Today, people’s idea of success is driven by personal ambition. However, it turns out to be a foolish way of doing business. Ellen Voie, CEO & Founder of Women In Trucking Association, Inc. has another way of achieving success without being fired by ambition. She is concerned about everything around that helps her to not hold anything back and do naturally her best. This is a woman’s way of operating an organization, and this is becoming the best way to operate the world.
Women & Softer Economics
In 2007, Ellen founded Women In Trucking Association as a nonprofit trade/professional organization. She explains, at that time women comprised about three percent of the driver population and had very little representation in board rooms or the C-Suite. The sentiment at that time was that the industry was just being gender-neutral and hired the best candidates. However, it was apparent that there was not a level playing field. There was unconscious bias in the hiring and promotion of female executives, and for female commercial drivers, the playing field was anything but level. Showers were communal for men, restrooms for women were scarce, trucks were designed for men and there were no women’s uniforms.
The most critical area was the lack of data. Since women were considered “statistically insignificant” in trucking, it was difficult to break the information down by gender. Over the years, the Women In Trucking Association has worked with universities and private entities to look at the differences between men and women in transportation careers. Now, it is known that women take fewer risks, both in the boardroom and in the cab of a truck. Women make decisions differently, and women have different values when it comes to working for a trucking company. Women are more collaborative and better at team building. These are all positive attributes that weren’t noted in the past.
Different But Inspiring
Unlike other girls, Elle has been interested in less traditional activities, such as woodworking, auto mechanics, drafting, and welding. After graduating from school, she was hired at a steel fabricating plant to draw material handling equipment. Working efficiently, she was offered a promotion to move into the traffic (shipping) department and advanced to Traffic Manager. There, she earned a diploma in Traffic & Transportation Management which gave her a great deal of insight into how the supply chain works.
Along with family responsibilities, she used her skills as a consultant to motor carriers in central Wisconsin. During that time she earned her bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree in Communication. ‘Women with both human skills as well as the language skills which are fundamental to any business rise faster.’ This principle helped her hired to lead the Trucker Buddy program, a nonprofit organization that matches professional drivers with elementary classrooms. After six years, she was recruited by a large carrier in the Midwest as the Manager of Retention and Recruiting Programs. Her job was to initiate corporate-level programs to attract and retain nontraditional groups, which included women. What the innovation space needs, ‘understanding the gap in any workforce.’ Keeping the mantra in her mind she spent a great deal of time trying to understand what women are looking for in a carrier and what makes them leave the industry. While earning her private pilot’s license, she belonged to a women’s aviation group that prompted her to start the Women In Trucking Association.
Reinventing Against Disparity
Although women make up 50% or more of the human population, women business owner statistics do not match up. Women entrepreneurs who are entering the workspace still need to negotiate levels of male-dominated industries to bring their ideas to life. Women In Trucking has over 6,000 members in ten countries where about fifteen percent of them are men and they support the mission. They provide insight through surveys, research, and partnering with other organizations that want people to better understand gender diversity in transportation careers. The goal is to be a resource for the industry and for the government.
As a trade/professional organization, Women In Trucking Association is here to serve its members. Involved in the transportation environment, connectivity is empowering them to build better businesses. They believe in transparency and are responsive to feedback. If a client does not feel they can provide value to their company or career advancement, they won’t renew their membership, so feedback is crucial. They are constantly asking their members what issues are important to them and how they can better represent them. Most importantly, they use their insight to make changes in the industry by quantifying their experiences which gives them measurable goals.
Overcoming The Uncertainties
Despite such devotion, Ellen admits that she has seen a difficult time responding to criticisms. She cannot help but often take these criticisms personally. She faces a hard time when people try to attack them for something they dislike instead of engaging in a conversation to resolve issues.
The world is at a stage where gender equality is becoming the major aspect of every industry. Women In Trucking Association is on a mission to provide jobs and aware women that they can play a very important part in softening economic activity. They are still working virtually with great efficiency even amid the pandemic, especially hiring self-motivated people. They are not bound to have set work hours, or even vacation schedules, as everyone is expected to complete their duties without the need for oversight.
Millions of business owners across the world faced at least some level of challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. Women In Trucking Association was moved too to take unwanted decisions. For instance, they had to cancel their in-person event in 2020 and switched to a virtual conference. They had over 600 enthusiastic registered attendees, which fueled them to continue to provide a virtual option. Similarly, in 2021, they had over 800 at their in-person event in Dallas and hundreds more who participated in all or parts of the virtual conference.
From Ellen’s Seat
Having a laid strong foundation, Women In Trucking Association has future goals to create local and regional chapters for members to continue to network throughout the year. The first chapter will be meeting early in 2022. In addition, they have launched their new Driver Ambassador tractor-trailer, driven by a female driver. She will take the mobile display around the country to allow people to learn hands-on trailer which is specially designed with a lot of technology, including a simulator.
Ellen’s message for entrepreneurs is to be persistent and do not let any critic slow down an ambition. “Starting any business, whether it’s a nonprofit or for-profit is difficult and time-consuming. Do your homework but ask lots of questions. Find a mentor and believe in yourself.”