COTA President/CEO Joanna M. Pinkerton Honored by Minority Transportation Leaders as a ‘Woman Who Moves the Nation’

Today, the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) honored Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) President/CEO Joanna M. Pinkerton during the national organization’s 12th Annual Celebrating Women Who Move the Nation Awards Breakfast. The celebration was held at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery in Washington. Pinkerton joins past honorees including former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty, poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou, and COTA Board Trustee and Ohio State Associate Vice President for Local and Community Relations Trudy Bartley.

Since Pinkerton was named President/CEO in 2018, she has worked to increase workforce diversity at COTA. Under her leadership, 35% of Team COTA are women, which is more than twice the national average for the transportation industry. At the leadership level, 50% of the COTA’s directors and 62% of executive leadership are women. Overall, the leadership team at COTA is 77% diverse with consideration to race, gender, ethnicity and orientation.

“I am incredibly grateful to be honored by COMTO for the transformation we have made at COTA through equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives,” said Pinkerton. “Mobility best serves the community when all voices are represented and sit at the table. COTA will always prioritize an inclusive workplace and celebrate the diversity of ideas across the organization, helping to inform and shape our region’s equitable mobility solutions.”

Pinkerton hired COTA’s first Chief Equity Officer, a role that holds COTA accountable and ensures equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) policies are upheld. COTA has created five Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) which help deepen team members’ sense of belonging through community outreach and professional development. These ERGs focus on Veterans, Black employees, women, working parents, and LGBTQIA+ team members.

Pinkerton and COTA also have worked to improve equity in COTA’s mobility system. In 2021, COTA launched a digital fare payment system that ensures the best fare and simplifies the fare structure for customers. In 2022, COTA launched an income assistance program, providing a 50% discount to customers who qualify and implemented the Educational Pass Program, which provides unlimited transit for students of participating schools, including The Ohio State University and Columbus City Schools.

“Under Joanna’s leadership, COTA has implemented policies that make transit more equitable for our community, ensuring COTA helps deliver opportunities for so many Central Ohio residents,” said COTA Board of Trustees Chair Craig Treneff, who also attended today’s award ceremony. “From launching equitable fare programs to forming five employee resource groups that make an impact in and out of the workplace, Joanna and Team COTA have made strides to serve all parts of our community and made the organization an inclusive place to work and build a career.”

Nationally, Pinkerton and COTA’s commitment to EDI has been recognized by the American Public Transportation Association and was key in the development of the national organization’s Racial Equity Commitment Pilot Program, to create transformational change within the transit industry from a racial equity and mobility justice perspective. Pinkerton also serves on the steering committee of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America’s MobilityXX Initiative, to increase the number of women from all backgrounds in the transportation workforce by 10% in the next 10 years

Since 2012, COMTO has honored 132 women who are making outstanding contributions to the transportation industry across modes, who carve a path forward for the next generation and shatter the glass ceiling.

“It is our privilege to honor, elevate and celebrate outstanding women working to advance the transportation industry,” said April Rai, COMTO President & CEO. “The work of these honorees positively impacts the lives of millions, and moves the mission of COMTO forward.”

COMTO is a nonprofit organization with 37 chapters across the United States dedicated to advancing underrepresented groups in the transportation industry. For more information on COMTO’s Women Who Move the Nation award, visit