The inaugural Women with Drive Leadership Summit was held March 5 and I, for one, enjoyed the high-level discussions that took place throughout the day and the practical tips that were presented on how to make the Canadian trucking industry more appealing to women.
The day started on the right foot, when federal Labour Minister Kellie Leitch arrived with her chequebook in hand. She announced $421,720 in federal funding to help women and other underrepresented groups to find employment in the trucking industry.
Our intrepid reporter (me) asking Minister Kellie Leitch the tough questions.
Of that, $296,720 will go towards developing a mentorship program for women in trucking. The remainder will be spent to identify best practices for hiring members of other underrepresented groups.
Leitch then stepped outside the Sheraton, posed for pictures, climbed behind the wheel of Joanne Mackenzie’s pink Peterbilt, and drove a celebratory lap around the parking lot without hitting anything. I caught up with her afterwards, and dutifully asked the Minister when trucking will finally be recognized as a skilled trade, to which she dutifully delivered this non-answer:
“For us, this is about making sure women in Canada have great Canadian jobs. We know the trucking industry has good wages…I was delighted today to make sure the great mentorship program that has been presented to us is going to be supported…With respect to moving forward, these are great jobs. I’m out promoting women moving into all skilled professional jobs, that’s what we want them to enter into. It’s a huge percentage of the Canadian workforce – 47% of it – and only 2% are entering trucking. Having just driven a truck myself, says to me this is something I’d really like to encourage young people to do.”
Having been zapped of my zeal to ask hard-hitting questions about when trucking will become recognized as a skilled trade, I asked her what she liked best about driving the big truck.
“It’s big,” she said. “But it’s actually really comfortable. If given the opportunity to control some of your own hours, to be an independent provider or work towards owning your own firm in the trucking industry – which is an expanding industry in Canada – these are huge opportunities for young women and I’d encourage them to enter this and also encourage leadership in the trucking industry to reach out to young women and encourage them to enter into this industry, because you’re going to get a great workforce.”
James Menzies is editor of Truck News magazine. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies. All posts by James Menzies