Success has always been at the cradle of those who believe in the inclusive development of society. Starting from age-old transformation through innovations and technological excellence to the business leaders who scout for the blend of ethics and founding principles, success has been reincarnating itself to those who preserve inclusivity.
Standing on such an ethical standpoint, Ellen Voie came up with the ultimate solution: Women In Trucking Association—a non-profit organization. As the organization’s President/CEO, Ellen has established a promising platform for women to pursue their dreams of making a career in the transportation business.
The Women In Trucking Association’s mission is to encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry, promote their accomplishments, and minimize the obstacles faced by women working in the industry.
In an interview, we got an opportunity to learn more about Ellen and her organization. She discussed her career path and inspirations for founding the Women In Trucking Association and much more.
The following are the excerpts from the interview.
Ellen, kindly tell our readers about yourself and your professional journey so far.
I’ve been in the transportation industry most of my career. While my original goal was to work in broadcast journalism, I ended up at a steel fabricating plant after high school where I was hired to do drafting. In high school, I had experience in drafting and welding, so it was a perfect fit for me. However, one day I was asked if I wanted to move into the traffic department to help manage the inbound shipments of raw materials and outbound shipments of the material handling equipment.
We built racks and pallets in one plant, jacks in another, and furnaces in our third facility. After a year as assistant traffic manager and the completion of my diploma in Traffic & Transportation Management, I was promoted to the position of Traffic Manager. I stayed in this role until I married and started my family when I began using my skills as a freelance Transportation Consultant.
For eighteen years, I consulted with trucking companies in central Wisconsin, keeping their trucks and drivers legal and in compliance. During that time, I also completed my bachelor’s and then master’s degrees in communication at the University of Wisconsin in Stevens Point.
In 2000, I was hired by Trucker Buddy International, a pen pal program where truck drivers send postcards to elementary classes. I stayed there for six years until I was recruited by a large midwestern carrier as Manager of Recruiting and Retention Programs. Part of my job was to find ways to attract and retain nontraditional groups, such as women.
At the time, I was working on my private pilot’s license and belonged to a group for women in aviation, and it occurred to me that the trucking industry could benefit from a similar organization. In 2007, I put together a board of directors and completed the necessary documents to establish a non-profit association, and the Women In Trucking Association, Inc. was started.
Tell us about the Women In Trucking Association, its mission, and its vision. What role did you play in furthering the development and outreach of your firm?
The Women In Trucking Association is a non-profit trade and professional organization with 7,000 members in ten countries. Our mission is to encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry, minimize the obstacles they face, and celebrate their successes.
Basically, our goal is to see more women working in transportation careers. As President and CEO, and founder, I’ve been the visionary as well as the person leading the team. In the beginning, we had one employee, but now we have five employees and an association management firm with seven more people supporting our operations.
Please brief us about the services and solutions offered by your organizations.
We have many programs to support our mission. Recently, we added a driver ambassador program with a trailer fitted with a hands-on learning environment, including a simulator. We have an Image Team with professional women in the United States and Canada who speak with the media, provide ride-alongs to elected officials and regulators, and evaluate products.
We have a mentoring program for new drivers that allows them to be matched with seasoned drivers, which is called LeadHER Trucking. We’re also establishing chapters for regional or local networking opportunities for our members. We have an annual conference which will be in November in Dallas, Texas.
One of our goals is to be a resource to the industry, so we partner with numerous research entities to better understand how to attract and retain female drivers as well as in other roles in transportation. In an effort to reach the next generation, we created Clare, the truck driver doll, and we learned the Girl Scouts didn’t have a patch for transportation, so we created that as well.
We provide the patch and the curriculum, along with an activity book that explains how the grain from the field is shipped to the bakery in a truck, then to packaging and warehousing, and finally to the consumer. On our website, you will find many resources, such as a driver portal to help drivers find answers to their questions involving everything from choosing a school or a career to how to stay healthy on the road. Our communication to our members includes a weekly e-newsletter, three times annually print publication called Redefining the Road, and our social media outlets, which reach over 90,000 people.
What motivated you to enter the truck transportation space?
As I mentioned, I was asked if I wanted to make a transition to the traffic (shipping) department, and after earning a diploma in Traffic & Transportation from LaSalle Extension University, I had the skills and knowledge to further my career. Ironically, my goal to work in broadcasting has been realized as well, as I have a weekly program on SiriusXM’s trucking channel 146.
Please share the process to join the Women In Trucking Association. What are the major benefits one can get from becoming a member?
As a hybrid trade and professional organization, we have both individual and corporate members. As an individual, a member has access to many of our services, such as our online social media platform and archived webinars. We also offer many events that our members are invited to attend for networking and learning opportunities.
Corporate members have access to all of our white papers and research results, as well as exposure to our members, including the use of our logo in their advertising. We also invite our corporate members to submit content for our website and publication, present a webinar or as a guest on my radio show.
In your view, how is modern technology enabling today’s transportation business? And what are the different technology solutions your organization has implemented within its operations and services?
As an association spread across the country via our remote offices, we rely on technology to not only work together as a team but to keep our members informed and to hold meetings with our board of directors.
We use technology to keep our website engaging and interactive for our members and potential members. One recent purchase was a program to monitor our social media content and its effect on encouraging membership and support.
According to you, what are the challenges women are still facing across the transportation professions? And what suggestions do you have to tackle them?
The trucking industry is still a predominantly male environment, so our goal includes empowering and supporting all women working in transportation. The biggest challenge we face is that women often don’t picture themselves in these careers.
We share our members’ stories so we can talk about these successful and accomplished women. We have many recognition programs, from our member of the month to our annual driver of the year, Distinguished Woman in Logistics, and Influential Woman in Trucking. By sharing their roles and career advancement, we can prompt women outside of our industry to consider joining us.
What are the biggest challenges that you have faced and the most important lessons that you have learned in your professional journey so far?
The pandemic affected our association in numerous ways. First, companies had to consider whether their dues were effective in advancing women in their organizations, or they declined to join or renew. We had to stay relevant and offer the resources they needed to make it through troubling times. We had to pivot from an in-person conference in 2020 to a virtual event.
However, this prompted us to continue to offer a virtual component in addition to our in-person conference in subsequent years. We all learned to rely on technology to keep our association in front of our members and potential members.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs who want to make a career in the truck transportation business?
First, I would tell anyone who is looking at careers in trucking to ask a lot of questions. Be sure to do your homework. Even the role of professional driver has dozens of options, from the type of freight you’re hauling to the equipment you’re driving and the areas of the country you’ll be working.
For women looking at roles inside the carrier’s terminal, be sure to check the company’s gender diversity initiatives to determine if they are truly supportive of women. Ask questions and do your homework. Make sure you know what you are getting into, regardless of the position.
Where do you see yourself in the future? Also, how do you envision scaling your organization’s operations in the coming years?
I have already announced my retirement in the coming year, so my immediate plans are to find my replacement. Once the new CEO is in place, I will stay connected in a limited way, perhaps continuing to speak and write on behalf of the organization.