There are plenty of business opportunities around, grabbing the opportunity and converting it into an established firm exemplifies the traits of an adaptive leader. Who can be the better example than Ellen Voie, the CEO of Women In Trucking Association. She comprehended the opportunity in the trucking sector, and her zeal and grit converted it into a successful organization. Ellen’s leadership qualities and progress have been a real inspiration for women in the business community.
Following is Ellen’s story in her own words.
As a child, I was raised in a home where we were encouraged to experience as much as possible so, we could have a broader understanding of the way the world works. I was challenged to be very independent, self-sufficient and inquisitive. I left home at the age of 17 and never looked back. I accepted jobs that were challenging, and I took on new responsibilities in order to work my way into roles with more leadership opportunities.
In 2007, I saw an opportunity to create an organization to address the need for more women in the trucking industry. I formed the Women In Trucking Association and grew the organization to 500 members in our first year. I surrounded myself with people who were (and are) passionate about providing opportunities for women in the area of transportation.
As the Association grew, I grew as a leader and learned to delegate as well as prioritize not only in regard to the activities of the organization but in meeting the needs of the staff, the board of directors and most importantly, to accommodate our members.
Our target audience is very diverse. Nearly anyone can be a member of the Women In Trucking Association. The only requirement is to support our mission. Our members are as varied as professional drivers, truck driving schools, trucking companies, manufacturers, technology providers, and other transportation-related suppliers. They are all interested in providing more opportunities for women in the trucking industry and increasing their level of participation as drivers, leaders, board members, and owners.
To be a leader, especially a female leader in a male-dominated environment, you need to have a high level of confidence in yourself. You can’t second guess every business decision. We also need to lead with integrity, as our reputation will always precede us. Additionally, we need to have a sense of humor to be able to laugh at our foibles and to move on when we make mistakes.
We need to acknowledge that men and women lead differently. Trying to ignore these differences create a more significant divide. Women are more collaborative, team-oriented and better at engaging their employees. Women are more risk-averse and explore more options before making a decision. These are NOT negative attributes, but they are not always valued as leadership qualities.
My advice to women in leadership roles is to embrace your differences. Don’t try to act like men and don’t change yourself to fit into an environment. We need to push ourselves in order to experience life at its fullest.
We all have an inherent bias and we need to understand how and why we view men and women differently so that we can avoid these challenges. For example, men will apply for a higher position or a new role when they have sixty percent of the qualifications, but as women, we are often perfectionists, and we think we need 100 percent of the requirements before we even APPLY for the advancement. If this is indeed the case, then we are already overqualified once we apply and should be looking ahead to the next level of responsibility.
When you look at my career, it has always been focused on empowering women. As a graduate student, my thesis was about women married to truck drivers (“The Complex Identities of Women Married to Professional Drivers”). When I worked for a large Midwest carrier, I was tasked with the goal to create a better environment for female drivers, and now, as the CEO of the Women In Trucking Association, my mission is to create a more female-friendly career opportunity for all women in the industry. Whether it’s the women behind the wheel, in the corner office, or under the hood, all women should feel valued in the trucking industry.
There is a great deal of research available that proves a more diverse leadership team increases the net profits of an organization. This is enough of a reason to bring more women into high-level roles in transportation.
As an association, our goal is to be a resource for the trucking industry. Whether that means providing information to make better hiring decisions, offering publications such as our “Anti-harassment Employment Guide,” or our “Recruiting and Retention Guide,” or our best practices research, we want to be the source for information about women in the industry.
I have always been considered as an early adopter of technology. I want to stay ahead of the curve so I can use the resources to make my life easier. Using advanced technology requires me to learn as much as I can, which allows me to challenge my comfort zone in regard to change.
My goal is to see the Women In Trucking Association grow into an even more recognized resource for the industry. I’d like to expand beyond the six countries; we are in now to positively affect even more women around the globe. I’d love to see our association grow to include both men and women in related groups, such as towing, rigging, auto hauling, and more. We have a lot of information to offer, and we want to be able to provide our resources beyond the trucking industry.
About the Author
Ellen founded the non-profit organization, Women In Trucking, Inc. to encourage and support women in the trucking industry.
Ellen earned a diploma in Traffic and Transportation Management in 1980, while employed as Traffic Manager for a steel fabricating plant. She later became a freelance transportation consultant to carriers in Wisconsin, licensing and permitting trucks for more than 16 years. During that time, she earned her Master’s Degree in Communication from the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point. Her most recent position was Manager of Recruiting and Retention Programs at Schneider National, Inc. She envisions making women aware of career opportunities and to mentor and assist them as they become more successful in their roles.