Ellen Voie | The Women In Trucking Association, Inc.
The Women In Trucking Association, Inc. a virtual organization was founded in March 2007. It’s based in Wisconsin but its mailing address is in Virginia. The 12 member staff members are located in ten states and one in Columbia.
Women in Trucking Association’s mission is to encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry, promote their accomplishments, and minimize obstacles faced by women working in the trucking industry. The tagline is, “the voice of gender diversity in trucking.”
In a candid chat with Elite X, Ellen Voie trails us along her journey of being the founder of The Women in Trucking Association and Women in Trucking Scholarship Foundation.
Elite X: It’s a pleasure to interview you, Ellen. Can you please trail us on Ellen Voie as an entrepreneur?
Ellen Voie: I would describe myself as a visionary. I look into the future and determine how I can positively affect change in the coming years. The trucking industry is a very male-populated environment and I felt there was no reason women couldn’t do the job as well, or even better, than men. Since there was no organization for women working in transportation careers, I felt that we needed to unite and speak with one voice. I wanted to lead the initiative.
EX: “You are born original, don’t die as a copy”. This quote seems 100 per cent applicable to you. What made you bring into being The Women in Trucking Association and what are the various hurdles you have overcome?
EV: While working for a large trucking company I was tasked with expanding our driver pool by tapping into under-represented demographics, which included women. Once I started doing my research to understand how to attract and retain female drivers, I realized there were still numerous challenges to create a more level playing field. I had a background in non-profit management so I created the Women In Trucking Association as a trade/professional organization.
Starting a non-profit organization is difficult, as an association is created to represent its members. Without any members, I had to determine what resources our future and potential members would need to have a more gender-diverse company. Once our mission was established and our goals defined we could share this in securing new members, who initially believed that we would deliver on these promises. However, we knew we had to follow through or we wouldn’t continue to grow. The challenge was to ensure we would be a resource.
WE ARE THE FIRST, THE LARGEST, AND THE MOST INFLUENTIAL ORGANIZATION PROMOTING THE INTERESTS OF WOMEN IN THE TRUCKING INDUSTRY.
My children are grown, so I don’t have any childcare or activities that require my time, so I can spend more on my pursuits. I make the effort to exercise every day (when I’m not travelling). I love to take long walks and listen to audiobooks. Not only am I benefiting my body but I am also benefitting my mind. As the leader of an organization, I don’t have to report to anyone so my work day accommodates my activities. Although I often work too many hours, they are on my schedule.
– Ellen Voie
EX: “The first step in solving a problem is to recognize that it does exist”. How applicable is this quote to you?
EV: The trucking industry is now recognizing the benefits women bring to the workplace and I believe that is because of my efforts over the past sixteen-plus years. When I started the association, most trucking company executives believed their hiring practices were inclusive and offered a level playing field for women. I pointed out the fault in this reasoning, as women have been proven to be safer drivers, more risk-averse in the boardroom and better at managing people. Also, women were expected to adapt to the work environment, which meant wearing men’s uniforms, driving trucks designed for men, and looking for women’s shower and restroom facilities that weren’t always readily available. Now, the industry has changed and instead of looking for women to fill a position, they are looking for more women because of the positive effects we bring to the workplace.
Anyone starting a business or a new position must first prove herself. She will need to establish her credibility by being an asset to her colleagues. She will also have to speak up and be heard. Finally, she will need to be able to take and learn from criticism from her peers and her leadership.
I stay motivated because I am mission-driven. Everything I do and say is to support our mission to create a more gender-diverse trucking industry. My job won’t be done until women are prevalent and in leadership roles without being in the minority.
EX: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has”. As the thinker & doer of revolutionary thought and action, what are you doing to give back to society?
EV: As an association executive I have training in working with a board of directors, so I am often asked to serve on other group’s boards. I provide a different perspective and insight into everything from a director’s responsibilities to meeting procedures, so I agree to share my background by serving on other boards. This also helps in networking as well as providing additional credibility in the industry.
Networking is crucial to the success of any organization. As a trade/professional association, we represent our members. Without understanding the challenges and obstacles our members face, we couldn’t work on solutions. Networking means creating a path for communication to ask questions and provide answers. For me, I greet any potential member with the offer to support her or him by providing data, research, or insight in helping them attract, promote, and retain more female employees.
At the Women in Trucking Association, success is measured in numbers. We track the percentage of women in different career roles and the boardroom. We also set goals for membership growth as well as our annual conference attendance. Increased numbers mean more influence in the industry as growth continues.