The life and journey of a woman are full of obstacles, conventions, and pre-set assumptions, but this should not hold a woman back from doing what she desires and what she loves. Not all women are looking forward to having a career in the world of business, some wish to do and find other jobs but are unable to do so because of fewer opportunities for women and the pre-set norms that debar them from taking any job or opportunity as they feel like. There are those women who do not have much of an educational qualification but wish to work but due to the lack of opportunity and owing to the traditional conventions of the society that puts them aside, taking the power from them to choose their line of work or provide them with a line of work.
Women in Trucking is an opportunity for all those women desiring to work, providing them with a chance to turn their lives and celebrate what and who they are – women. Women in Trucking is a not-for-profit association, aimed at encouraging employment in women, building a strong community on their way through, so they all can enjoy and achieve success, along with uplifting the sentiments and perceptions of those around them about women in work. Organisation are a breakthrough for what they have achieved and the number of members that are like a strong-knit family, sharing each milestone of their journey and their success.
In conversation with the President and CEO of Women in Trucking, Ellen Voie. Let’s hear more about the company, its services, and the CEO’s professional journey and views.
- Tell us about Women in Trucking and the initial problems faced by the company.
For over a decade, we’ve been focused on this clear mission to encourage employment, address obstacles and celebrate success. It’s supported by a passionate leadership team, highly engaged members, and committed sponsors and partners. We continue to build a strong community among our members (primarily business professionals and professional drivers) who believe in and support our mission. Our 5,200 members are individuals and corporate entities who support our mission. They are located in twelve countries. We aren’t a woman-only organization as fifteen percent of our members are men.
The first challenge I faced was in starting a non-profit association in the middle of a recession (2007). Starting an organization requires a strong commitment, both financial and personal. I knew that I had to prove that we were a viable group that would provide a valuable resource to our members. In our first year, we attracted 500 members, which was amazing considering it was a difficult year for everyone.
The next biggest challenge we face as an organization is in changing the image of the trucking industry. Too many people view careers as drivers as being something only men can do. This isn’t the case. Often, women look at the trucks and see a diesel engine and smokestacks instead of all the technology that makes the truck easier for the driver and much safer for both the driver and those on the road around the truck.
The most difficult initial challenge was to establish our credibility and to ensure that we would be an influential force in the industry. Many companies watched to make sure we would stay true to our goal to increase the ranks of women in the trucking industry.
- Tell us about the unique services offered by women in trucking, any new additions, and the reasons that take these services ahead in the future.
Our mission includes three goals; to encourage the employment of women, address obstacles and celebrate success. I’ll break down our activities in these three areas:
Encourage the employment of women:
- Girl Scout Transportation Patch.
- Activity Books for children.
- Truck Driver Doll.
- Driver Ambassador Program.
- Image Team.
- Mentoring program.
- We work with truck manufacturers on truck cab design/ergonomics.
- We work with truck stops on safety and security.
- A scholarship foundation gives tuition grants.
- We help women buy their first truck or expand their fleet.
- Members of the Month. Influential Woman in Trucking.
- Distinguished Woman in Logistics.
- Driver of the Year.
- Top Women to Watch in Transportation.
- Top Women-Owned Business.
- Salute to Women Behind the Wheel.
- Top Companies for Women to Work for.
We started the Accelerate! Conference & Expo in 2015 and within five years our registered attendees exceeded 1,100. Last year we hosted a virtual conference, but this year we hope to meet in person in November in Dallas, Texas. However, we will offer a virtual component as well the following week. The main reason people come to our event is to learn and to network, so we offer many educational sessions but also lots of time to interact and to have fun.
We listen to our members. We respond to their needs and support them based on our mission.
- Tell us about your professional journey.
In high school, I preferred to take an industrial arts class instead of home economics. Shop class was so much fun, and my instructor insisted I was the best welder he’d ever had. I loved the auto mechanics lessons, the woodworking, drafting, and welding lessons. In 1978 I was hired at a steel fabricating plant in central Wisconsin where I worked in the drafting department, designing material handling equipment, such as steel pallets, bins, and racking.
In 1979 my bosses asked if I wanted to transfer into the Traffic Department instead of drafting. They sent me to school for “Traffic and Transportation Management.” Shortly after I completed the course, my boss left the company and I was promoted to the position of Traffic Manager. We had three plants creating steel products as varied as material handling, fireplaces, and jacks. I was responsible for bringing the raw materials into the plants and for shipping the completed products out to our customers. We also had three trucks of our own, and I was in charge of hiring, firing, and managing the three drivers.
While raising my family I worked as a free-lance transportation consultant to small carriers in central Wisconsin. During that time, I earned my bachelor’s and then master’s degree in communication. In 2000 I was hired for the position of Executive Director of Trucker Buddy International where I led the program for six years. Then, I was recruited by Schneider National to lead their retention efforts. My job was to initiate corporate-level programs designed to attract and retain non-traditional groups, such as women! At the time, I was completing my pilot’s license, and I belonged to an organization for female pilots. It struck me that there wasn’t a similar group for women in the trucking industry; so, I started one. That was in 2007 when the Women in Trucking Association was formed.
- Tell us about the team of Women in Trucking and the factors that make them unique.
We have five employees and an association management firm which supplies six more staff members. We are all working in a virtual environment, which makes collaboration even more challenging. However, our work culture promotes both independence and self-motivation. I believe in a results-oriented work environment, so we don’t monitor hours or days, and vacations and time off are unlimited. The caveat is that each of our team members has a job to do and they are responsible for ensuring that the job is done. In other words, we treat people like adults and ask them to do their job. If someone wants a day off, they are free to do so, as long as they don’t compromise any commitments.
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