Podcast: Changing the Trucking Industry for Women
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Freight Nation: A Trucking Podcast.
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The number of women in the trucking industry is seeing substantial growth, especially following the pandemic. But even still, women only account for 14% of professional drivers and 34% of C-suite executives.
Seeing the lack of consideration the industry offers women; Ellen Voie stepped up to found the Women in Trucking Association to help champion gender diversity and inclusion for women working in non-traditional transportation careers. Since the start in 2007, Voie has made it her mission to promote the employment of women in the trucking industry, to remove obstacles that might keep them from succeeding, and to celebrate the successes of its members.
The Road to Change
Working as Manager of Recruiting and Retention Programs at a large Midwest carrier, Ellen Voie was tasked with determining how to attract and retain veterans, women, and seniors. In her research to fill this void, it became apparent that the industry was consciously not marketing to a key demographic eager to step up to the plate—women.
Voie quickly noticed the trucking industry didn’t have the resources available to women that it offered in other industries or that were available to men in the field. There were no communities or associations that could aid women on their path to trucking and help them create a community along the way.
So, she built one: The Women In Trucking Association.
Mirroring the structure of aviation associations, Ellen put together a board of directors consisting of influential women she was connected with who were equally as passionate about helping women in the industry. She also created the mission statement, which still resonates: “To encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry, promote their accomplishments and minimize obstacles faced by women working in the trucking industry.”
“The mission has never changed. And I’m gonna say it. It’s to encourage the employment of women in the industry to address obstacles that might keep them from either entering or succeeding. And the third is to celebrate success.” Ellen Voie, Founder of Women in Trucking Association
Empowering Women Through Awareness
Establishing credibility with her newly minted non-profit was not an easy road. Members joined but had high expectations, and Voie took the responsibility to elevate women personally.
Her first priority became awareness. The industry had not spent time focusing on what women want and need in order to attract and retain them. Lack of consideration for things like uniforms and restrooms created a barrier to entry for females.
She quickly realized that in order to be a leader for women, she needed to be a trusted resource and communicate through multiple mediums to help make other companies better.
Leveraging Data to Invoke Change
In 2007, very few fleets truly knew their percentage of female drivers, which was an important starting point for her cause. She would attend conferences and pose the same question, “Do you have your data broken down by gender?” Every time the answer was no, and she’d ask them how to get that data.
She started building a data resource by turning to her members. “So, asking our members on Facebook, asking them on social media, asking them to do surveys, and going to conferences. I’d stand at trade shows, and I’d ask, especially female drivers, so what are your challenges?”
This not only started the conversation but it got people thinking about what could and should be improved to make the industry more appealing to all women in the industry.
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