Women with Drive and the missing men

by James Menzies

We knew we had an issue. Anyone who has spent any time at all in the trucking business knows women are vastly underrepresented in all facets of the industry. Women make up half the Canadian workforce, yet represent only 3% of drivers and technicians. Only 11% of trucking managers are women and 18% of dispatchers. We wonder why we can’t find enough good people yet we’ve been unable or unwilling to draw from the 48% of the Canadian workforce comprised of women.

The Women with Drive Leadership Summit, held March 5 and covered in this issue of  Truck News, explored the problem in great detail.

Intelligent discussions were held throughout the day and from those, I’ve assembled a list of five ways we can do a better job at attracting women to the trucking industry:

Reach out to them: Are your recruiting ads and materials inviting to women, or at the very least gender-neutral? Many women, we learned at the Summit, don’t even consider a career in trucking because they don’t know these opportunities exist. Other industries facing the same challenges (ie., mining and electrical) have done a better job reaching out specifically to women and young ladies, through their local schools or family events that are inclusive of spouses, daughters, nieces, etc.

Accommodate them: Are your facilities female-friendly? We heard of a terminal built within the past few years that didn’t have women’s washrooms installed, because there were no women on staff. They had to be retrofit once the first female driver came on-board.

Mentor them: Once you’ve brought a female driver on-board, what steps have you taken to ensure their success? We heard at the Summit of the importance of mentorship programs and how effective they can be in ensuring women stay on board and on the path to success.

Celebrate their successes: We learned many women don’t consider careers in industries such as trucking because they don’t know others who’ve achieved success in those industries. Are we doing enough to celebrate and highlight the successes and achievements of women in the industry? These accomplished women can serve as role models to others.

Create a workplace of equality: A survey by Trucking HR Canada indicated most women are satisfied with their careers in trucking, yet too many (nearly 10%) still felt they had to work harder than men to be respected. Some reported being harassed, especially by younger males in the workplace. Employers need to take a strong position in creating workplaces with zero-tolerance discrimination policies. Perhaps most interestingly, the Trucking HR Canada survey found men named ‘physical limitations’ as one of the greatest barriers to entry for women drivers. Women, on the other hand, felt this was a non-issue.

The industry has come a long way towards being more inclusive of women but they’re not yet knocking down the doors. The Women with Drive Summit provided an illuminating overview of the issues and offered practical solutions to address them. The only thing that was missing from the Summit? More men! The women in the audience were all-too-familiar with the issues being discussed; where were the male employers? They could be counted on one hand.

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