It’s no secret that gender disparity continues to in many areas, both in developed as well as developing nations. Over the years, there has been a forward movement, as women entrepreneurs are starting and growing their businesses and organizations. One name which stands out is Ellen Voie. Ellen is the founder of the Women In Trucking Association Inc. She currently serves as the nonproﬁt organization’s President and CEO. The Women In Trucking Association was established in March of 2007 to promote the employment of women in the trucking industry, to remove the obstacles which might keep them from success and to celebrate the success of its members.
Passion for Learning
Since childhood, Ellen had always challenged herself both in learning new skills and in pushing herself beyond her comfort zone. She never stopped her quest to learn and to experience new things. Ellen participated in sports and took an industrial arts class in high school, which was typically attended by boys. She wanted to learn about engines, woodworking, and welding. This training led her to a position at a material handling plant where she was hired to work in the drafting department. She was later moved to the trafﬁc (shipping) department and was promoted the role of trafﬁc manager. She earned a diploma in Trafﬁc and Transportation Management. This training provided Ellen with the skills to become a Transportation Consultant while she raised her family. Her background in the regulatory side of transportation led her to where she is today. A leader needs to seize the opportunities when they become available and that she did.
Molding the Organization
The Women In Trucking Association is a non-proﬁt organization supported by its members. Ellen listens to their concerns and suggestions. Since the organization represents both drivers and carriers, as well as suppliers and others in transportation, Ellen has to be sensitive to areas that might be divisive. She takes her members’ concerns and works hard to address them. One example of this would be, truck cab design and the ergonomics. Since trucks were designed for men in the past, women did not experience the same level of comfort while sitting in the cab, so she worked with the manufacturers on making sure the trucks had greater adaptability for women (as well as men). Women in male-dominated careers typically don’t want special treatment, but just a level playing ﬁeld. The goal of the Women In Trucking Association is to identify speciﬁc areas where such cases may not occur. For carriers, the association offer resources to help them attract and retain women at all levels, from driver to technician to manager. Their goal is to increase the ranks of women in the industry.
Diversifying her Staff
Regarding competition, there are no groups that offer the same resources like the Women In Trucking Association. While there are numerous trucking associations, none of them focus on gender diversity for all women in the industry. Ellen is proud of the fact that over ﬁfteen percent of her members are men who join because they believe in the mission. She notes that the Women In Trucking Association is not just for women, but they are about women. Recently it has increased their diversity efforts to the LGBTQ+ community with the goal to represent all of its members.
It’s been said that any woman in business, especially in a male-dominated environment, needs to be bold, persistent and must prove herself to her peers. However, once she has shown that she is genuinely interested in being a team player, she is accepted and respected by her co-workers. Women often learn to deﬂect any negative or ignorant comments, but it’s essential to hold the offender accountable in the process.
Jumping the Oceans
In 2007, when Ellen started the Women In Trucking Association, the economy faced a recession, and the trucking industry was greatly affected. The biggest challenge was to convince carriers, drivers and suppliers that gender diversity should be a priority. Most trucking companies claimed they only hired the best applicant, and gender wasn’t an issue. However, they kept using the same ads, the same job descriptions and the same ideas which did not always attract or retain women. For example, it took years for companies to provide women with a uniform designed for them and to give out safe driving awards that were attractive to women. It took years, but once she presented the research and proved that women will increase a company’s net proﬁt, she got the suppliers and drivers attention. Now, the Women In Trucking Association is viewed by the trucking industry as being a credible organization focusing on gender diversity.
Ellen’s entire career has been focused on working for women’s empowerment, and it is one of the most signiﬁcant accomplishments for the Women In Trucking Association as well. The organization supports women by offering networking, mentoring, and educating them in their careers in transportation. Ellen considers herself an early adopter of technology, as she is always researching the best products to enhance productivity, from ﬁtness applications to safety technology. She looks for ways to harness the power of technological advancements to make transportation jobs safer, easier, and more productive.
Making way for the Next Leader
Ellen recently announced her successor, and although she doesn’t plan on leaving the organization for several years, this will give her a chance to start transferring some of her responsibilities to the new Vice President, Debbie Sparks. She will have a few years to grow into the position, but along the way, she will gain her own experiences to shape the future of the association. This means that Ellen can focus more on what she does best, which is speaking and writing. She travels all over the world, speaking to audiences about how to attract and retain women in transportation careers. By transferring present and future projects to her successor, she has more freedom to share her message.
Ellen believes in living life on the edge. She continually challenges herself to try new things, as evidenced by her accomplishments in obtaining a pilot’s license, a motorcycle endorsement, and a commercial driver’s license. Her motto for life is, “Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.” “Leave your comfort zone and work hard, success will be yours”, she asserts.