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League of Railway Women Names Union Pacific Railroad’s Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Beth Whited as 2021 Railway Woman of the Year

Washington, D.C., October 19, 2021 – The League of Railway Women (LRW) named Union Pacific Railroad (UP) Executive Vice President and CHRO the winner of the 2021 Railway Woman of the Year award. Whited was honored at a presentation during the 2021 League of Railway Women Virtual Annual Conference.
Washington, D.C., October 19, 2021 – The League of Railway Women (LRW) named Union Pacific Railroad (UP) Executive Vice President and CHRO the winner of the 2021 Railway Woman of the Year award. Whited was honored at a presentation during the 2021 League of Railway Women Virtual Annual Conference.

Co-sponsored by Progressive Railroading, this annual award is presented to a woman in the rail industry who establishes a strong vision and culture of continuous improvement and creativity; overcomes challenges and breaks down barriers, including initiatives that promote and support attracting and retaining women in rail; brings consistent excellence to her organization and surrounding community and cultivates a safe work environment through demonstrating safe rail practices. 

“Beth's commitment to Union Pacific and her focus on attracting and retaining women in rail is a cornerstone of LRW's mission to cultivate and connect women in rail. Her efforts have given our industry wider depth and much needed talent and diversity.” said LRW President Amanda Trainor Patrick. “Beth's dedication to safety and her leadership skills were especially evident during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. From developing an aggressive prevention program, to communicating information to UP employees, and implementing online training for new employees to help the railroad continue to move America's goods – Beth did it all while providing decisive and thoughtful leadership.” 

LRW Awards Chair Lisa Tackach said: “The 2021 Railway Woman of the Year (WOY) Award submissions set another record, showing increases in total submissions and the level of nominees. From managerial positions in field operations to C-Suite executives who recently entered the rail industry, this year's submissions spotlighted an extraordinary group of women in rail. It was a privilege to read about each nominee as well as the achievements accomplished by women in our industry. Beth's nomination was among the best in a fierce competition. Selecting this year's Woman of the Year would have been an impossible task without the assistance of the Advisory Committee of Pam Arpin, Corina Moore and Deb Butler. After carefully reviewing each nominee, we unanimously concluded that Beth Whited presented the strongest nomination and we are pleased to honor her as the 2021 Railway Woman of the Year.”

Whited has dedicated most of her career to UP; over the past three decades, she has demonstrated exceptional achievement and now leads both Human Resources and Labor Relations. Before taking on her current position, she entered the C-Suite as Chief Marketing officer, overseeing marketing and sales business units. With a focus on customers, Whited amped up two critical areas in marketing, championing the SmartETA rollout to derive more accurate shipment arrival times and provide greater visibility to customers. Teaming with IT, Whited made it possible for customers to extract data through an assigned virtual tunnel and insert it into their own systems. Whited also established UP's first Customer Advisory Board, bringing into a more up-to-date and telling Net Promotor Score. 

Whited engaged with Silicon Valley startup Plug and Play, brought in a new cloud-based marketing analytic systems, put teams on emerging marketing expeditions, as well as ignited industrial development that led to UP's participation in the door-to-door phenomenon, the evolving retail warehousing locales, growing retail logistics needs and plastics export markets. 

Whited's dedication to diversity and inclusion is demonstrated in her drive to move the 160-year-old company's percentage of employed women from 5% to 10% and increasing UP's minority population to 40%. Whited knows bold declarations take more than waving a wand and require action to drive results. In her CHRO role, Whited has reconfigured UP's recruitment process to “up the ante” and hire a more diverse workforce. To successfully implement change of this magnitude, Whited focused on execution as well as changing long standing beliefs that may have impeded the development of a more diverse work force. Whether working with managers so attrition didn't eat away gains or partnering with advancement organizations, Whited is unafraid to bring in new ideas. Internally, Whited has empowered a Women in Operating team, creating female-focused field microcosms, as well as launched an industry-wide female operating taskforce. 

Whited's innovative impact on the industry is demonstrated in her ability to listen to the voice of the people closest to the work and turning UP into an organism that consumes feedback as a means of evolution. 

Keeping UP employees safe while continuing to move America's goods during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has not stopped Beth from bringing excellence to UP. In fact, it has only proven her ability to think quickly, implement an aggressive prevention program and apply out-of-the-box ideas and incentives to promote getting the vaccine, including, “I'm Essential” UP swag and sharing your “why” in a video montage. Additionally, when the nation ran out of hand sanitizer, Whited oversaw the creation of UP's homemade version, bottled at a local brewery. Commitment to safe rail practices is an industry wide focus and Whited is a champion for ensuring UP operates safely. When COVID hit the US, the Great Big Rolling Railroad had to keep rolling. To keep UP operating, new hires were needed, and training was vital. With social distancing guidelines in full effect, technology was more critical than ever to stay connected. 

For example, the railroad's Signal Department partnered with Whited and her leadership team to take signal maintenance training online through Virtual Instructor-Led Training (VILT). Whited helped navigate important federal guidelines by inviting Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) officials to attend the course; this approach impressed the officials and helped facilitate FRA approval. Teams saw immediate wins: one workgroup reported a 60% reduction in power-operated switch machine failures, while two other employees found and repaired several items on a switch before they became defective just two hours after their training. 

Whited also has evaluated the Physical Assessment Test (PAT), which goes beyond federal requirements to ensure newly employed railroaders can do their job safely. Instead of accepting high failure rates for job functions, Whited questioned postures, stances, tool options, technology, and processes. This not only allowed more candidates in the pipeline, but also created safer methods to perform those functions.

Whited's commitment to safe rail practices, especially in these uncertain times, continues to drive innovative approaches to mitigate risk. 

The Woman of the Year Advisory Committee, which helps select each year's awardee, includes former WOY recipients Pam Arpin, Corina Moore, Deb Butler, along with Tackach. 

For further information: Media Contact: Emilia Marceta, LRW Chair, Public Relations & Outreach, E-Mail: info@railwaywomen.org; LRW Awards Contact: Lisa Tackach, LRW Awards Chair, E-Mail: awards@railwaywomen.org.

About Us

Founded in 1997, the League of Railway Women (LRW) is committed to improving the railroad industry by connecting and cultivating women in rail. Our mission is to advance the representation, recognition and opportunities for women, thereby promoting diversity and improving the business results of the railroad industry. Learn more at www.railwaywomen.org; follow the LRW on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

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