Ellen Voie, president, CEO and founder of the Women in Trucking Association, joined DriverReach founder and CEO Jeremy Reymer on this week’s episode of Taking the Hire Road to discuss strategies for steering more women to the trucking industry.
Women in Trucking is a nonprofit organization that encourages the employment of women in trucking, celebrates their accomplishments and minimizes the obstacles women face in industry.
Voie believes that fleets can attract women by first taking a look at their brands’ advertising.
“Women look for a company that has a collaborative, team-oriented culture,” Voie said. She said that advertisements that feature scantily clad women or are geared toward NASCAR fans — a predominantly male audience — do you no favors in attracting more women to your fleet.
“You really have to think about where to find these potential drivers,” Voie said. “What message are you trying to send to them and what graphics are included in your ads? Don’t just think that women are the same as men, because they’re not. Women in Trucking has a recruiting guide that has a lot of information on how to target women.”
Voie also considers safety key. She cited a member survey that Women in Trucking conducted, asking how safe respondents feel on the job on a scale of one to 10; the average score was 4.4.
“Women and men face the same challenges as drivers, but for women, safety is a much higher priority,” Voie said. “And what I mean by safety is the maintenance of the equipment; How well is it maintained? Also, where are you sending your drivers? Is it a bad part of town? And what’s the culture in regard to driving conditions? Are you sending your drivers into an area that might have a tornado or encounter protests?”
Voie’s path to trucking, and eventually Women in Trucking, began at a steel fabricating plant, drafting material handling equipment until she was moved to the traffic department. The company sent her to school for traffic and transportation management, and she rose through the ranks to become traffic manager. Voie went on to consult trucking companies for 18 years in central Wisconsin, in addition to earning a communications degree. She was eventually hired by a large trucking company as manager of its recruiting and retention programs.
Part of her duties involved figuring out ways to attract and retain nontraditional groups of drivers, including women. As a beginner pilot belonging to an organization for women in aviation, Voie wondered if a similar group could be formed for the trucking industry. Thus, the Women in Trucking Association was established in 2007.
“Fourteen years ago trucking companies would say, ‘We don’t care about race, gender, ethnicity, age, we just hire the best drivers,” Voie said. “I then started pointing out that the trucks were designed for men, so were their uniforms; they wouldn’t even have restrooms for women. I started pointing out that it wasn’t really a level playing field.”
But through her efforts as well as the help of others, she believes the industry is beginning to recognize the value that women bring to trucking, proudly stating that women are statistically safer behind the wheel of a big rig.
The organization was an immediate success, attracting 500 members in its first year. Voie notes that Women in Trucking now boasts over 5,200 members — a mix of both women and men.
“The growth has been phenomenal but we still have a long way to go, because I’m not satisfied with females representing only 10% of drivers,” Voie said.
In addition to webinars, training, mentoring and networking opportunities, Women in Trucking members are offered self-defense and self-esteem courses at the group’s events. The organization also offers an employer anti-harassment guide.
Women in Trucking will host its Accelerate! Conference & Expo, Nov. 7-9 in Dallas, along with a virtual conference Nov. 17-18. Click to register for the Accelerate! event.
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