Today, we are leaving much of our interaction with technology, but this doesn’t create the best relationships. Hiding behind a computer or smart phone inhibits the dialogue by removing the physical aspect of the conversation. Ellen Voie, President & CEO at Women In Trucking Association, is one of the pioneers in women empowerment in the Trucking Industry. Ellen is a passionate woman, which makes her an inspiration to others. But, with a Master’s Degree in Communication with an interpersonal emphasis, its Ellen’s superior communication skills that makes her a much better Leader. This allows her to be able to articulate the mission of WIT and what the future will be like for the company moving forward.
Dedicating her Life
Ellen has spent her entire career in the Trucking industry. She was hired by a steel fabricating plant in the drafting department right after high school. Here she was asked to move into the traffic department, and subsequently sent to school to earn her diploma in Traffic and Transportation Management. She learned everything from auditing freight bills to reading tariffs and choosing the best mode for incoming steel and outgoing racking products. Ellen then went on to become a Freelance Transportation Consultant, and for eighteen years she licensed and permitted trucks and kept their drivers legal, in addition to preparing their fuel taxes, driver qualification files and other legal requirements.
Ellen was married to an owner-operator, who had a small fleet of three trucks. She would manage the trucks, while he was on the road. During this time Ellen completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin, with a thesis titled, “The complex identities of women married to professional drivers.”
A Mission to Accomplish
Ten years ago carriers didn’t seem to focus on hiring non-traditional drivers into their fleets. They didn’t really think about how to attract women and why they should hire more women. Today this is crucial and it is reflected in their recruiting ads and their company culture.
Women In Trucking began as a small voice in a large industry. Over the years, their voice has become much stronger. Today, their purpose is to be a resource for anyone in the trucking industry who believes in its mission. Women In Trucking’s mission is to encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry, promote their accomplishments, and minimize obstacles faced by women working in the trucking industry. WIT has become a well respected organization that attracts some of the industry’s most prominent carriers, manufacturers, suppliers and individuals. As a resource, WIT provides their corporate members with information such as anti-harassment employment guide, recruiting guide and soon to be released “best practices guide to hiring and retaining female drivers.”
In 2012 the White House recognized WIT for being a “Transportation Innovator Champion of Change.”
Helping hand to Everyone
The most important decision Ellen faces each day is how to move WIT’s mission forward, both within and outside of the trucking industry. As a nonprofit association, WIT strives to be a resource for their members, while also educating the non-trucking public about the importance of the industry and the availability of jobs for women (and men). They are doing the later through their Image Team, Girl Scout Transportation Patch and curriculum, the ride-alongs they give to legislators and regulators, and their future female truck driver doll.
Ellen says, “I believe that my passion is what drives our organization, staff and members.” While speaking in groups, serving on panels, during networking events or inviting potential members, Ellen is often told by them that they were attracted to the association because of her passion.
Grit and Integrity
Ellen has always believed that integrity is very important, which she realized when she was trying to convince others to support WIT’s mission. Ellen says, “In order for someone to give you their hard earned money as dues, sponsorship or a donation to the foundation, their trust in the integrity of the leaders in the organization is crucial.”
According to Ellen, one of the challenges leaders faces today is to be transparent. People are used to accessing data and expect to be provided with the information they need to make the decision to join, donate or support an organization. As a nonprofit association, WIT provides everything from by-laws to tax returns for people to review. Without transparency, the trust factor will be harder to earn.
Learning from her Mother
Ellen is often asked about her role model, and each time her response remains the same. Her mother, Virginia Voie was ahead of her time when it came to women’s roles. She encouraged Ellen and her sister to do whatever they want. This led Ellen for going home economics class and instead she took up the industrial arts class. Once stranded with a flat tire, her mother motivated Ellen to join auto mechanics class. Her mother didn’t want to be dependent on someone else, so she learnt everything about automobiles. In shop class Ellen learned how to weld, how an engine works and how to create furniture out of wood. Ellen says, “If my mom hadn’t been a role model for me, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Need of Constant Growth
Ellen is a certified association executive (CAE). So to maintain these credentials, she takes numerous classes focused on being a better association professional. Also, Ellen constantly reads books about leadership, as well as on ‘communication in an organizational setting.’ She is always on the look out for a potential speaker for conferences in WIT. Hence, she hired two authors who spoke about negotiation skills for women and the “Imposter Syndrome” faced by women in nontraditional careers. Ellen is a licensed pilot, and enjoys flying her 1972 Cessna Skyhawk single engine airplane.
For people in leadership positions, Ellen has only one advice and that is to listen. She says, “Listen to those you admire and use that to guide your actions.”