March 8th is International Women’s Day, a day where we reflect on what steps we can take individually and as a society to help forge a more inclusive, gender-equal working world.
It’s important that our industry takes a good look in the mirror to identify where we stand on this front. Freight transportation has always been a male-dominated industry, but change is on the horizon. Slowly but surely, women are learning that there are lucrative career opportunities as drivers, technicians, mechanics and more. Contrary to popular belief, these roles are largely gender neutral. Brute strength isn’t integral to safely driving and maintaining a truck or transport trailer.
Women already play a role in the industry, but statistics show that there is plenty of room for growth. Merely 3 percent of truck drivers are women. Similarly, just 3 percent of mechanics, cargo workers and transport trailer technicians are women. These numbers may be small, but encouragingly they are slowly growing. This is especially true as the Baby Boomer generation reaches retirement and the demand for drivers increases.
Women have already forayed into various other industry roles, from dispatchers and managerial staff to parts technicians and safety and loss prevention specialists. Their growing presence in these roles reflects a workplace that is increasingly female-friendly. Many industry leaders are making a pointed effort to attract more women to the industry.
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 educational and inspiring Women with Drive Leadership Summit on March 3rd, 2017.
The Women with Drive Leadership Summit – What You Need to Know
The 3rd annual Women with Drive Leadership Summit demonstrated the industry’s commitment to increasing opportunities for women in the trucking and freight transportation. The Summit – attended by individuals who recruit, retain or mentor women in the Canadian trucking industry – is a national project headed by Trucking HR Canada.
The Summit educates managers and industry leaders about strategies for integrating women into the workforce, supporting them in the workplace, and promoting a female-friendly work environment. Women at the Summit also have the opportunity to connect with human resources professionals and get invaluable advice and career guidance. All who attended the Summit learned invaluable lessons and practical tools to help connect women with growth-oriented careers in the industry.
The value-packed Summit featured a lineup of powerful and informative speakers, including Stephania Varalli, Co-CEO of Women of Influence. Stephania is known for her work helping women to advance in the workplace. Sharing the statistical progress on closing the economic gender gap across various global regions, she noted that although North America has better statistics than other regions, the progress is still slow. Unfortunately, experts estimate that it will take approximately 170 years for women to achieve true pay equity.
Setepania discussed the work she and her team at Women of Influence have done for the advancement of women. In addition to highlighting the blatant sexism that women have faced in the workplace, she asked attendees to consider the biases that people aren’t conscious of which impact our lives and our choices. As a society, we perceive that certain roles – especially leadership roles – are better suited for men. These assumptions are flawed and need to be changed.
She outlined benchmarks for programs designed to effectively integrate women into various traditionally male industries and set them up for success. She identified that women need mentorship as well as female role models and leaders to look up to and emulate. Managers also need to create work environments and institute policies that empower all employees, including women, to thrive and move up the ranks into more prominent roles.
Stephania shared a quote by Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund that brought the importance of instituting these benchmarks home: “The evidence is clear…when women do better, economies do better.”
After a networking break, attendees enjoyed hearing from a panel of speakers entitled “Global Perspectives” exploring how and why they entered the transportation industry. The panel featured women from England, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden and Denmark, and was moderated by Marco Beghetto from the Ontario Trucking Association.
Some key themes that arose included the importance of industry training, raising awareness of career opportunities, ensuring there are female role models in various positions and leadership roles, and creating a feeling of belonging and unity for all employees including women.
One panelist addressed the opportunity to use social media to showcase women in the industry and create a sense of community amongst all members of the industry. The panelists also discussed interesting differences in the industry across different global regions, attributes of a successful driver, misconceptions about women’s interest and aptitude for roles in the industry, and the importance of hosting summits like this to dismantle those misconceptions.
In the afternoon after networking over lunch, attendees had the opportunity to hear from Mandy Rennehan, Founder and CEO of Freshco, an Ontario retail-based construction company, as well as from speakers sitting on two additional panels, one on human resources and the other on leading by example. We were excited that the VP of Musket’s insurance company The Guarantee, Angelique Magi, was asked to moderate the final panel. One of Musket’s vendors, Anne McKee from Trailer Wizards, was also asked to participate as a panelist.
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!
We are proud of our females in training and working in the industry! Hear from our female graduates Maria Marin C and Susanna B regarding their driver training experience. Read an interview with Musket’s first female mechanic, Ellen P! We would also like to recognize and congratulate one of Musket’s driver Nelia M! She was the first female truck driver in the Filipino community to receive an award December 2016.
In addition, our team at CHET and Musket would like to highlight that “trucker stereotypes” are not real. Becoming a professional truck driver is more about your lifestyle than your size, gender, race, etc. On the day of international women’s day, we’d like to feature an international female driver making headlines in Europe for breaking the trucker stereotype, Iwona Blecharczyk! Subscribe to her YouTube channel as she records her experiences out on the road.