REGINA, Sask. – Hitting the road across country, the overwhelming theme of Women with Drive’s first stop in Western Canada was to “just do it.”
Offering advice to women looking to get into the industry, a panel made up of three successful women in trucking and as entrepreneurs, urged attendees to follow their dreams and goals and that it would all work out in the end.
“Just go do it and you’ll be fine,” said Heather Day, president of C.S. Day Transport, who moved from teaching to the family business much sooner than she had envisioned.
“For me everything just carries over…performance reviews are nothing different than what we were doing when we were teaching,” said Day, admitting that her transition after just four years teaching in England was a bit easier given her family’s trucking background. “Being around the building and being around the smells…I used to fill in as a teenager and got to know the drivers quite well. It was all quite natural.”
Erin Diehl, owner of D&E Transport, who borrowed the popular shoe-brand expression for women to “just do it” and launch their trucking careers, also said the industry needs to make a few changes if it’s going to continue being successful and attractive to women.
Diehl said there is a need to return to the “old-school way of doing business,” and that she struggles to understand when and where that work ethic was left behind.
“When you say you’re going to do something, then you do it,” Diehl said, whose husband was a driver for more than 20 years before the couple decided to start their own business.
Diehl, who in addition to running a company works full-time as a registered nurse, said there are a few simple things the industry can do to make it more attractive to women.
“We have to stop saying this is a male dominate industry,” she said, adding that the statement can scare potential female workers away. “We have a lot of strong women who work in this industry.”
Diehl also said more needs to be done to make both women and men feel safe and cared for while on the road.
“I need a bathroom to stop at and I need one more than every six hours,” said Diehl. “I need a safe place…we shouldn’t have to be put at risk to make a living.”
How trucking is branded is another area Diehl believes the industry has fallen short.
“Somehow, we got into the image that trucking is dirty,” she said, pointing to how owner-operators and truckers in general are not seen in such a negative light south of the border. “I don’t know how it slid, but we have to work to get it back up.”
Jennifer Ehrmantraut, owner of Intentional You Coaching and Consulting and former government employee who was the first woman to hold a position as assistant deputy minister of the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure, said she has always been one who has tried to break the glass ceiling.
“Someone told me no, and I’m going to prove them wrong,” said Ehrmantraut, who was told by a female government coworker that women had a glass ceiling hovering above them. “I never thought of being a woman in an organization that was dominated by men and it was not my intention to pave the way for women to be what they aspired to be.”
Ehrmantraut said women need to find their own confidence from within, and silence that inner voice telling them people will eventually find out that they don’t deserve to be in the position they are.
Ehrmantraut said she is has grown tired of hearing about a glass ceiling, and that more often than not, women create that hurdle themselves by not being authentic to who they really are.
One way Ehrmantraut believes women can overcome this insecurity is to find a mentor who can show them a path forward.
“It gives you the space to ask all those dumb questions,” she said. “As we grow in the relationship, we need that thought partner.”
Day said women in trucking need to start talking more about their professions and always be an ambassador for the industry.
Diehl agreed, adding that it all boils down to self-confidence.
“You’re the only person standing in your way,” she said. “(Women) just have to believe in themselves.”
One thing that does not discriminate between men and women is good old-fashioned hard work, as well as the ability to surround oneself with the right people.
“Everything we do is relationship based,” said Ehrmantraut. “Nothing is given to us on a silver platter, you have to go out there and work your ass off for it.”
Looking at the data
Data shows that despite there being challenges, there is a large pool of potential candidates who can step in and take over for an aging workforce.
David Coletto, CEO and cofounder of Abacus Data, said in the province of Saskatchewan, 15% of young workers, or millennials, would consider a career in trucking.
With 310,000 millennials in the province, that equates to 46,500 potential trucking employees.
The perception of the trucking industry in Saskatchewan is also quite positive, with only 12% having a bad or very bad impression and 53% good or very good.
Of those Saskatchewanians interested in trucking as a career, availability of jobs, travel, pay, and safety were the top reasons they were attracted to the industry. While work-life balance, respect for others, and it being an industry for both men and women were not seen as positive aspects of the trucking industry.
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