NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The numbers are increasing, but according to Ellen Voie there’s plenty of work to be done when it comes to women in the trucking industry.
With women accounting for approximately 5.6% of the driving fleet in the U.S. – most recent numbers in Canada indicated only 3% of drivers are female – Voie, president and CEO of the Women in Trucking Association, said many around the world are encouraged by the rise in U.S. numbers, but she is not satisfied.
“There are more women, just not enough,” Voie said during a presentation at Omnitracs Outlook 2018 in Nashville, Tenn. “We’ve never hit 6%, ever.”
Voie made the case that hiring more female drivers would benefit trucking companies in more ways than one.
With 52% of the U.S. labor force female, she pointed to the biological differences between the sexes. Women tend to bond better with others, as well as activate their amygdalae faster than their male counterparts, meaning fear is trigged quicker in women – a good thing, Voie said, for a professional driver.
“You want more people behind the wheel who are more bonding and don’t take big risks,” she said.
Citing various statistics from Stay Metrics and the University of Wisconsin, Voie highlighted the fact that women are less likely to be involved in a collision than men, and when they are, cause less damage, as the incidents usually occur during travel at low speeds, such as reversing into a shipping bay. This results in less damage to equipment when compared to men, who are more likely to be involved in a collision at higher speeds.
Women also excel at paperwork, according to Voie, and are easier to train because of their desire to acquire the necessary tools for success, whereas men can often say they are capable of doing something they are not to avoid embarrassment.
Women are also harder on themselves during the initial application phase. They tend to believe they must poses 100% of the criteria for a particular position, while men will apply for a job once they have 60% of the employer’s desired skills.
“Don’t think you need to come into the industry with 100% of the criteria,” said Voie. “We will train you.”
Of the women who enter the industry, 83% do so because someone, such as a male family member, convinced them it was the right thing to do. This means women are more likely to understand what a commercial driver’s job entails and there will be less surprises along the way.
Like men, financial compensation is a large determining factor into why women chose trucking as a career, and they do feel their pay is fair and they are not underpaid compared to male colleagues.
A good benefits package and the availability of health insurance round out the Top 3 items women look for in a career.
Building quality relationships is another important factor that determines a woman’s happiness in the workplace.
In trucking, having a good relationship between the driver and dispatcher is vital, which in turn means a woman is more likely to leave a position if that relationship suffers.
Turnover is slightly lower with women, with safety and the quality of equipment prime reasons they may walk away from a position.
One misconception as to why women leave driver jobs is because they want more home time. However, men are more likely to leave for this reason, which goes back to how the vast majority of women get into the industry because a family member encouraged them, and they are fully aware of those time commitments.
“They already know they are going to be away from home,” said Voie.
Despite all the benefits of hiring more women, challenges remain, particularly when it comes to providing a welcoming workplace.
A recent poll indicates when asked how safe they felt at work, the average female response was 4.4 out of a possible 10.
Contributing factors into the poll included personal safety, safety of the equipment being using, and how she is treated at truck stops, and by other drivers and shippers.
Thirty-seven percent of female drivers say they are treated differently than their male counterparts.
Voie said companies looking to hire more women should not assume the industry is not an attractive career choice.
Businesses must look at where they are doing their recruiting, how to ensure they are reaching the right audience, and that they are appealing to women. Only 4% of companies polled by Women in Trucking said they have a separate ad campaign directed at women, most being gender neutral.
Recruiters should be informative with female-driven ad campaigns, and include information on wages, benefits, a job description, and hour requirements. They should also be unique with their advertisements, make them relevant to the industry with realistic images, and maintain a level of truth and honesty.
Women in Trucking has members around the world, including 10% from Canada. The organization has established an Image Team made up of female drivers who participate in ride-along events for legislators, regulators, and industry leaders. They are also in the process of developing a Canadian Image Team with nominations due by Feb. 28.