Women In Trucking Gaining Ground and Support – All 3 Parts of the Series
By Eric Braun, Senior Writer, USRW
Most professional industries have seen an increase among females in the workforce, with few exceptions, one of those exceptions are the number of woman in the “trucking” or Professional Driving industry which accounts for roughly 6% of the workforce.
Changing that number is the goal of Ellen Voie, President and CEO of Women in Trucking who has made it a personal mission to increase the percentage of women employed in the trucking industry to utilize untapped potential. Voie added that “we strive to encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry, promote their accomplishments and minimize obstacles faced by women in the trucking industry”.
Obstacles are not uncommon for any woman trying to compete with the male population in any industry and the stereotypical image of a Professional Driver acts as deterrent to women who think they are not physically cut-out for the profession. The old school driver who thinks that women can’t measure up and are non –accepting of them in the industry is quickly becoming extinct , Voie stated that “ this is changing with the next generation, which is more accepting in regard to gender related expectations.” Voie said that “the biggest challenge is in getting women to understand that they are capable and valued in the industry.”
“So many women have a misconception that they are not strong enough or burly enough for the job. I have to convince them that size and strength are not as much a factor as in the past. Voie went on to say that “the equipment is better suited to a larger group of drivers and more importantly, that the industry wants them”.”
Changing decades of opinions and attitudes among the male drivers is not an easy task but one that Voie feels is a work in progress, “I’m often approached by men who think women are not capable of driving a truck, but I am just as often affirmed by men who think that women are actually more capable than their male counterparts” Voie said.
Seventeen percent of Voie's organization “Women in Trucking” is men. Voie stated that “these are men who believe in and support our mission. Half of our board of directors is men who truly want to see more women employed in the trucking industry”.
In part two of our series we will learn more about Voie, her organizations website womenintrucking.org and expand more about the attitudes and opportunities available for women in the trucking or professional driving industry.
In part one of our series we learned about the organization ‘Women in Trucking”, (WIT) and their goals, which are “to encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry, promote their accomplishments, and minimize obstacles faced by women working in the trucking industry.”
In that article we met WIT President & CEO Ellen Voie, who has made it her life’s mission to increase the number of women in the Professional Driver field. It’s a career path that women typically don’t consider because of the male stereotypes and at times the chauvinistic attitudes. It’s those attitudes that Voie is trying to change. Not only does Voie face a challenge with the female gender she faces that same response from carriers that employ Professional Drivers.
“Ten years ago carriers would tell me they didn’t care about the gender of their drivers and they accepted all ages, genders, ethnicities, etc. Voie said. “My response is that they SHOULD care. They need to better understand why women might not want to come into the industry or to their company and why women leave.” I asked Voie about that gender difference and if women in the trucking industry have broken that glass ceiling.
“I will tell you that there is not a single challenge women face that men don’t face, but I will tell you that the challenges are prioritized differently. Safety is at the top of the list of concerns, Voie stated. “Women are more vulnerable and must be situationally aware of where they are and what they are doing. She added “Female drivers are more cautious and take fewer risks than men due to testosterone and this is reflected in the way they drive and work. Accidents involving men are often at higher speeds, on curves and at night and most often result in greater damage and loss of life.”
In some of the articles on US Road Warriors, we have seen many comments on how drivers hold the key to commerce and in the economy. They are a power and force to be reckoned with, some have already taken matters into their own hands by not accepting runs to geographical areas that cut into their profit margin. This is a point that Voie also expanded on, “I would like us to be more obvious about the importance of the industry. We need to really push the fact that trucks bring everything and if the motoring public understood the value of that tractor trailer on the road next to them, they’d be a little more respectful”.
Voie also stated that “It is very important for carriers to attract more women. For drivers, the positive attributes include a more risk averse person at the wheel and someone who is typically (not always) better with the equipment, better with customers and often more receptive during training”.
Voie stated that her organization is more about educating women into the industry and the potential careers available and not focusing on recruiting them.
In part three of our series we will focus on how Voie and her staff educate potential employers and the public in general about Women in Trucking.
In parts one & two of our series we discussed the opportunities available to women in the Trucking Industry and we learned about the organization “Women in Trucking”, whose CEO & President Ellen Voie has made it her passion to promote the employment of women in the trucking industry.
Getting a skeptical but interested woman to consider the industry is not always easy but Voie targets in more on educating than recruiting. “We don’t really recruit women into the industry as much as we educate them about the industry and potential career opportunities. We do this in a number of ways. We try to get our message to the non-trucking public. First, we have our Image Team which speaks to the media, talks at events and participates in trade shows and conferences. More importantly, they give ride-alongs to regulators, legislators and others. This gives us an opportunity to share our mission with those outside of the industry”.
It’s not just legal aged drivers that they are molding and shaping, “we are also reaching out to the community though our Girl Scout Transportation Patch, our members of the month, our photo contest (I HEART trucking) and more. The more we share our message with those outside of the industry the more we can attract them as drivers, leaders, managers and more”.
Companies are finally giving more women opportunities and warming up to the gender issue. Helping those companies is a part of Voie’s mission. “The companies who have worked hard to attract and retain women are trend- setters, Voie said. “They recognize the value women bring to the industry, but respect the challenges women might face in a male dominated career. Companies like J. B. Hunt and their GROW (Growing and Retaining Outstanding Women) initiative and Daimler with their WIN (Women’s Interactive Network) groups are focusing on women in leadership roles. Carriers like Transport America, Prime, Inc., Covenant and Bennett International have all had events focused on honoring their female drivers. We feature these companies in our publication to highlight best practices”.
Society expects that women will maintain both a working and household schedule, so I asked Voie, how women can balance being a wife, mother and driver. Voie stated “The average age of a female driver is 52. The typical female driver has raised her family and due to the urging of a husband, father or partner has earned a CDL and is driving a truck. Most women (50-60 %) work in a team configuration. Even female solo drivers have often entered the industry due to a male who encouraged and supported her”.
Voie said “I would like to add that we established a scholarship foundation to provide educational funding for anyone pursuing training in the trucking industry”.
We hope our series on Women in Trucking has been informative and helped bridge the gap. Our special thanks to Ellen Voie, President and CEO of ‘Women in Trucking” (womenintrucking.org) and to all our Lady Drivers, thank you for making a difference!
Are you a woman in the Professional Driving field? If so, we would like to hear from you for our series. Email our Senior Writer Eric and tell him about your thought and experience’s at firstname.lastname@example.org
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