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March 1st marked the 4th Annual Women with Driver Leadership Summit. The timing could not have been more appropriate. A week later, on March 8th, we celebrated International Women’s Day, a time to pause and reflect on what steps we can take personally and on a broader scale as a society to create a more inclusive, gender-equal workplace for women. This is especially important in traditionally male-dominated industries like freight transportation, which unfortunately still lag behind when it comes to female representation.

It’s 2018: Where Do We Stand?

The commercial transportation sector is still male-dominated. Just three percent of truck drivers are women and only three percent of mechanics, cargo workers, and transport trailer technicians are women. The good news is that these numbers are growing as more and more women discover that there are lucrative career opportunities as drivers, technicians, mechanics and more. Despite stereotypes, these roles are largely gender-neutral, meaning that physical strength isn’t necessary in order to safely drive and maintain a truck or transport trailer.

It is more important than ever for women to recognize the opportunity that exists for fulfilling careers in freight transportation. As Baby Boomers retire in great numbers, the demand for drivers continues to increase and that gap needs to be bridged. Women are already playing other pivotal roles in the industry, from parts technicians and safety and loss prevention specialists to managerial staff and dispatchers. The fact that women are filling these roles is a reflection of the fact that workplaces are more and more female-friendly.

CHET and our parent company Musket Transport Ltd. are committed to exploring ways to attract women who may be well suited to various careers in transportation. That’s why we sent representatives to attend the inspirational and informative Women with Drive Leadership Summit on March 1st, 2018.

The Women with Drive Leadership Summit – An Overview

This year’s Women with Drive Leadership Summit took place at the Toronto Airport Marriot Hotel. The Summit was an impressive demonstration of the industry’s commitment to improving opportunities for women in trucking and freight transportation. A national project headed by Trucking HR Canada, the event was attended by a broad range of individuals who recruit, retain or mentor women in the Canadian trucking industry. At its core, the Summit was designed to teach managers and industry leaders effective strategies for integrating women into the workforce, supporting them in the workplace, and promoting a female-friendly work environment. It was also an opportunity for women to network with HR professionals and obtain valuable career guidance. Attendees walked away with powerful lessons and practical tools to help women find growth-oriented transportation careers.

2018 Summit Highlights

On February 28th, the night prior to the Summit, attendees were invited to a networking reception to connect with speakers and fellow attendees. On March 1st, the Summit commenced.

A Leadership Panel consisting of experienced leaders across the trucking and logistics industry shared insights on how and why they take a leadership position when it comes to recruiting and retaining women to their companies. They offered strategies they have used to successfully increase the representation of women and other under-represented groups within their companies as well. Former President of the Canadian Trucking Alliance David Bradley moderated the panel of feature leaders including CEO of Eassons Transport Ltd. Trevor Bent, President of XTL Genevieve Gagnon, Owner and President of Snowbird Transportation Systems Louisa McAlpine and COO of Kenan Advantage Group – North America, Grant Mitchell. They fielded a number of important questions, including “What [issues] keep you up at night?” Their diverse responses included technological advances, the aging driver population and driver shortage, safety concerns, and the significance of customer service. Other topics covered included best practices and how to connect with and offer training and employment opportunities to visible minorities such as indigenous populations and individuals with disabilities.

Keynote speaker David Lau – Senior Associate of Corporate Engagement at Catalyst Canada – delivered a powerful presentation on “The State of Women in Business”. David spoke honestly about the higher level of scrutiny that exists for women in the areas of experience, performance, and appearance. He pointed out that at work women are only promoted after proof of performance whereas men are often promoted based on their potential. David emphasized the importance of giving women a fair shot at career advancement. He also addressed the challenge that women “can’t be what [they] can’t see”, indicating that there are too few female role models in the industry.

David advocated for better workplace inclusion and more inclusive leadership by sharing some practical strategies and suggestions on topics such as how to challenge stereotypes and the importance of becoming aware of the power of your words. He also spoke about the significance of men actively participating in advocating for women in the workplace. David closed his keynote address by sharing some of the best practices of industries leading the charge in the areas of inclusion and diversity.

A highlight of the evening was the Power Panel, which featured a line-up of successful women entrepreneurs in the trucking and logistics industry willing to share valuable insights on how they made their respective businesses thrive. Moderated by Angelique Magi, National Vice President of Transportation and Strategic Initiatives with The Guarantee Company of North America, the panel included Andreea Crisan of Andy Transport. Margaret Hogg of JG Drapeau and Louise Vonk of Messenger Freight.

Another event highlight was the “Outside In” panel which highlighted insights from representatives at Monster Canada and Workopolis on the freight transportation industry’s efforts to attract women and non-traditional groups. The panel also shed light on how the industry is perceived and how we can better promote ourselves to prospective job seekers. Moderated by Sonia Straface, Assistant Editor of Truck News and Truck West magazines, speakers on this dynamic panel included Angela Payne, Senior Vice President and General Manager at Monster Canada, and Aimee Rieck, Senior Manager of Human Resources at Workopolis.

Representatives from CHET and Musket Transport were excited to take home practical lessons and strategies shared at the Summit so we can improve our efforts to support the advancement of women in the transportation industry. Take a look at some of the things we are already doing to attract and integrate women, and stay tuned to hear about our latest efforts!