Help us understand the background of Ellen Voie in detail.
As a child, I was one of the lucky people whose mom told me I could do anything I wanted, and there were no “girl” careers. She encouraged me when I took industrial arts class instead of home economics. I loved the auto mechanics lessons, the woodworking, welding and drafting courses. This training led me to a position at a steel fabricating plant in central Wisconsin where I worked in the drafting department, designing material handling equipment, such as steel pallets, bins, and racking.
In 1979, I was transferred into the Traffic Department and completed my diploma in “Traffic and Transportation Management.” I was later promoted to Traffic Manager.
We had three plants creating steel products as varied as material handling, fireplaces, and jacks. I was responsible for bringing the raw materials into the plants and for shipping the completed products out to our customers.
After I started my family I worked as a free-lance transportation consultant. I earned my BA and MA during that time and I completed my Master’s Thesis on “The Complex Identities of Women Married to Professional Drivers.” I later published a book filled with some of my most popular articles called, “Marriage In the Long Run.”
In 2000 I was hired for the position of Executive Director of Trucker Buddy International (www.truckerbuddy.org) where I led the program for six years. Then, I was recruited by Schneider National to lead their retention efforts. My job was to initiate corporate level programs designed to attract and retain non-traditional groups, such as women! At the time, I was completing my pilot’s license, and I belonged to an organization for female pilots. It struck me that there wasn’t a similar group for women in the trucking industry; so I started one.
That was in 2007 when the Women In Trucking Association was formed.
What are the services/solutions or products offered by your company and if you could tell us something about your upcoming products or services?
The Women In Trucking Association is a nonprofit organization with over 5,000 members. Fifteen percent of our members are men, who join because they support our mission. We are a resource for the industry. We offer data, information and best practices to our members who want to increase their gender diversity in the supply chain. Some of these resources are publications, such as our magazine, Redefining the Road, and our weekly e-newsletter. We also hold an annual conference which attracted over 1,100 attendees last year. Since our mission includes addressing obstacles for our members, we work with truck cab manufacturers on truck cab design and ergonomics. We also partner with truck stops in regard to safety, security and amenities for our drivers. Our goal to celebrate the success of our members includes recognition programs such as our member of the month, the Influential Woman in Trucking and the Distinguished Woman in Logistics awards as well as the Female Driver of the Year. We also encourage the employment of women by introducing young girls to careers in transportation through our truck driver doll, our Girl Scout Transportation patch and our activity books. In addition to the association, we have a foundation that provides tuition assistance to women entering careers in transportation.
Future goals include a driver ambassador program where a female driver will take a tractor with an educational and hands on learning filled trailer to schools and events around the country to educate them about the trucking industry. Another program being launched is our creation of chapters for groups to network regionally or locally.
To know more about your culture and vision?
Since the Women In Trucking Association is a virtual organization, our staff is spread throughout the country. This means our staff must be self motivated and able to work independently. We don’t count hours, we measure outcomes. There is no one looking over anyone’s shoulder or monitoring a time clock. We have consistent meetings to keep apprised of each person’s progress, but most of our duties are specific to an individual, so group interaction is limited.
How does the company’s hierarchy look like?
As founder, I am the organization’s president and CEO. However, I report to a board of directors who are accountable for the association’s success. This year we added more staff to include a vice president and a driver ambassador. We also have a director of programs and director of membership. In addition to our staff, we have an association management firm with numerous staff working on our success.
What are the strategies of your company and how they stand unique from your competitors?
As the only international organization devoted to increasing the percentages of women employed in the supply chain, we don’t have any similar competitors. However, there are groups who represent female drivers in both the US and Canada. Our strategy is to be a resource to create a better work environment for both drivers as well as women who work in other roles in transportation, including technicians, CEOs, safety managers, suppliers and more.
What are the key values which helped you to overcome the roadblocks/challenges in your career?
My key values start with respecting the concerns of all by listening and seeking to understand. This is important in guiding the activities of the Women In Trucking Association. As a member based organization, we represent the interests of current and potential members. For this reason, we need to hear their concerns and challenges so we can address them accordingly.
Please explain the journey of Women in Trucking from beginning to now.
In March 2007 the first meeting of the board of directors was held in Las Vegas, Nevada. Twelve motivated and passionate women wrote the mission statement and approved the by-laws. Since then, our board has grown (and now includes men!) and our membership has gone from zero to over 5,000 members in ten countries. Along the way we’re gathered a great deal of information on how to attract and retain women in the trucking industry. We continue to be a resource to increase the ranks of women in transportation careers.