Ahead of the Accelerate! Conference & Expo in November, we catch up with Ellen Voie, the inspirational Founder, President and CEO of the Women In Trucking Association, Inc.
FULL THROTTLE FOR FEMALES IN TRUCKING
Tell us more about the Women in Trucking Association, Inc. (WIT) – When were you founded and what was your initial vision?
Ellen Voie, President and CEO (EV): WIT was formed in March 2007 when a dozen influential women (and our attorney) met at a conference to determine the mission and establish the non-profit organization. There was one employee hired (Char Pingel), and I was the chairwoman of the board.
We met our goal of reaching 500 members within the first year and our vision has advanced for over 15 years. Currently, WIT includes 7,000 corporate and individual members in 10 countries. 15 percent of our members are men who join because they support our mission.
In 2010, the Women In Trucking Scholarship foundation was formed as a charitable organization to provide tuition grants to women seeking careers in safety, driving, technical fields, and to advance a career in the supply chain.
Since inception, how has WIT progressed in terms of its objectives and the messages it tries to get across?
EV: Our mission is threefold; to encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry, minimize obstacles, and celebrate the successes of our members.
To encourage employment of women in the industry we have created a Girl Scout Transportation Patch and curriculum along with an activity book. We also have a truck driver doll for children to start being exposed to the trucking industry at an early age. In addition, we created the annual I HEART Trucking photo contest to share visuals.
Our latest program is the Driver Ambassador WITney trailer, a mobile unit that provides a hands-on learning environment and simulator, which is taken to schools and other events to introduce the public to careers in the supply chain. We have an Image Team to include women in both the US and Canada who speak to the media, do product reviews, and provide ride-alongs to legislators and regulators as well as members of the media.
To address obstacles, we have mentoring programs, and our new driver portal to help potential or current drivers understand the industry better. We also work with truck stops on safety and security and truck manufacturers to provide a more ergonomic work environment for our female professional drivers.
We celebrate the successes of our members through numerous recognition programs, including the member of the month, driver of the year, Influential Woman in Trucking, Distinguished Woman in Logistics, and our new technology innovation award.
What are some of the major hurdles preventing a woman from identifying the trucking industry as a potential career path?
EV: The biggest hurdle is the industry’s image as a male-dominated environment. Women often don’t picture themselves in the trucking industry because they haven’t seen other women doing these jobs. That’s why we have the Image Team, our Driver Ambassador program, and the member of the month award where we share stories of women in different roles. We must highlight these women so other women will see them and think about how they can be a part of the supply chain.
Could you tell us more about your membership base? How many members are there and is it a diverse demographic?
EV: We currently have 7,000 individual and corporate members. They consist of drivers and their spouses, students, retirees, as well as trucking companies, truck driving schools, manufacturers and suppliers. Comprising both men and women, we have added nearly 1,000 members since the beginning of this year, so we are growing dramatically.
Finally, what’s next for WIT? Are there any major priorities for the year ahead?
EV: Currently we are in the process of finding my replacement, as I have announced my retirement in 2023. I founded this organization and have grown it into something I could never have imagined, but I am ready to hand over the leadership responsibilities to someone who has a fresh vision and a different perspective. I will always be the founder and for that, I am extremely proud.