TORONTO, Ont. — Women are largely underrepresented in the ranks of Canada’s trucking industry, and account for just 3% of truck drivers overall. But Rona Ambrose believes that solutions to the issue could be more straightforward than some people think.
Speaking to a largely female crowd at Trucking HR Canada’s recent Women with Drive event, the former leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, business leader, and champion for women’s rights drew plenty of applause for her related advice to industry employers.
- Establish a mentorship program
The number one tried and true recruitment strategy for drawing more women into any industry — and keeping them there – is through mentorship programs, Ambrose said.
“I spend a lot of time recruiting women and getting them into public office,” she said. “When I suggest to them that they should run for office, they always counter with, ‘Oh well, before that I want to get my masters’, then I want to be a CEO,’ And when I say the same thing to their male counterparts, the men say, ‘Yup. You’re right.’ There’s such a disconnect there. But that’s where you as leaders need to jump in and say to those women, ‘Hey you’re good enough and we want to train you and support you and promote you.’”
The bonus is that the strategy is free, Ambrose added.
“It’s just an effort to find another woman or man to help guide these newcomers. So I encourage you to continue to focus on that.”
- Listen to the women on your team
“It’s hard to speak up as a woman in a male-dominated setting,” Ambrose said, referring to the way some women hesitate to speak up in a boardroom. “Most people have that voice of self-doubt telling them not to speak up, and they only do [it] after rehearsing it for 10 minutes in their head beforehand.”
But when women do speak up, Ambrose said it is important for leaders in the industry to listen to them and their ideas, the same way they would listen to their male counterparts.
“And for the leaders in this room, if you don’t have women speaking up in your meetings, draw them out,” she said. “That’s your responsibility. If you want more women in your industry to feel like they belong, call them out and say, ‘So, Sally, what do you think?’ And I know it’s more work for you, but you should be telling the women in your office that you want to know what she has to say and that you value her voice.”
- Rethink who conducts your job interviews
Industry employers should take a close look at who they have hiring female job candidates, Ambrose told the Women with Drive audience.
“Research shows that when an interviewer asks if the interviewee has any questions, a woman is more likely to ask more questions to a female interviewer than a male interviewer,” she said. “Frankly, some women are more comfortable asking another woman certain questions that they won’t ask a man.”
In trucking, for example, a potential female driver could be more comfortable asking a female interviewer policies regarding safe rest stops and clean washrooms.
“Those couple of answers might make a difference,” she said. “At the end of the day, women don’t want to be treated differently, but we do have different realities that most men don’t deal with.”
- Ask women if they’re interested in the job
Remember that some women already in the workplace could be intrigued by internal job postings, Ambrose stressed.
“When women apply for a promotion, do you as leaders think of them the same way you think of the men in the office?” she asked. “Very often male leaders especially will wonder why no women applied for a certain position. And it’s because they are sending unconscious signals that women aren’t welcome. They’ll think or say, ‘Mary is fantastic, but I know her husband has a busy career and she just had a second child, so there’s no way she’d be interested in the job.’ Here’s a thought, ask Mary what she wants.”
It’s an unconscious bias she sees in many workplaces, where leaders don’t think twice about a man’s struggles at home.
“It’s something we all need to think about more,” she said. “Do you think about men and women the same way? And do you value the women the same way you value the men in your office?”
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