Real talk: The one vital element we must get right as an industry for women to join us and excel

If you’ve followed the NTI blog the past few Marches, you know we devote our content and resources this month to exploring strategies, themes, and company policies and programs that we as an industry can implement to make trucking a more attractive and secure career choice for women of all ages, backgrounds, and family situations. March being Women’s History Month, we take the time to recognize the women in our industry, their contributions, and how we can continue to expand the opportunities available to them.

Everything we’ve touched on the past few years — the power of mentorship programs and networking, creating career paths and advancement opportunities, providing the right compensation and benefits, celebrating the accomplishments of trailblazing women in our industry — are all vital. (You can find a recap of our Women & The Wheel series from last March here.)

This year, however, we’re focusing on a single topic — likely the most consequential issue for women entering our industry and finding a secure career: Childcare.

What I mean by that is the mental, physical, and emotional energy it takes in today’s world to balance raising a family and pursuing the career you want. Showing up every day and giving your best self to both your family and your job is all consuming, especially since, most often, women are the primary parents in their households.

Read more updates From Leah’s Desk.

That’s something that has come into stark focus for me personally the past few years. At 43 years old, I welcomed my first child and the joy of my life, Mr. Malachi Shaver, to this world in May of 2022. And with him, I joined the millions of women in our industry striving to show up authentically and wholly everyday as both the matriarch in my newly expanded family and in leading my team at NTI and serving our customers.

Sadly and detrimentally, deciding between those two roles in our life — mother and career-minded individual — is a choice we too often foist upon women who want to enter our industry, and especially those who want to strive for advancement opportunities and leadership tracks. The core of the idea is this: Of course we can’t and won’t deny any opportunities based on gender, but the job itself and the requirements to attain leadership positions often by their very nature prohibit access, or at least limit interest, to working mothers.

So, real talk: Are we doing anything about that dichotomy? How can we navigate that contradiction to implement change to move women forward in our industry? How do we make trucking jobs available to women of child-bearing age without asking them to sacrifice their role as mothers and household leaders? How do we put women into management tracks without asking them to move or uproot their families for temporary re-assignments? Or to take on long commutes from their homes to terminals and spend 12 hours away from their children every day (which basically is akin to not seeing their children much at all)? Or to take on second, third, and weekend shifts on site at a location?

Because even at some of the most innovative and forward-focused companies in our industry — those who intentionally and actively provide amazing leadership tracks and opportunities for women — working moms still face those types of hurdles and questions about balancing the most important role in their life (that of a mom) with the requirements of those companies to continue advancing in their careers.

If your knee-jerk reaction answer to those questions is something along the lines of: I guess this industry isn’t for people in those situations, then… Well, I ask you to take a long hard look at all of the problems with that statement.

I had a conversation with one of my closest industry friends a few years ago, in which she detailed the challenges she faced at her company in moving along their management track. She mentioned that choosing to take a rotation at a terminal outside of the city where she lives meant an hour-plus commute, both ways. Though it was longer most days because of traffic. Taking the rotation meant continuing her track toward management. This friend doesn’t have kids, but she did put herself in the shoes of colleagues who do: “You can’t drop your kid off at daycare, drive to work, leave your kid until 8 p.m. by the time you pick them up…. what kind of life is that for your child? Is that how you want your time as a mother to be spent?”

A year later, I was at a conference and a young woman approached me who said she wants to advance in her career and does her best to find opportunities to do that, “but I’m still not getting ahead because of my kids. I want to be at their games. I want to support what they’re doing, but I also want to support my career goals. But to be promoted, my company requires I work late days, at far away locations, and on Saturdays. And I just don’t have the support network to do that.”

As you can imagine, these questions are even thornier for women who enter our industry and want to be professional drivers. By the very nature of the job and the hoops that first-year drivers are forced to jump through just to earn a CDL and gain experience — aka take on the toughest shifts available to drivers with the least amount of home time and the lowest pay — our industry stacks the deck against working moms. So far, in my 25 years in trucking, those barriers are often met with a shrug.

I understand this is a complicated issue with a lot of complex questions. But that’s why it’s so important for us to talk about it, think about it, and find solutions.

How do we really make history and change the trajectory of our industry when it comes to hiring and retaining women? And then promoting them and propelling them into management and leadership positions?

To me, the answer to those questions starts with addressing the barriers we’ve built for working moms, finding creative solutions to childcare, and overhauling the structures we’ve built to train our industry newcomers. The answers at each company will look different, and the solutions likely lie in a mosaic built around recognition of these barriers, flexibility for working moms, and options that allow them to choose what path works best for them.

I invite you to join the dialogue around this issue so that we can all find the solutions and resources for our working moms and show our industry not only welcomes them with open arms, but also should be a first-choice career brimming with opportunities for growth and advancement.

Later this month, we’ll be highlighting the voices of dozens of women in our industry — from professional drivers to those in leadership positions — about their thoughts on this topic and other ways we can invite women to our industry and eliminate obstacles in front of them.

In the meantime, check out our other deep well of resources around this topic and much more.

Until next time, be safe and well. ~Leah

Are you a member of the press and working on an article, video, podcast, webinar, or other content for which you’d like to reference NTI data or interview a source from The National Transportation Institute?
Email us at


Are you a best-in-class driver looking for a best-in-class job? Are you interested in providing feedback to NTI?

Fill out the form below to receive our driver-focused communications and to receive information about best-in-class professional driving jobs.

Listen live every month

On the first Thursday of every month, NTI President & CEO Leah Shaver, aka the Sunshine Girl, goes live on air on SiriusXM Channel 146, Road Dog Trucking, to talk with drivers about all things pay. From paycheck questions to working with fleets on resolving issues around compensation, HR and legal, life on the road, and relationships with their employers, Payday on Road Dog Live dives into topics drivers care about most.

Catch every episode live on SiriusXM,, or the SiriusXM app, where you can also listen to episodes on demand.

Or to engage with Leah throughout the month on pay topics, follow her on Facebook and Instagram