Women’s empowerment is not limited to technical careers; instead, women have explored and contributed in many industries and are providing muchuntapped potential. One example is in the area of trucking. Ellen Voie, a passionate and prolific leader, has worked very hard to further the advancement of women in the trucking industry. Through a vision of creating an organization which focuses on increasing the number of women employed in the trucking industry, she founded Women In Trucking Association, Inc.
Since its inception in March 2007, the mission of the organization has been consistent. The goal is to increase the employment of women in the trucking industry; to address obstacles that might keep women from entering or succeeding in the trucking industry, and to celebrate the success of its members. The organization is the only group that focuses on encouraging and supporting women in the trucking industry and includes over 4,000 members in seven countries.
Disruptive Solutions with Expected Challenges
To support its mission, the Women In Trucking (WIT) Association is a resource for the trucking industry and offers numerous publications, data and educational opportunities for its members. First, to encourage employment, Women In Trucking Association has a career center on its website where employers can post jobs, and members can find great companies who value women as employees. In an effort to promote the industry to the next generation, Women In Trucking Association has been proactive to reach out to children through a truck driver doll (available on Amazon.com or HABAUSA.com), a supply chain activity book and a patch and curriculum for girls to earn through the Girl Scout/Girl Guide program. Women In Trucking Association has also done a great deal of research on how to attract and retain female drivers and offers a recruiting guide to its members.
In addressing obstacles, Women In Trucking Association has also created an anti-harassment employment guide for trucking companies to use when pairing unrelated individuals in the cab of a truck, for team or training situations. The association has also worked with truck manufacturers to create a more ergonomic cab that provides a more comfortable fit for female drivers through more adaptability inside the cab. From pedals to seats to the dash, mirrors, hood and even an alarm system and an enclosed area for a porta-potty, these design changes create a more ergonomically correct cab for both women and men.
The organization has initiated an annual WIT Index, which measures the percentage of women in management positions, as well as the percentage of female professional drivers. The WIT Index also includes tracking women serving on the boards and in management roles of the publicly traded carriers in the US.
Celebrating the successes of its members is a significant focus for the association. From a “Member of the Month” to an annual “Distinguished Woman in Logistics” and “Influential Woman in Trucking,” WIT helps these women become recognized and honored. The US and Canadian “Salute to Women Behind the Wheel” celebrates professional female drivers who are honored for their role as pioneers in the trucking industry. The WIT Image Team offers positive exposure through the media featuring various members in USA Today, Oprah Magazine, the “Today Show,” “Dr. Oz” and 20/20 with Diane Sawyer, along with numerous radio and print publications. From the chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board to the Federal Motor Carrier Administration leaders, Senators, Congressmen and State Secretary of Transportation have been given a glimpse inside the life of a professional female driver.
Recognition worth Addressing
Women In Trucking Association and its President/CEO, Ellen Voie, have received numerous awards. In 2012, the organization was honored by the White House for being a “Transportation Innovator Champion of Change” while Voie received the 2015’s “Distinguished Alumna of the Year” award from her alma mater—the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Division of Communication. In May 2016, she was honored as one of Fleet Owner’s Dozen Outstanding Women In Trucking.
Voie has also been featured in and recognized by various business magazines and trade presses, below are some of them:
- 2017, Insight Success Magazine’s “The Most Inspirational Leaders in Business” and “The 30 Most Innovative CEOs to Watch”
- 2018, Beyond Exclamation Magazine’s “Top 10 Shepreneurs through the Glass Ceiling and Beyond”
- 2019, Aspioneer Magazine’s “2018 Flying High Women Leaders”.
Many organizations have recognized Ms. Voie for her accomplishments. In 2014, she was awarded the Frank W. Babbitt award from the Wisconsin Motor Carriers Association. This annual recognition is given to an individual who has demonstrated outstanding service to the trucking industry and association as a whole. Moreover, she is also the recipient of the Skinner Humanitarian Award presented annually to a trucking advocate in her state. In 2018, Voie was named the “Transportation Person of the Year” by National Association of Small Trucking Companies (NASTC).
The Gems of WIT
As Voie and her mission encourage empowerment, each team member has a specific area of responsibility and is given the latitude to act decisively with a high level of authority and accountability. Ellen states that each staff member has specific duties related to various activities yet they collaborate and brainstorm to generate new ideas. Currently, WIT is the global leader in providing the information, data, and resources required to increase the numbers of women employed in the trucking industry.
Challenges Occur To Enlighten
Ellen states the most significant challenge faced by the organization is in addressing the image of professional drivers. Voie said, “First, women don’t often consider careers in transportation or supply chain, so the association needs to show them they are wanted, valued and capable. Secondly, women are concerned about safety on the road, so this has been a major focus of the association.”
By providing the resources, such as self-defense courses and products to protect professional drivers, the organization is offering safety tools for drivers. Also, the security system available in some newer trucks provides a higher level of safety. Additionally, by working with truck stops on lighting, security, and parking, the company focuses on keeping all female as well as male drivers safe in their work environment.
An Outlook of WIT’s Future
Ellen’s goal for the future at Women In Trucking Association is for expanding into more countries and to be the premier resource for information. By sharing best practices, successes, and challenges around the globe, the organization is providing valuable information for carriers, schools and government entities that are interested in creating opportunities for women in the trucking industry. She cites the data for the trucking industry in the US, women comprise less than the eight percent of the driver population, yet it’s the highest than anywhere else in the world; from zero in Saudi Arabia and the Philippines to just under three percent in Canada. The US takes the lead in the ranks of women in trucking and is witnessed as a leader also a resource globally.
“This Lady has been the biggest influence, cheerleader, mentor, and friend for 17 years! Thank you Ellen Voie you have not only been my friend and a business colleague, but you’ve been the instrument to elevate my career as a Woman in the Trucking Industry!! I deeply humbly Thank you!! Love ya Girlie”—Ingrid Brown, Professional Driver and Image Team member