The Women in Trucking Accelerate 2022 event held in Dallas at the Anatole Hilton was inspiring, and this year’s event had a record setting 1,750 attendees.
Ellen Voie, president and CEO of WIT, went on to clarify that while the U.S. Department of Labor states that the participation of women as truck drivers of all classes of commercial vehicles is approximately 7%, the number of Class 8 women drivers is 13.6%. This shows great progress in our traditionally male-dominated industry, but still well below a 50% value that demographics would expect.
I found it historically compelling that WIT Accelerate attendees had to walk by a piece of the Berlin Wall that the Anatole has on display. The piece has graffiti by German artist Jurden Grope. A plaque near the wall translates “Wir Längst” to “We” and “a long length of time.” I couldn’t help but see the appropriate symmetry of this piece of the Berlin Wall from a historical perspective of the long effort to achieve equal participation of underrepresented groups in the trucking industry.
I know of two particularly good presidential speeches about the Berlin Wall that I would like to adapt in this thought leadership piece to WIT’s stated mission, “to encourage the employment of women in the industry, promote their accomplishments, and minimize obstacles faced by women working in trucking.” So with the help of John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, let me adjust their Berlin Wall and Brandenburg Gate speeches in context of WIT’s mission.
There are many people in the world who really don’t understand, or say they don’t, what is the great issue between women and the trucking industry. Let them come to WIT. There are some who say that males will always dominate trucking. Let them come to WIT. And there are some who say in the U.S. and elsewhere we can work with the status quo. Let them come to WIT. And there are even a few who say that it is true that a male-dominated industry is not optimum, but it permits us to make economic progress. Lass’ sic nach WIT kommen. Let them come to WIT.
To the trucking industry, if you seek profitability; if you seek prosperity for the industry and all its participants; if you seek diversity: Come to WIT Accelerate! Trucking industry, open this gate. Trucking industry, tear down this wall!
It is energizing that WIT, working with both Democrats and Republicans in the government, inserted the verbiage from the draft Promoting Women in Trucking Workforce Act into the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), establishing a Trucking Action Plan “to increase the supply of truck drivers by creating new pathways into the profession, cutting red tape to expand high quality training through registered apprenticeships, and laying the foundation for improving job quality to keep people in the profession.”
A keystone of this effort was the creation of the Women of Trucking Advisory Board to provide industry guidance to government on critical issues of expanding participation by women and other underrepresented groups into the trucking industry. Diversity has been repeatedly shown to improve the bottom line for companies. Improving participation helps to expand the talent pool for perennial job shortages, including drivers, technicians, back office and supervisory personnel.
Speakers at WIT Accelerate 2022 discussed that there are many benefits to improving diversity in trucking. At the risk of stereotyping, one of the more intriguing statistical findings is that women drivers tend to have a safer driving history on average than males. I follow reports of safe million-mile driver announcements and I know there are quite a few male drivers that might argue this point, but the insurance statistics discussed at WIT Accelerate support the claim. Before taking any offense at my statement, note that I firmly believe there are no average truck drivers, no average trucks, no average routes and no average trucking companies.
Voie discussed another statistic: 15% of WIT members are male. This is another remarkable sign of progress and inclusivity. However, it begs the questions, why aren’t more males WIT members? I looked around the 1,750 faces at Accelerate 2022 and males were definitely in the minority. It would be a great experience for trucking industry males to be exposed to the future of trucking and to help participate in improving the industry through encouraging diversity.
I’ve always felt that the greatest progress in improving the participation of underrepresented groups in the work place is by hiring them, seeing them at work and interacting with them. Companies that are industry leaders in this include many of the OEMs and suppliers. Walking the talk, promoting talented people irrespective of their gender, ethnicity or age, is critical to tapping and developing a deep bench of company resources.
Adapting one last presidential quote, “All trucking men, wherever they may live, are representatives of the trucking industry, and, therefore, as a trucking man, I take pride in the words ‘I am a WIT member!’”
Postscript note: Trying times always seem to exist. For some reflection on two such periods, revisit the audio of the original inspiring speeches by John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.