When we recently announced the 2015 Women In Trucking Influential Woman of the Year; there were many comments on social media about the absence of professional drivers from the list.
First, it must be noted that Stephanie Klang, a driver for Con-way Truckload and a former America’s Road Team Captain, was a finalist for the 2014 Influential Woman in Trucking award. Stephanie is a role model and has attained national respect for her skills and professionalism. I would suspect that she could find a position inside the walls of the terminal if she wished, but she prefers to remain behind the wheel.
Is there a career progression from professional driver to industry leader? Perhaps, but maybe not.
The characteristics that make a good, safe, professional driver are not the same as those of a woman who is working her way up the corporate ladder. A recent survey by the Financial Women’s Association found that the way for women to advance in the corporate structure is to move outside their comfort zone and take risks. How is this accomplished? It includes asking for additional assignments, speaking up at meetings, and taking on leadership roles within the organization. George Bernard Shaw once said, “The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.”
Women who work in the trucking industry are surrounded by men. Most of their peers, supervisors, and staff are men, as women comprise only fourteen percent of management roles in the transportation sector. Research has shown that women are often promoted for their accomplishments while men are promoted for their potential. This means that a woman must often prove her commitment, her value, and her determination before she moves up the career ladder. So, how is this different from a woman who choses to become a professional driver? Female drivers are still rare, as there are nineteen men for every woman behind the wheel of a truck.
While these women are typically independent and self confident, they must possess some characteristics that don’t always support a leadership role. First, professional drivers are comfortable being alone for hours at a time. Many female drivers are hesitant to train new drivers because they prefer “their own space.” In order to be a manager, you must be a people person. You need to be happy in a corporate environment surrounded by co-workers, where you accept the fact that your day is spent inside a building instead of outdoors. To be a manager, you need to lead your staff and support and encourage them on a daily basis. Professional drivers often prefer being their own boss.
Most drivers detest the idea of their chair being behind a desk instead of a windshield. They love the view and appreciate the sunrises and sunsets that mark the start or end of their day. Ask any driver if she would enjoy the same view for her workday and she’ll usually shake her head and tell you how much she loves seeing the countryside.
Finally, a professional driver must be dedicated to safety. This means she must be patient and always remain calm. She cannot allow inept motorists, disrespectful shippers and receivers, changing dispatch instructions or bad weather distract her. She must take her time and keep her focus on maintaining safe distances and speeds.
Compare this to her counterpart who has chosen a life within a cubicle, surrounded by office distractions and co-workers who must push herself outside her comfort zone on a daily basis. These two women are not typically compatible. We applaud any woman who moves out of the truck and into the office and finds her way into the C-suite. We would love to hear from women who have made this transition and upward progression and we applaud you. Until then, we truly appreciate the role women have as professional drivers and as leaders within the industry. Women In Trucking Association represents both of these groups, as well as their male peers.
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