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Ellen Voie: Giving Voice to Women in the Transportation Sector

Almost every industry has had inspiring stories that brought about a much-needed change. One such uplifting story is of Ellen Voie, who convinced an entire industry to focus its attention on women’s careers.

Ellen started her quest to make the transportation industry a positive place for women. Due to her unmatched efforts, her voice has been heard at a larger scale and led to many changes at a national level in the transportation segment.

Currently, Ellen is the CEO and President of the Women In Trucking Association which was established with the sole purpose of helping women with their transportation careers. As the name of the organization suggests, its main goal is to drive passionate women to build a successful career in the trucking industry. She is continuing to inspire women build their careers in trucking while also helping them do so.

We at Insights Success caught up with her to hear her thoughts and vision regarding her personal as well as professional goals.

Below are the highlights of the interview:

Brief our audience about your journey as a business leader until your current position at the organization. What challenges have you overcome to reach where you are today?

As the founder of the Women In Trucking Association my first challenge was to convince an industry that there was a need to focus on women’s careers in transportation. Fifteen years ago, most carriers just hired the best person, without regard to age, gender or ethnicity. However, there wasn’t a level playing field and women were expected to fit into a male dominated environment. Now that we have better data on the advantages of hiring women.

Tell us something more about the organization and its mission and vision.

The Women In Trucking Association was formed to encourage the employment of women in transportation careers, to address obstacles that might keep women from succeeding and to celebrate the success of our members. We currently have 6,400 members in ten countries. Surprisingly, fifteen percent of our members are men who join because they support our mission. As a professional/trade organization we are supported by our members who pay dues in order to access our resources and take advantage of our networking opportunities.

Enlighten us on how you have made an impact in the industry through your expertise in the market.

My entire career has been in the trucking industry. In 1980 I earned a diploma in Traffic & Transportation Management which has given me the background to better understand the challenges in the supply chain. I went on to earn a bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Communication, and my thesis focused on the “Complex Identities of Women Married to Professional Drivers.” This has provided insight into the family aspects of the job, which is more of a lifestyle than it is a career. Because of my passion for the people side of the industry, I have a different view of how to solve many of our challenges in regard to recruiting, promotion and retention of women in trucking careers. Through my role at Women In Trucking, I have been able to have a voice at the national level. I currently serve on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee, and I have served on the Entry Level Driver Training Advisor Committee. I also serve on the board of directors of the Wisconsin Motor Carriers Association as well as the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s Motor Carrier Advisor Committee. I believe my passion for serving as a resource has allowed me to be a credible source for issues concerning women working in the trucking industry.

Describe in detail the values and the work culture that drives your organization.

As an association, we have always had a remote workforce. Our team is spread across the country, but we stay connected through the use of technology. However, this means our staff must be self-motivated and focused on output, not on time spent working. Our values are truly what has made our progress so dramatic, as we all have a passion for empowering and supporting women in the trucking industry. Without this shared goal, we wouldn’t exist.

Undeniably, technology is playing a significant role in almost every sector. How are you leveraging technological advancements to make your solutions resourceful?

Technology has truly changed the way we communicate with our members. When the pandemic required us to cancel our conference, we turned to a virtual event which was very successful. Technology has also given us the opportunity to use social media to tell our story. We leverage Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and You Tube. Our drivers can easily add videos and photos to share and to tell their stories.

If given a chance, what change would you like to bring in the industry?

If I could change something in the trucking industry, it would be to create a more female-friendly environment. Instead of expecting women to fit into an industry that was designed for men, I would welcome simple adaptions such as women’s uniforms, trucks that are more ergonomically designed for women, rest rooms and showers more accessible for women and even marketing materials more gender-inclusive. The trucking industry has been a very male-dominated industry for nearly a century, so it is slow to change.

What, according to you, could be the next big change in the industry? How is your company preparing to be a part of that change?         

The next big change in the trucking industry will be the push for more autonomous vehicles. While we embrace the safety technology that is being added to these vehicles, we don’t anticipate a driverless truck will be a common site on our nation’s highways in the short term. However, as anti-collision, anti-rollover, anti-theft and so much better technology is added to these trucks it will make the job safer, the highways safer and our drivers safer and we welcome that.

Where do you envision yourself to be in the long run and what are your future goals for the company?    

A few years ago, I announced my goal to retire in 2023, so we have been working on a succession plan to replace me as the CEO of Women In Trucking. My future goal for the association is to grow and to become a greater influence in the industry. My personal goals are to turn over the lead to a capable and passionate person who will advance our mission.

What would be your advice to budding women entrepreneurs who aspire to venture into the industry?

For any female entrepreneur, but especially for women in male populated careers, my advice is to determine where you want to be in the short term as well as long term. Write down your goals and then build the steps it will take to achieve them. Antione de Saint Exupery, a French writer and aviator once said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Create a vision board or display your plan where you can see it every day.