HR experts discuss lack of women drivers

TORONTO, ON – Human Resources experts from Canadian carriers were among those who took took center stage on Thursday during the third-annual Women with Drive summit, offering thoughts on what can be done to attract, recruit and retain female drivers.

Hosted by Trucking HR Canada, the event included industry experts who discussed a range of issues regarding where women fit in the industry in general. Of course, one of the biggest barriers seems to exist behind the wheel. Statistics Canada says just 3% of Canada’s drivers are women.

Linda Young, vice president of human resources and people development for Bison Transport, has worked in a range of industries including healthcare, telecommunications and manufacturing in her 25-year Human Resources career, but says when she first approached the trucking industry she was slightly intimidated.

“Not going to happen,” Young said, recalling her thoughts the day she found herself at a Bison Transport facility for an interview and saw a row of trucks lined up against a fence. It was the stereotypes and misconceptions that she brought with her that day that intimidated her. The lack of awareness about the industry’s true image is one of the many barriers that prevent women from pursuing careers behind the wheel or elsewhere, she said, suggesting industry advertisements should include more images of women to help tackle the barriers.

When women do apply for roles, they tend to ask more questions than their male counterparts during interviews, said Caroline Blais, Kriska Holdings’ recruiting manager. Still, they tend to look for the same things men do. The differences have more to do with generations than gender.

“Young individuals are looking for flexibility among other things,” Blais said. That’s admittedly a challenge given the nature of truck driving, but carriers need to find ways to offer what millennials would desire and appreciate in a job, she added, noting the stale perception of trucking needs to shift. “Our industry isn’t very glamorous.” 

Susan Power, director of human resources for RST Industries and Sunbury Transport, has more than 100 staff in addition to over 800 drivers, and believes events like Women with Drive make a difference — sharing the stories of successful industry women to encourage others to consider careers in the field.

While a range of working opportunities and accommodation is something that may attract women to the industry, Power said it’s something that attracts employees in general.

In addition, Power says prospective employees, regardless of gender, really want to work for what they perceive to be an employer whose values align with their own.

“You have to be very clear on what your vision is as an employer,” Power said, adding that if employers share their vision and values through digital platforms like videos, websites and social media, the employees they attract will reflect those values.

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