As the trucking industry in North America looks toward women to create a more diverse workforce and to fill talent gaps, nations around the world look toward America to lead the way.
Recently, I was asked to speak at a conference in Hue City, Vietnam to share best practices the Women In Trucking Association has found in our efforts to increase the numbers of women in transportation careers.
The event was called the Women In Transportation initiative which was launched in 2011 by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperative (APEC) to address the growing need to identify barriers and share best practices in four core areas. These areas include education, access to jobs, retention and leadership development.
The initial group had three objectives; to obtain baseline data on women’s participation in all modes of transportation across the economies covered by APEC, to identify best practices used to increase the numbers of women employed in transportation careers and to continue the dialogue at the Ministerial levels.
Since 2011, events have been held in Washington DC, Viet Nam, Indonesia, Japan, and the Philippines, the most recent being the September event held in Hue City, Viet Nam. This forum included presentations from government leaders, private sector innovators, and transportation trailblazers.
The Women In Transportation Task Force created the “APEC Women in Transportation Data Framework and Best Practices Report.” The report outlines the five pillars of focus and then identifies eighteen priority outcomes. The pillars include education, entry into the sector, retention, leadership and access and use (of transportation services.)
Women In Trucking’s Girl Scout Transportation patch is included in this report for its effectiveness in “providing critical exposure to young girls about the variety of employment opportunities in the transportation sector, including trucking, through fostering an important partnership with a popular local youth organization.”
Other initiatives setting examples of best practices include the Philippines Women in Maritime “She to Sea” mentoring forum to increase gender equality on maritime vessels. The government of Malaysia created the “Women Taxi” pilot program to promote the idea that driving a taxi is an opportunity a woman should consider when looking for a flexible and economically productive career. The Viet Nam Women’s Union Model for Routine Road Maintenance program was created to not only raise the awareness of the importance of rural road maintenance, but to train local citizens in three provinces in maintaining their rural roads. The project also promoted the use of unions in organizing the training for both men and women.
At the APEC Women In Transportation Conference, three groups were selected to share their successful projects and their results in increasing women’s participation. One of the projects seemed so obvious but wasn’t that simple to resolve initially. The streets of Viet Nam are filled with scooters. In fact, motor scooters are the main mode of transportation for 95 percent of drivers in the country and these drivers often have numerous passengers clinging to them as they zip along the streets.
The World Health Organization estimated that sixty percent of all traffic fatalities occurred between scooter drivers and passengers. The government made it mandatory for all scooter drivers and passengers to wear helmets. There was an issue with one group of rural Vietnamese women who belonged to an ethnic community where married women wore their hair in a bun on top of their heads. These buns did not allow the women to wear a traditional helmet, so the National Traffic Safety Committee created a helmet with a “bump” on top to accommodate the women’s hair. These women were now able to ride scooters with the required headgear in place!
At the invitation of the APEC Women in Transportation, I was asked to speak to the group about the Women In Trucking Association’s initiatives to increase gender diversity in transportation areas, focusing on leadership roles in supply chain careers. I challenged the women to become aware of stereotypes and other issues that inhibit the hiring and promotion of women in nontraditional careers.
The trip to Viet Nam was truly memorable, not only in experiencing new cities and different cultures but in meeting the passionate women (and a few men) at the event. The challenge in creating a more gender-diverse transportation workforce isn’t limited to the United States but is a topic that is being addressed around the world. I was honored to participate and share our best practices.