Prior to WWI when the question was raised about women in the workforce a frequent answer would be: they were simply taking a man’s job, but as the men shipped off to war and production had to continue, women picked up the pieces and flooded the workforce. Fast forward a century and now women make up an outstanding 48% of the workforce. We see this near-perfect balance in many industries, however, for some, women are far from being so well represented; particularly when looking at our own industry.
As of right now, women make up 27% of the trucking industry, being an industry historically dominated by men, it goes without saying that this is a great improvement. And as groups such as Advancing Women in Transportation, Women’s Trucking Federation of Canada, Women with Drive, and so many others are empowering women across the country to step up to the plate and join the world of trucking; we see this gap continue to narrow every day.
Being one of the least gender-diverse industries it is so encouraging to see the dreamers and the doers in our industry, viewing this gender imbalance, not a roadblock but a hurdle that can and will be jumped over and left in the past. Recently attending the Women with Drive Leadership Summit, hosted by Trucking HR Canada, it was apparent that women and men alike are eager to see women represent a stronger portion of trucking. The industry leaders such as, Andreea Crisan COO and Executive VP of Andy Transport, Margaret Hogg General Manager of JG Drapeau, Lousie Vonk President of Messenger Freight, Genevieve Gagnon President of XTL, and countless others are using their platforms to reach out to women across Canada, encouraging them to take the leaps necessary to build themselves up in an industry where it once seemed impossible to do so.
It is refreshing to see the recent advances of so many women who are motivated to excel and break that looming glass ceiling, however it is important to note that many stereotypes surrounding women in the industry still remain. The reoccurring questions of if a woman can handle being away from home for X amount of days a month, if they are able to handle the trucker lifestyle, or even if they are able to keep up in an industry dominated by men, a bit redundant- wouldn’t you say? Questions being asked that pertain to personality, not gender. This imbalance really shows once we dig deeper into the statistics; although women make up 27% of the industry, women truck drivers themselves only make up 3% of the industry, mechanics are 3% women, managerial staff 11%, dispatching 18% and safety and compliance 25%. The numbers become stronger as they move away from drivers and into more traditional roles, emphasizing the historical biases surrounding the role as a man’s job resulting in it being not actively chosen by women. But if these biases were looked past, could women be the answer to something that is currently affecting the industry as a whole?
The driver shortage is posing to be a detrimental threat to our industry, and as the need for drivers increases so does the stress of not having enough drivers to fill seats. With an additional 96,000 drivers per year necessary to keep pace with growth, it is becoming clear that attracting women to the industry should be our main concern. An underutilized portion of the population, 17.2 million people to be exact, are not looking at truck driving as a possible field of work because historically they have been told that it is not a women’s industry. As the biases are slowly beginning to fade the women entering the field are increasing, but not at a rate that could have a positive effect on the driver shortage.
Denis Medeiros, President of JBT Transport highlighted on the importance of women being better represented in our industry,
“Being able to see things from the other side with women entering the industry, it is clear that they have been a missing component from the start. From the way women handle and maintain their equipment, keep their level-headed attitude on the road and their persistence to continually better themselves the industry, JBT included, has undeniably improved due to the increasing presence of women.”
JBT Transport as a whole is proud to be a company with stats exceeding the industry norms of women representation. People are hired for their drive and ability to work as a team, not for what gender they are. Women make up, 10% of JBT’s driving force and 50% of the office staff and mechanics. JBT’s president, Denis Mederios supports all the employees with their dreams and visions, he encourages all to continue to build themselves as professionals and work towards any goals they set.
JBT Transport is encouraging all women out there to rethink their take on truck driving, the lifestyle may not be for everyone, but it could very well be for you. And as for those women in the industry who are building each other up every day, we salute you. It is from those efforts that we are seeing an industry that was once so uniform shifting towards equality. Let’s all keep driving towards a better tomorrow. Happy International Women’s Day.
“There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women” – Kofi Annan