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Identifying the obstacles that keep women from trucking

Women comprise only 7% of the workforce in trucking today. And with the industry is experiencing an unprecedented truck driver shortage and a driver turnover rate that is the highest it’s been since 2015, many feel the industry needs to do better.

So when people ask Ellen Voie, president and CEO of The Women In Trucking Association (WIT), why there is a need for a Women In Trucking Association, her response is always this:

“If you’re happy with 7% female drivers and 14% of women in management, then you probably don’t think it’s important to encourage women to look at careers in this industry,” Voie told American Trucker. “But we aren’t satisfied with that.”

Voie recently started hosting a live, call-in radio show called Women In Trucking on SiriusXM Road Dog channel 146. The weekly, two-hour show premiered on Saturday, Jan. 20, at 11 a.m. ET. 

The show, which airs every Saturday, features listener call-ins and interviews with professionals from the trucking industry – from drivers, technicians, and engineers to transportation CEOs and dispatchers – sharing their stories of the challenges and opportunities of the open road.

The show addresses gender diversity issues in trucking and pushes for more women to join its ranks. The show also intends to help promote the employment of more women by identifying and removing the obstacles that keep them from entering the field.

Keera Brooks of Sawgrass Logistics joined Voie for the pilot show on Jan. 20 and the two discussed a recent WIT Best Practices Survey that takes a deeper dive into what attracts female drivers into the industry and what makes them leave.

The survey found that men are more interested in telling others about the job and about encouraging them to become truck drivers, while women are less likely to recommend the job to others.

“Women feel that they’re not treated fairly,” Voie said, noting this is based on information coming from WIT members. “They feel that dispatchers treat them less fairly than their other male counterparts and that treatment by other men isn’t always the best.”

In addition, the survey found that female truckers don’t necessarily feel safe in their work. On a scale of 1 to 10 of whether they felt safe in their job, women rated safety as a 4.4.

Voie explained that more women are likely to leave a trucking company because of faulty, more dangerous equipment. “We think safety means they want to feel safe on the road and make sure equipment doesn’t break down,” she said.

“We also talked about recruiting and how nobody talks about safety in their recruiting ads, and they should,” Voie added. “They should talk about safety as a priority and that means personal safety just as much as the maintenance of the truck. I don’t think companies have caught onto that yet.”

When it comes to women entering the trucking industry, a vast majority of women – 83% – came into the industry because of a family member or friend. However, those same women didn’t recruit or recommend other women to the industry.

“Think about this,” Voie explained. “83% of women are brought in because somebody has said, ‘Hey this is a great job;’ yet they’re not telling anyone else it’s a great job because they don’t think it is.”

In response, Voie received an email from a male listener asking, “Why are you asking men to change?”

“I said, ‘No, we’re not asking men to change, in fact, 19% of our members are men,’” Voie explained. “‘We’re not asking you to do anything differently rather than treat women as professionals.’”

Voie also noted that women typically have a better understanding of what the truck driver lifestyle entails because they ask a lot of questions before entering the industry. That means once women are in the industry, they tend to stay and are less likely to leave due to lack of family and home time.

During last week’s show, one woman called and asked why so many women come into the industry as a second or third career rather than as a first option. Then she asked: “How do we reach millennials?”

“We spent a lot of time trying to understand how we can attract millennials into this industry – male and female,” Voie stressed. “I think the industry can do a much better job talking about the technology because millennials are more comfortable with technology. But instead people see a truck with a diesel engine and a smokestack and they don’t know about all the cool stuff that’s inside that truck that makes it a much safer piece of equipment.”

For her upcoming, Jan. 27 show, Voie will discuss the gig economy and the Uberization of trucking with Tana Greene, who is CEO of Blue Bloodhound and a WIT finalist for The Influential Women in Trucking.

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