Women & The Wheel: A conversation during Women’s History Month

Since I penned this update last March during Women’s History Month, it’s hard for me not to look around and notice the remarkable changes not only at NTI and in my personal life, but in trucking at large, too.

A year ago, eight months pregnant with my son, I wrote a farewell address to the Board of Directors of Women in Trucking, published here in the NTI Blog. Staring directly at the uncertainty of being a working mom of a newborn, a business owner, and what it would mean to balance two such monumental journeys at once, I shared openly and sincerely about the questions I was grappling with and that so many in our industry likewise face year in and year out. In many ways, that balancing act of being a working parent defines the experience of women not just in our industry, but in all industries and in all types of jobs. In 2023, it also defines the experience of many men in and out of our industry, too.

To bring that specific conversation full circle, my family and I welcomed a healthy and happy baby boy into the world in May, and we hit the ground running as full-time parents and full-time leaders of NTI. It’s been nothing short of an exhilarating experience. As many of you are keenly aware of, the fears and anxiety and anticipation leading up to the birth of a child give way to nothing but an endless string of joyous, cherished moments that suddenly add up to a year, and then years. (Not to mention the sleepless nights, but I will save that for another conversation.)

Women In Trucking
Read more updates From Leah’s Desk.

Stepping back from my personal experience, though, bringing the conversation full circle is exactly what we’re doing this March here in the NTI Blog.

I’m so proud to introduce a content series we’re running this month on our website, in our social media channels, and in our weekly NTI Alerts newsletter.

Women & The Wheel will bring conversations to the NTI Blog about the real experiences of women in our industry, what they’ve learned and can teach from their years (or even decades) working in trucking, and how motor carriers and private fleets can continue to build on the momentum of establishing trucking as a secure, attractive, and rewarding career for women of all ages and backgrounds.

Last March we highlighted trailblazers – women who paved the way for the industry as it is today — and we explored best practices and strategies to recruit and retain women into driving jobs and other roles throughout trucking. This year during Women’s History Month, we’re exploring those same themes — but through the lens of women at the wheel, in leadership roles, and at advocacy groups pursuing policies that will make a real impact on both today’s trucking industry and tomorrow’s.

March is an opportunity to lean into what we all know: women excel at every level in trucking, but we’ll need to continue to evolve to meet the needs of a rapidly changing workforce to ensure opportunities in this industry are recognized, sought after, and achieved.

One story that has stuck with me over the years and that has been on my mind lately is that of Candy Bass. She’s been driving a truck for 50 years and has more than 6 million safe miles in the rearview. Talking to the NTI team recently, she recalled her five decades as a driver, remembering an era when there were no female dispatchers or technicians, no women in leadership, and very few female drivers. Over the past two decades, the industry has made incredible strides on all of those fronts. Across the industry, women fill leadership roles in the C-Suite, at the VP Level, as managers and directors, and as doers getting the job done in dispatch, in the shop, and of course behind the wheel.

Fifty years ago, Candy was drawn to the industry for the same reasons that draw women today: the opportunity to build the career she wanted that’s backed by a rewarding and attractive paycheck and strong benefits.

Women like Candy and so many others have inspired and empowered me in my own career in trucking, as does the team right here at NTI, the women I work with on a daily basis at motor carriers and private fleets, and the many women I’m fortunate to call close friends and mentors that I talk with on a near-daily basis via phone and Zoom and (thankfully!) at conferences and in-person industry events once again.

Our conversations this month will revolve around three points critical to continuing to bring more women into our ranks:

Advancement opportunities and representation: Women need to be able to see themselves working in trucking for the long-run, and they need to see the advancement opportunities available to them at all levels of the company. However, for women considering a trucking career, they need to actually see representation in the industry in the first place. That starts with your fleet’s recruiting marketing, for example. Do you feature and highlight the women who work for you as drivers and in other roles? Do you promote advancement opportunities for women who want them? Do you work in your community to establish your fleet as an amazing career choice for women? Those are the types of questions and topics we’ll explore in our conversations this month.

Mentorship and networking: Moreso than their male counterparts, women entering the industry want to be mentored and experienced female drivers strive for opportunities to mentor newcomers. Last year, we talked about the amazing opportunities available for both mentors and mentees through the LeadHER Alliance. Likewise, we recommended that fleets consider starting a mentorship program of their own internally. Whether you are in the truck or in the boardroom, seeing other women succeed and prosper creates an environment that fosters growth. We’ll continue this month highlighting and promoting mentorship programs and networking opportunities as vital to the success of women in our industry.

Policies that promote security and financial stability: What are some of the barriers women face in our industry that we can knock down both at large and individually at the company level? What comes to my mind are paid family leave policies, same-gender training policies, scheduling flexibility, rewarding compensation programs, upward career mobility, and upskilling opportunities. Much of our conversations this month will revolve around those same ideas and offer real approaches you and your team can consider and implement.

I invite you to follow our Women & The Wheel series all month as we hold these discussions. And we of course don’t want the conversation to stop there. Please reach out whenever you’d like to add your voice to the conversation: info@driverwages.com.

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