See you at the Women with Drive Summit

by Lou Smyrlis

Much of the discussion about attracting more women into the industry has focused on the driver position. It’s a no brainer considering women, who make up about half of the Canadian workforce, represent only 3% of drivers.

Yet the discussion needs to evolve beyond this. The reality is trucking needs women in all positions – in maintenance, in dispatch, in management and in the boardroom. After a recent USA Today article zoned in on the underrepresentation of women as board members of publicly traded companies, the Women in Trucking Association (WIT) partnered with the University of Memphis and Dr. Stephanie Ivey to investigate the make up of board members in the US trucking industry.

It found that of 15 carriers listed as publicly traded companies, seven have no women serving on their boards of directors. Ten of the 15 show no women in the executive suite.

Were they to examine the boards of Canadian-based publicly traded trucking companies would the results have been much different? I doubt it. We already know that only 11% of trucking managers are women.

Yet the visibility of women in executive positions – it’s executives who often get to speak at industry events and are quoted in industry publications – is a key element in attracting more women to the industry.

As Ellen Voie , WIT’s president and CEO, points out: We have a long way to go to find equity in the board rooms and C-Suites of carriers.

But as the famous Chinese saying goes, a thousand mile journey starts with a single step.

And that critical first step is education: educating women about the opportunities and challenges to be found in the trucking industry; and men in decision-making positions about what women must see before considering trucking as a viable career option.

Trucking HR Canada’s first Women with Drive Summit last year provided an illuminating overview of the issues involved with attracting and retaining women in the trucking industry along with practical solutions.

But there was one thing clearly missing: Men. The male employers in attendance could be counted on one hand. (And, to be honest, I didn’t attend myself, wrongly thinking this was an event for women).

The second annual Women with Drive Summit will be held March 3, 2016. 

There will be female speakers from across Canada who are emerging leaders in this industry, and will be sharing their thoughts about challenges and opportunities for women in leadership roles.

There will also be other panels exploring workplace diversity, compensation, life on the road, and an array of career development topics.

This is an event for everyone and I won’t be making the same mistake and not attending. In fact, I’m honoured to be hosting the opening session on workplace diversity.

I hope to see you there. To learn more about Women with Drive, visit


Lou Smyrlis can be reached by phone at (416) 510-6881 or by e-mail at You can also follow him on Twitter at

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