Yes She Can
Women in Trucking's Ellen Voie on encouraging and recognizing women in the trucking industry
By Mindy Long
Women in Trucking is a national association that works to encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry. Road King sat down with Women in Trucking President and Chief Executive Officer Ellen Voie to learn more about the group’s efforts.
Q What is the state of affairs of women in trucking?
A The industry is in a transitional stage where qualified drivers are becoming more valuable as freight is moving and rates are rising. Carriers are looking at ways to address these challenges and one of the solutions is to welcome women into the industry in greater numbers.
Our goal is to encourage women to think about careers as drivers, dispatchers, safety directors, technicians and even company owners. If we don’t let women know about these careers and assure them they are wanted and needed, we won’t attract them.
This creates another challenge and that is to make sure women can become successful in this industry. We need to make changes in the way we recruit and how we treat women. For example, how can we make the environment safer so female drivers aren’t worried about their physical safety at loading docks, truckstops and on the road? By working with shippers, travel plazas and carriers to better understand these needs, we can ensure a safer work situation. We also educate and mentor the women in the industry to allow us to learn from one another and lean on one another.
Women are still a minority and make up only one out of every 20 drivers, so we’ve got a long way to go!
Q On March 24 you’re holding your third annual Salute to the Women Behind the Wheel at the Mid-America Trucking Show. Can you tell us about the event?
A The Salute to the Women Behind the Wheel celebration started in 2010 to focus on the success of women in the industry who have been doing their jobs with little recognition for their efforts. We bring in high profile industry leaders to publicly thank them for their years of safe driving and to welcome those who might be new drivers. Our sponsors provide gifts, refreshments and red T-shirts so that every female driver can participate and enjoy the event at no cost. They don’t need to be a member of Women In Trucking Association to attend.
The response from the drivers has been rewarding. You will see a lot of hugging and many smiles from the women who are being honored and the men who support them. Some of the proudest attendees are the guys who drive alongside these women and who see how strong and capable they are as drivers. It’s an amazing experience for all of us.
Q What are the challenges that women drivers face?
A Everything our association addresses concerns both men and women, and the fact that 16 percent of our members are men reflects this. Our focus is on a different set of priorities for women than men. Safety and security is a greater challenge for women, as well as amenities for women on the road and equipment designed for smaller statures.
Addressing harassment has become one of our objectives and we offer an anti-harassment employment guide to our members. It’s written in gender-neutral terms, but was created because of the complaints we received from our members who experienced harassment from other drivers, shippers and in some corporate situations. Our goals include creating a better environment for all drivers, but are just prioritized differently.
Q Can you tell us about the organization’s scholarship foundation?
A I am really excited about the formation of the scholarship foundation. It is a charitable organization that can accept tax-deductible donations. Scholarships will be given for leadership training, technical skill or safety areas and for obtaining a CDL. The foundation is a separate entity from the association, and accepts applications from members based on need. The scholarship committee expects to begin accepting applications in early 2012.