Business innovation is a combined activity that moves from a unique idea, through development to implementation. It requires the involvement of many people with a variety of expertise. Innovative leaders are creative visionaries who have great ideas and can motivate their team to turn those ideas into reality. Creative thinker and a great visionary, Ellen Voie, President & CEO of Women In Trucking Association, Inc., is one of the women in business who is changing the scenario and empowering the participation of women in transportation, gradually.
Women In Trucking – Splendid
Women In Trucking is a nonprofit association that supports members, who are both individual and corporate. The company offers resources such as a recruiting guide, an anti-harassment employment guide, a Girl Scout curriculum guide to earn a transportation patch, and a soon to be released best practices guide for hiring female drivers.
Inception of a New Era in Trucking Industry
Ellen started the Women In Trucking (WIT) Association in the year 2007 while she was working for a large motor carrier. Her role was to find ways to attract and retain non-traditional drivers, such as women. She realized that the industry could do a lot more to bring women into transportation career.
WIT was started with a board of directors and one employee, and in just a few short years, through the support of thousands of transportation-related companies, drivers, and dedicated individuals, this organization has made significant strides in accomplishing its mission.
Recently, the association celebrated their tenth anniversary and is proud to say that they have over 4,000 members around the world and 17 percent of them are men who believe in Ellen’s mission. Their mission remains the same; to encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry, promote their accomplishments, and minimize obstacles faced by women working in the industry.
“My motivation is to change the trucking industry’s image into a more positive, welcoming one for both males and females. I am pleased to see that we are making a difference and more women are working in careers in transportation, although they are still in the minority,” says Ellen.
Honoring the Deserving
A person who feels appreciated will always do more than what is expected, and WIT Association firmly believes that. Each year WIT organizes their prestigious “Salute to Women Behind the Wheel” event to honor the laudable with “Influential Woman in Trucking,” and “Distinguished Woman in Logistics.”
The company has an annual WIT Index to monitor the percentage of female drivers and leaders at motor carriers. Also, WIT has an annual conference that focuses on diversity issues and leadership skills in transportation.
“Success for me is when I can motivate someone to push themselves beyond his or her comfort zone.” says Ellen.
Hurdles Don’t Stop Us; They Keep Us Moving Forward
Ellen reveals, “The biggest challenge we faced was in overcoming the negative stereotypes of the trucking industry. Many people don’t even think about the importance of the trucks that share their roads. They don’t relate the gallons of milk in the store or the gallons of gas at the station with a truck. Another misconception is that truck drivers are typically white males who can’t find a job anywhere else and that the job requires a lot of physical strength. That’s not true anymore. The trucks are more driver friendly and equipped with lots of technology, and the carriers work hard to make sure drivers are home more often and that the freight is loaded and unloaded by the customer.”
Ellen believes that challenging oneself both physically and mentally brings out the best and same applies to her. Driven by the curiosity to understand what drivers go through to earn a CDL, she learned to drive a tractor trailer and wrote a book, Crushing Cones, to share her experience. That same year Ellen earned her private pilot’s license and now takes to the skies whenever possible in her single engine Cessna. She also earned her motorcycle endorsement and rides her Suzuki 650 during summer months.
According to Ellen, women bring a more collaborative approach to leadership, and they are more relationship-focused, which gives them the opportunity to engage our colleagues at a higher level. They are also more risk averse than men, so they are less likely to make quick or faulty decisions that could adversely affect their business. She believes that women bring a different perspective to every discussion that might be missed when we’re not in the conversation.
Road to the Future
Ellen sees WIT changing in five years and sees herself creating that change. As the association grows, she anticipates increasing their staff to handle the additional duties needed to provide the growing number of resources. The company is working on a training and certification program for people to better understand how to promote diversity in their businesses. They are also partnering with Feeding America to help them decrease transportation costs associated with the food they provide to shelters and food banks. “We are working on creating chapters or perhaps state groups for more networking opportunities for our members,” asserts Ellen.
Ellen assures, “My role is to identify ways to keep pushing the trucking industry toward more diversity, so I keep looking for the means to create this change. I listen to our members and to those outside of the industry to understand how we can provide the resources for them to increase the percentage of women employed in trucking, from driver to technician to executive.”
Ellen’s Advice to Aspiring and Ambitious Women
My advice to all women (and men!) is to push yourself beyond your comfort zone. You won’t know what you’re capable of if you don’t try. Then, you’ll gain confidence and self-respect when you try things that scare you, whether you succeed or not, it’s the challenge that helps you in pushing towards new limits.