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Maintenance manager adds a woman’s touch to the shop

ABERFOYLE, Ont. - Schneider National is continuing to lead the pack when it comes to promoting women's roles in the trucking industry, most recently appointing Lisann Nicholl to the position of shop m...


TOPS IN THE SHOP: Maintenance Manager Lisann Nicholl credits Schneider with providing equal opportunities for employees of either sex.
TOPS IN THE SHOP: Maintenance Manager Lisann Nicholl credits Schneider with providing equal opportunities for employees of either sex.

ABERFOYLE, Ont. – Schneider National is continuing to lead the pack when it comes to promoting women’s roles in the trucking industry, most recently appointing Lisann Nicholl to the position of shop manager at the company’s Aberfoyle, Ont. terminal. Nicholl, who has worked with Schneider for almost 16 years, took up the traditionally male-dominated position in early November.

But Nicholl has never let gender stand in the way of her career. She says that both the company and her co-workers have always been supportive of her goals.

“If you show an interest in something, Schneider will train you to get you where you want to go. They’re big on goals,” Nicholl told Truck News. “I’ve been with the company for so long and a lot of the mechanics have been here for a while, so the staff here have been very good to me. They have been very patient and were quite happy that I had made the move over to the shop.”

Having grown up on a farm, Nicholl has always been around heavy equipment, so the move into trucking was natural. Starting as a driver in 1992 after owning a restaurant for four years, Nicholl rose through the ranks of the organization, holding positions ranging from recruiter to operations manager, before deciding she wanted to learn yet another end of the business.

Nicholl is first to admit how unusual it is for a woman to be running a shop the size of Schneider National’s, but that stigma has never caused her to second-guess her career choice.

“Schneider is very progressive and they have a lot of women at different levels of the organization,”she says. “I’ve never felt uncomfortable here or held back or wanted to go anywhere else. They’re just a really good, supportive organization.”

Schneider has made a name for itself in recent years as a female-friendly workplace, led by Ellen Voie, Schneider’s manager of recruiting and retention programs, and also chairwoman of Women in Trucking, a new association which encourages women to join the industry and promotes their accomplishments.

“I would like to get more involved because I think it’s a great organization and clearly gaining momentum,” Nicholl says.

“I think inherently women do and can bring a different perspective to the business and (for men) to be part of those types of organizations is important,” says Sandro Caccaro, vicepresident and general manager of Schneider National Canada. “That’s 50% of the population that you’re missing out on. Personally, I’m of the opinion that we need to promote and develop regardless of gender. But certainly, when you’re not open in an industry that’s so male-oriented and dominated, you’re missing out on half the talent pool. As far as I’m concerned, the industry needs to upgrade its talent.”

And Schneider has been doing just that. In fact, the vast majority of the management staff at the Aberforyle facility, are indeed women. “It’s a nice way to be outnumbered,” jokes Caccaro.

With men far outnumbering women in the industry at large, the trick, Nicholl says, is trying to make jobs in trucking a more attractive option for the fairer sex.

“Trucking isn’t exactly an attractive area to be in. It’s not very glamorous,” Nicholl says. She suggests choosing a forward-thinking company, which actively works to promote women in the industry.

“I think women could play a part in it no matter what they wanted to do, from driving to mechanics to whatever they think they could fit into. I really see it being more crossfunctional; definitely women are taking more and more interest in the trade. If they enter on the ground level like I did as a driver, they could actually choose to come in the office.”

As Nicholl enters a new phase of her career at Schneider, she is enjoying learning the ropes in her new job, the respect she continues to receive from fellow staff, and her stunted 60-hour work week, a welcome change from heinous hours she had once put in at the restaurant.

“I can put my feet up now and relax,” she told Truck News with a laugh.


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