Recently, I started exchanging e-mails with a driver who is in the process of establishing a non-profit organization targeting women entering our industry as drivers.
She is an experienced long-haul driver and spoke of her love and passion for the industry.
She wants to promote accomplishments and minimize obstacles faced by women working in the industry. She feels that if she stays silent on the issues women are facing then there is no room for her to complain.
The first question I asked myself was, how will this organization stand out from others with similar goals and objectives? So I started doing a little research and began chatting online in a couple of different forums.
I was surprised when I learned that only 3% of commercial driving jobs are held by women.
I thought that number was significantly higher. I did not contact our human resources department to gather any firm numbers but I am quite certain that here at J&R Hall Transport you would find a higher percentage of women behind the wheel than 3%.
I have run down the road with many women drivers over the years and never had reason to question their skills or abilities.
In fact, I have observed that many women perform at a higher level than their male counterparts in general.
Women seem to have a much calmer ‘steady as she goes’ approach to the workload that we face along with a stronger sensibility when it comes to planning and organizing.
That has been my experience. I am discovering that my employer appears to be considerably more progressive on women’s issues than many in our industry.
I won’t pretend that I have conducted some sort of scientific study, but from the few women drivers I have been able to talk to, the general feeling is that breaking into the trucking industry as a driver is difficult and it takes some time to earn the respect of fellow drivers.
Let’s be clear, we’re talking about fellow male drivers. But here is my take on the age old “respect is earned, not given” credo.
When I obtained my commercial driver’s licence I was accepted into the industry with open arms. I still had to earn the respect of my peers but I was given that opportunity to prove myself.
But it seems to me that for women, that scenario is turned on its head. When a woman obtains her commercial driver’s licence she has to prove herself simply to gain the opportunity for employment. Only then can she start to work at gaining the respect of her peers. The bar seems to be set so much higher.
Then I read about a survey conducted by Trucking HR Canada’s Women with Drive initiative that found male managers cited physical limitations as a barrier to entry into the industry for women.
I was taken aback by this paternalistic attitude from our leadership. The majority of women that responded to the survey did not find this to be an issue.
These findings were presented at the inaugural Women with Drive Leadership Summit held on March 5.
I believe men and women are different but equal in their potential to perform in any field. We are different biologically, physically, and yes, emotionally. We tackle problems and challenges in different ways. The trucking industry is lacking the perspective that women bring to the table.
We are in a time of great change on many fronts and we are lacking the diversity to face those challenges.
Men and women possess an incredible synergy when they work together. That’s exactly what is needed right now, an effect that is greater than the sum of the individual parts.
It’s time that men started opening doors for women in this industry, listening to what they have to say, and accepting what they have to offer.
So, what of the driver that is starting the non-profit organization for women drivers? She asked me to think about joining her as a board member to work with our fellow drivers.
At first I resisted, citing availability of time.
But that’s an excuse.
Many of the obstacles women are facing as drivers today are not solely women’s issues – they are also driver issues. Especially when we are talking about training and mentorship.
I think I can help, so I will. More to follow.
Al Goodhall has been a professional long-haul driver since 1998. He shares his experiences via his ‘Over the Road’ blog at http://truckingacrosscanada.blogspot.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @Al_Goodhall.