September 24, 2021
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Whether they're behind the wheel of a big rig or a desk in an executive office, women in trucking have the potential to solve for the driver shortage and bring a whole new perspective to the industry. However, there is still a great disparity of women in our business. According to U.S. Congress, women make up 47% of the U.S. workforce, but they only make up 24% of all transportation and warehousing jobs. And just 6.6% of truck drivers are female.
So how do we get more women into transportation careers, and explain to carriers the many benefits of hiring female drivers and staff members? We have some ideas.
We are proud to have several inspirational women on the TransForce Group leadership team. We sat down with some of them to discuss their experience in the industry, learn what they think makes women so valuable in the trucking workforce, and get their advice for women considering a career in transportation.
Shannon Kahn: I’d been in staffing for the majority of my career and had worked in transportation but with non-driving positions. I was led to TransForce Group by a colleague, and this was my first opportunity to work with CDL drivers and the trucking industry.
Lisa Mitchell: I was in the military, then started at TransForce in 2000 as an administrative assistant. Over the years I worked my way through the ranks as a recruiter, operations manager, general manager, regional director and now regional VP.
Kim Blanchard: I started with Challenger motor freight in 1995 which had a great driver training program. My fiancé at the time was a driver so I got my license so we could run team together. A few months later, my fiancé decided to get off the road but I wanted to keep going so I got my own truck and started to run single, which was very rare for a woman to do back then. After 8 years of driving I transitioned to recruiting for TransForce Group’s Canadian operations at KAS as a branch manager, and worked my way up to senior management. I now have 26 years in the industry!
Danielle Bansch: Before coming to TransForce Group I worked in politics, but during the recession, like many others, I was laid off. I knew someone who worked at a company TransForce eventually acquired, so I took a shot and my trucking career began. I liked that it was similar to politics because no two days are ever the same and the work keeps you on your toes.
Katherine MacLane: My dad has been in the trucking industry most of my life, so I was always exposed to it, but had never really considered it as a career until I discovered TransForce. I had been in fashion and hospitality for most of my career until then, but was so attracted to the impact this industry makes on America’s success every day.
Annarose Gambill: I was a stay-at-home mom for 7 years so I had a career gap, but was given the chance to be a class manager through Troops into Transportation. I later became a senior military recruiter, and my husband actually started driving over the road so I became even more invested in the industry.
Shannon: Transportation is about the consumer, and women make up more than half of consumers in the country so they need a seat at the table to influence how the industry can serve the greater economy. Women in trucking are also in the position to create a work environment to attract other women to the business.
Kim: I often hear from clients that women tend to be calmer drivers, are easier on equipment, and are not easily frazzled. They also have fewer customer service issues and are great communicators.
Katherine: I believe women bring a unique point of view to the industry. We definitely look at situations from another lens which opens the industry to new opportunity and advancement.
Danielle: Women give a unique perspective to things and build deeper relationships. Stats also show that women are better at doing their paperwork which is an advantage for carriers.
Annarose: We know there’s a major driver shortage happening right now and the untapped labor from the female workforce is huge. From my classroom experience I can also say that women are very quick learners and have amazing attention to detail.
Shannon: My colleagues have been very generous with their time and are open to sharing information. They’ve taught me about the nuances of working with different carriers and what it takes to be successful in this business. I’m looking forward to getting to meet more of our clients in person to get to know them and their organizations.
Kim: There’s been a big shift in the culture these days for women to lift each other up, but even back when I first started, trucking has always been an industry where women support each other. There’s a great respect between women drivers and I love seeing that the industry has grown so much.
Katherine: I’ve learned that we can contribute ideas and strategies that are just as strong, if not stronger, than our male counterparts.
Danielle: The main thing I’ve learned from fellow women in trucking is that knowledge is power. We are unfortunately still stereotyped as not being capable of working in this industry. There simply isn’t as much room for error for women to make mistakes, so it’s up to us to build our own credibility and support each other.
Shannon: Taking the time to get to know the industry by reading articles, talking to people, and really doing your homework. Showing you have the knowledge and are willing to learn is important no matter what industry you are in.
Kim: I faced a lot of this when I was on the road in the 90s, when driving solo as a woman was virtually unheard of. But we’ve passed the same tests and gained the same skills. So we just need to put in the work to prove the stereotypes are wrong.
Lisa: You can succeed in this industry as long as you have the knowledge. I’ve been fortunate that because of my work most people have always been very respectful towards me.
Katherine: I personally use meditation and mindfulness practice to help remove doubt in myself regardless of the gender I am interacting with.
Annarose: Continue to educate yourself so you can know the answer to a question before someone asks.
Shannon: Women are highly represented in service industries, like retail or hospitality, that have been impacted by COVID so there’s no better time for women to consider a career change into transportation. Pay in trucking is typically higher and there are positions to fit various lifestyles and personal needs.
Lisa: There aren’t many industries where you can complete training in four weeks and come out with the potential to earn enough money to support a family. Plus, trucking will always be around and the career path is very long. You may start as a driver or in an entry level position but you can also work your way up to become a company leader or even own your own business.
Kim: Transportation is a phenomenal career for women to gain confidence and prove you can do anything if you set your mind to it.
Katherine: Unlike some other careers, women can get started in trucking as early as high school and college. You can work as an intern and shadow women leaders to figure out what type of role you want to have.
Danielle: 70% of people who lost their jobs due to COVID were women, but only 30% of those women have gone back to work. Trucking provides an opportunity to earn great pay and have a high level of job security.
Annarose: There are so many opportunities and jobs out there. Take one day at a time and realize what your value is so you can go after what you want.
Shannon: We need to actively target and recruit more women into our business and our industry. Many people think of truck driving as going over the road, but there are a lot of opportunities that are more local and flexible. We also need to continue to find ways to put women in non-driving and leadership roles so our voices can be heard all the way at the top.
Kim: At KAS, we’ve started to focus on the employee experience and let drivers know there are many opportunities beyond the truck. We find out where they see themselves in the future, whether that’s in the warehouse, dispatching, or another area.
Annarose: We have a free CDL permit course - which is amazing. I would love to be having more conversations with women who were financially impacted by this pandemic regarding the opportunity in this field - and help them get started by getting them access to the CDL permit course and placed in a CDL School!
Even though they come from a wide range of backgrounds and hold different roles in the industry, our panelists agreed on a few key takeaways to encourage more women to take jobs in transportation:
When it comes to trucking, the opportunities are ripe for women to step in and make a difference. If you're interested in becoming a commercial truck driver - the first step to getting your CDL is to take our online CLP (Commercial Learner’s Permit) course. The course is fast, easy, and FREE.
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