In the wake of “Lean In” and other recent books touting the need for more women in leadership roles, I wondered how some of their revelations could be applied to women in the trucking industry. Instead of focusing on the executive suite, how do some of these findings affect the rare (5 percent in the U.S. and 3 percent in Canada) woman who has chosen a career as a professional driver? First, research has revealed that men will apply for a position (and assume they can meet the criteria) when they have sixty percent of the qualifications listed for the job. For women, the number is one hundred percent. She won’t even apply for a job if she feels there is an aspect of the role that she hasn’t mastered.
In effect, a man will assume he can learn the other requirements and a woman assumes she must already know them. How might this affect the driver population as a recruiting issue? While backing and shifting are two of the most difficult skills a driver must have (or learn), a man might go for the job and figure out a way to grow into the needed skills. For women, these skills might prove to be in the forty percent of the job requirement they feel they don’t already have and so she will refrain from applying.
How can we convince these women they can and will master these skillsAnother study found that men are often hired for their potential, but women are hired based on what they have accomplished. How might this affect your recruiting efforts? The days of hiring those strapping young farm boys are over. As more automation replaces the family farm, the kids who drove tractors, bailers, and corn harvesters at the age of twelve are gone.
Today, many of the drivers recruited into the industry come from almost every walk of life, from attorney to nurse to construction worker. The guy with limited experience driving the forklift in a warehouse may often be hired before his female co-worker from the assembly line. Experience trumps potential and for professional drivers, this attitude too often favours men.
One more factor that affects hiring practices relating to gender relates to how we credit those around us. It has been found that men give themselves credit for their accomplishments, where women, too often, give credit to others. How could this affect our hiring and the retention of female drivers? Is it more typical for guys to need the support of those around them or is that an attribute that women are more likely to experience? If it`s been proven that women look toward their peers for encouragement and advice, then we need to consider how this might affect them in their role as a professional driver.
In fact, many women who enter the trucking industry find themselves in an environment that is less than supportive and sometimes even hostile. Ask any female driver how SOME of her male colleagues treat her on the road or at the truck stop on the CB and you’ll hear stories about a few drivers who feel women shouldn’t be sharing the road in an 18 wheeler. How sad. Despite how remote the incident, no woman should ever have to listen to a peer harass her when she’s just doing her job. Most drivers are supportive and accommodating, but the one or two vocal jerks on the road always seem to be the loudest. A supportive environment, an employer who understands how to remove bias in hiring, and a job that is free from harassment will help us attract and retain more women in trucking.
About the Author
Ellen Voie, CAE
Women In Trucking, Inc.