pique students’ interest in STEM by telling them how they were making their communities better.”
Promoting the advantages of freight by rail
Before she joined Trinity Industries, Savage spent 17 years with Caterpillar inc. in various leadership roles, with 12 of those years spent in Progress Rail.
She has served on Trinity’s board of directors since November 2018.
Savage told attendees at the chamber event that the railroad industry must do a better job communicating its advantages. Saying for instance that it costs 31 percent less to move intermodal freight from the West Coast to Chicago on rail than on truck.
“Why is rail not doing better? It’s our own fault,” Savage said. “We have to get better on servicing the shippers. They need to know when they’re going to get their product, and they need to know they’re going to get it on time. … We save the environment, and we save money. It’s a win-win.”
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