As trucking companies struggle to fill their cabs, many turn towards increasing diversity in their workforce. One of the ways fleet managers try to impact the problem is through the recruitment of women in the industry. The question is, what should trucking industry participants do to increase the participation of women in trucking?
Listen to Your People
If you want to attract the best, you need to constantly look inward and gather feedback from your people. This is especially true for the groups you target, including women. Fleet managers and executives need to take a hard and honest look at how their company operates. Is your company culture one where women would feel welcome?
Like attracts like, and the same is true in business and trucking. If you want more women in your workforce, whether you want them as drivers, technicians, or executives, you need to evaluate your goals and put the work into attracting the right people.
One way to find out what your truck drivers and other employees think about your company is hold internal surveys asking what they want. Find out how they feel about the company, what they expect, what their thoughts are, and what areas they think need to be improved. These questions are especially important when it comes to diversity.
Remember, if you ask your workforce how they feel, and ask them the questions you really want to know, they will be honest and tell you what they think. Just make sure you have adopted a posture of active listening. Ensure you are transparent about the results and show a willingness to accept changes your workforce recommends.
Focus on Development
It is incumbent on leaders within a company to provide appropriate channels for employees to succeed regardless of their gender, culture, or otherwise. Company leaders must try to work with their people and develop career plans that fit their futures. When you speak directly with your employees and get a first-hand sense of their needs, you see problems and opportunities from a different perspective. Using these techniques redefines what it is to be an effective leader.
It is also important to remember that not every career plan has to be perfect. Don’t put too much pressure on your people. Causing anxiety is counterintuitive to helping them progress in a way that is mutually beneficial for you and them. First, sit down with your people and make an active determination as to whether they think you are making the right decisions. Then, align your career plan with those expectations.
Wanting to develop and grow within an organization is not a desire relegated to women-only. Many of the same techniques fleet managers use on a primarily male workforce have comparable analogs when applied to women. Simply try to do your best to focus on listening and providing a logical development path and everything will benefit.
Ensure Consistent Job Descriptions
There is some interesting research out there regarding how and when women apply for a promotion. An internal report generated by Hewlett-Packard found that internally, women at HP only applied for a promotion when they felt they were 100% qualified for, whereas men would apply even if they were only 60% qualified. This represents an interesting look into gender psychology in the workplace.
That’s why it is important for fleet managers to ensure they update their job descriptions and use language a bit more purposefully and inclusively. When you create job descriptions, instead of packing them with a wish list of requirements, instead be realistic and practical with your job requirements so you don’t scare off qualified women candidates.
Pay close attention to gender bias in the verbiage you use. Also make sure your priorities are appropriate for a more diverse employee. And if there is a requirement you aren’t sure if you need or not, er on the side of the applicant.
The Wisdom of the Masses
You’ve heard the common phrase that there’s wisdom in the masses. Whether or not this is actually true is debatable, but certainly there is much to be gleaned from relying on the masses in your organization. Consider creating resource groups for women and other groups within your company. Getting people together provides insight into why women work at the company, what’s important to them, and get promoted.
Big companies have already begun making moves in this space. Walmart, as one example, has a Women’s Resource Council, with chapters all over the country and across all levels of the organization. The council specializes in discussing issues that impact women in Walmart. Groups like these are important because they provide a space to have honest conversations.
Being able to have open, honest conversations leads team members and leaders to feel more confident in one another. Fleet managers who create a culture of openness at their company benefit from increased collaboration, motivation, and morale.
Finally, it is important for leaders in trucking to talk the talk. The way a fleet manager or CEO communicates regarding diversity, women in the workplace, and inclusion should be consistent. You should hear the same messages from them as you would from a direct supervisor. The key is to level the playing field for the topic of discussion.
What Women Wantt From Trucking Companies
In the end, what women want is what people want. It’s what your male truck drivers and employees also want. They want to be trusted, respected, listened to, and recognized for the contributions they make to your organization. These are common principles good leaders use to make their employees happy, and truck drivers are no exception.
Still, there is a new consideration: COVID-19. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many things for women in the workplace. To accommodate the changes brought on by the pandemic, companies need to ensure they offer flexibility in working hours, parity in pay and status, and foster an inclusive and accommodating culture.
Finally, it is important that employees at your fleet feel empowered to say something if they see something. If you or someone else sees bias or gender discrimination, do not hesitate to report it or help foster an atmosphere where your other employees also feel empowered to speak out.
The Trucking Industry Must Shift
The problem? Women enter an industry not necessarily built for them. Take CDL training as one example. If an aspiring female trucker has kids to take care of, she may have trouble enrolling in a multi-week course that costs thousands of dollars. In the end, women likely don’t give much thought to jobs for women. They just want to work.
Currently, only 6.7% of long-haul truck drivers in America are women. This number hasn’t changed much in a decade, either. That’s where outside groups come in. Nonprofits in states like Oregon and New York are funding free education services for female truck drivers. And the infrastructure bill that just passed also has a provision to study how to recruit more female truck drivers into the industry.
Fleets are trying innovative new ways to attract and retain female truck drivers, and these efforts will only continue. Some companies have even advertised for husband-and-wife driving teams. Their hopes are that these driving teams help ease the strain of spending long hours away from home.
Other organizations are trying to change the perception of truck drivers. Normally, an individual’s mental image of a truck driver could be described as a middle-aged male. Now, groups like the Girl Scouts, are making patches for troops to learn about careers in the supply chain. Some have even adopted the use of coloring books for kids such as Shelby’s Big Rig Day.
If one thing is known, it is that trucking companies need more truck drivers. Will women be able to sufficiently fill the void? Many in the industry certainly hope so.