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June 25, 2024 - LIMITLESS Magazine

Kicking asphalt: Women in trucking

Putting gender diversity in the driver’s seat.

The road to success is paved with opportunities and obstacles. What you achieve and what you overcome often depends on the choices you make and the paths you take. One nonprofit organization has set out to empower women to take the road often less traveled—a career in the trucking industry.  

Since 2007, the Women in Trucking Association (WIT) has worked to fulfill its mission “to encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry, promote their accomplishments, and minimize obstacles faced by women working in the industry.” Founded by Ellen Voie, who handed over the wheel to current President and CEO Jennifer Hedrick in January 2023, WIT has spent the past 17 years striving to fill a gender gap in an industry heavily dominated by men.

“When Ellen founded WIT in 2007, she felt there was a need for a trade association that championed women in the transportation industry,” Hedrick explains. “When we talk about transportation and trucking, we don’t just mean drivers. We are talking about anyone pursuing a career in the industry, running the gamut from the driver to the C-suite.”  

Now 8,000 members strong, WIT supports a broad range of trucking professionals, from owner-operators to senior vice presidents to warehouse managers to service technicians.

“We could name 50 different roles, and they are all represented within WIT,” Hedrick continues. “Many of them aren’t even specific to transportation, like human resources and accounting. In fact, a lot of people start out their early careers in these roles and then find themselves really having a passion for transportation.”

That passion is shared by Sarah Goodwin, senior vice president, business insurance at Marsh McLennan Agency, who has been a member of WIT since 2020.

“I am proud to be one of the Women in Trucking,” Goodwin says. “We continue to see more women in the field—this includes drivers, mechanics, vendors, and executives—and it’s encouraging to see the advancement of women in both trucking and insurance. Whether it’s behind a desk or behind the wheel, women continue to make significant contributions that pave the road for others.”

Gender diversity from the ground up 

While gender diversity has been a trending topic in recent years, it has always been at the core of what WIT is all about. Prominently displayed on the WIT website is the powerful statement that: “Gender diversity brings new perspectives, fuels greater idea generation, problem solving and innovation, increasing business performance and overall revenue generation.”  

As a trade association, WIT has the ability to lobby for causes that matter to the majority of its membership. Further, while WIT is—as its name suggests—primarily women, membership is open to people of all genders.  

Hedrick explains that this spirit of representation is the basis upon which WIT was founded.  

“When Ellen founded WIT, she saw the gender gap and opportunities that women didn’t even know existed. Yes, trucking is a stereotypically male profession, but it also offers many benefits women are looking for in a successful career: stability, a lucrative income, and many avenues to grow professionally,” she says.  

As the association has evolved, grown its membership, and gained momentum, raising awareness of career opportunities has remained a key component. But other critical goals have also come into focus.  

Goodwin says she has seen progress, and that the industry is rethinking its recruitment strategies to be more inclusive of women. However, additional work needs to be done.  

“These companies recognize the unique skill set that women offer,” she says. “One powerful strategy is the rebranding of recruiting materials. Do the images show female drivers? Benefit options that can be explored include childcare benefits, maternity leave, sick leave, flexible work schedules, and guaranteed equal pay.”  

One of the key pieces of WIT’s mission is to ensure the barriers for women in trucking are eliminated. This includes the safety and protection of drivers at truck stops, and things that are unique to women in a male-dominated industry, like providing clothing and uniforms tailored to women and appropriate restroom access on the road.  

“Although the trucking industry has been working to reduce the gender gap, there are areas that still require attention,” says Goodwin. “I hope to see more consideration given to women friendly restroom/bath facilities, ergonomic cab design, and safer truck stops and parking lots.”  

Driving future success

As Hedrick moves into the second year of her tenure as association president and CEO, she is excited to take the organization farther down the road to diversity.  

“There is still a lot of work to be done in educating women about all that’s available to them in trucking, as well as educating our member companies on how they can recruit, interview, and hire women in a variety of roles.

We do this by providing tools for companies—both large multinational corporations and small, rural businesses alike—as they seek to grow and increase gender diversity in their organizations as well,” she says.  

Goodwin echoes the sentiment. “There are numerous opportunities for women other than driving, and companies need to continue to recruit women for those roles by creating an accepting workplace environment. Gaining acceptance and respect are challenges that many women face in a historically male-dominated industry,” she adds.  

Finally, when asked what the word “limitless” means in the world of women in trucking, Hedrick had one simple answer: Synergy.  

“There truly are limitless opportunities for women in trucking,” she says. “No matter what stage of your career you’re in—whether you’re trying to decide what you want to do with your future, you’re a new graduate trying to find your niche, or you’re in mid-life and looking for a change or more stability in your career—you can find it all within the trucking space. And these are the things we strive to provide within WIT. There are limitless possibilities not only for women in the industry, but also for our organization, and we strive to achieve them every day.”

For Goodwin, the word “ limitless” signifies fulfillment.  

“People want their work to be a source of pride and to believe that their abilities and talents are being used optimally. The growth potential in transportation is limitless when you recognize the key part that women play in keeping the wheels in motion every day,” she says.

What it means to be a woman in trucking

Diane Mumpower has seen big changes in the 18 years she’s driven for Continental Express Inc. and also has high hopes for the future.  

“I started my career in 1996. Obviously, I am more seasoned now, but I would say one of the biggest challenges for me was balancing a family with my job. I have three children (all grown now), but when they were young, it was certainly tough juggling everything— that’s a top concern for all female drivers who have families today as well,” Mumpower says.  

The transportation industry has evolved and has taken meaningful steps toward gender equity, thanks in part to WIT and other groups that support female drivers and bolster recruitment, but still more can be done.  

“The industry often gets a bad rap, but it has so many good things about it,” she says. “I hope in the next one, five, or 10 years the industry continues to see more women join,” she says.

Learn more about Marsh McLennan Agency’s Transportation Services and how we can help your trucking business thrive.

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