With a passion for creating a more gender-diverse culture in the transportation industry and looking for opportunities to serve at the director level on corporate boards, Ellen Voie has shifted tides on the business world’s perspective.
As the President & CEO of Women In Trucking, a non-profit organization, Ellen aims to encourage women’s employment in the trucking industry by promoting their accomplishments and minimizing women’s obstacles in the industry.
We caught up with Ellen and discussed her increasing business performance, innovation, and newer perspectives.
Below are the highlights of the interview:
Please enlighten our readers about your company highlighting its significance in the modern industry.
The Women In Trucking Association, Inc. is a non-profit trade/professional organization with the mission to increase the presence of women employed in the trucking industry, address obstacles these women might encounter, and celebrate their successes. We were the first organization to provide a voice to women in the trucking industry. Whether in the cab of a truck or the corner office, women are underrepresented in transportation careers. We have changed the industry by telling stories of these women who have been pioneers and trailblazers. Today, we represent nearly 8,00 corporate and individual members in ten countries. Fifteen percent of our members are men who support our mission. We are the largest and most influential organization to give women in the trucking industry a voice.
Tell us about yourself and shed some light on your professional tenure in the niche.
My journey starts in a small town in central Wisconsin. My father was a business owner, and my mother was a homemaker. They encouraged me (and my four siblings) to pursue our dreams, regardless of gender stereotypes. In high school, I pursued industrial arts instead of home economics, so I learned welding, woodworking, drafting, and engine maintenance. This led me to a drafter position at a steel fabricating plant, drawing material handling equipment. I was then asked to move into the traffic department and given the opportunity to earn my diploma in Traffic and Transportation Management. I was then promoted to Traffic Manager and managed all inbound raw steel materials and outbound material handling equipment, as well as our three trucks and drivers. This was my start in the trucking industry.
From there, I used my training to become a transportation consultant for eighteen years while I raised my family. During that time, I also earned my bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in communication. I wrote my Master’s Thesis about the “Complex Identities of Women Married to Professional Drivers.”
In 2000 I accepted the position of Executive Director at a non-profit organization called Trucker Buddy International. In 2006, a large Midwest carrier hired me as Manager of Retention and Recruiting Programs.
What inspired you to venture into this niche?
I was working for a large trucking company in the Midwest, and my role was the manager of retention and recruiting programs. This involved corporate-level initiatives to attract and retain non-traditional groups, which included women. I did my research on why women enter the trucking industry and why they leave. At this time, I was working on obtaining my private pilot’s license and belonged to a women’s aviation organization. It occurred to me that there wasn’t a similar group for women working in the trucking industry, so that is why I formed Women In Trucking. I invited a group of influential women to help move the mission forward, and in our first year, we attracted 500 individual and corporate members.
Tell us about your company’s services and solutions to its clients.
As a non-profit association, our members look to us for information. So, we conduct many surveys, white issue papers, and have benchmarking opportunities. They want to know how to attract more female drivers, advance more women in leadership, and retain and support their female employees. We gather their best practices and share them with our members. We also conduct much research to provide data and statistics our members can use to increase their gender diversity efforts.
What initial challenges did your company have to overcome, and what are the challenges now?
The biggest challenge we had to overcome was establishing our credibility as an organization that would deliver what we promised. The first-year people would join because they wanted to believe in us, but beyond that, we had to prove that we were providing the resources they needed to create a more gender-diverse industry, or they wouldn’t renew their membership. The other challenge was that we were formed in 2007, which was the start of a recession that affected the industry for the next two years. It was a very challenging time.
Under your staunch leadership, what is the vision and mission of your company in the ever-evolving modern industry?
We want the Women In Trucking Association to lead the industry in gender diversity. This includes embracing the LGBTQ+ community, as many professional drivers find a home in the trucking industry where they are able to do their job without enduring scrutiny or stereotyping. We also provide data on everything related to gender, from turnover rates to safety to customer feedback, and women are leading the way!
We are also focused on helping our members leverage data to create change in their organizations.
Please share your valuable opinions on how advanced automated technology is reshaping the modern industry and how your organization is leveraging these emerging technologies to enhance its services and operations.
Those outside the trucking industry see an autonomous truck in the news and believe that the role of the professional will be eliminated. My response is that while the role might change, it won’t go away. Even a commercial airplane with autopilot capabilities continues to require two pilots in the cockpit during a flight. Autonomous vehicles add safety features that remove more potential driver error but still require a human in the event of construction, inclement weather, or a blown tire. We embrace the technology but don’t believe drivers will disappear in the near future.
What would you like to advise the budding aspirants willing to venture into the niche you are catering to?
I advise anyone looking at a trucking career to ask many questions. Do your homework. Make sure you know what the role requires and whether it fits you well. There are many resources, such as our website (www.womenintrucking.org), to find information and ask questions. Get a mentor! The trucking industry is a male-populated environment so expect to be the only female in the room for a while. We’re changing this, but it will take time to create a more gender-diverse trucking industry.
How do you envision your organization eventually, and how do you plan to enhance its operations and services concerning its future goals?
I anticipate the Women In Trucking Association will continue to grow. This growth will occur geographically in more countries around the world. We currently have members in ten countries, but we expect that to expand in the coming years. We also anticipate growth in other trucking-related industries, such as towing, final mile deliveries, warehousing, etc. We have information to provide these occupational areas regarding increasing women’s presence in their industries.
Awards & Accolades
In 2022, Ellen Voie was named one of the 10 Most Visionary Business Leaders of 2022 by Fortunes Crown, one of the 10 Most Inspiring Women Leaders to Follow in 2022 by Insights Success Magazine, Most Influential Business Women to Watch in 2022 by Business Berg Magazine, Leading Light: Most Inspiring Women Leaders 2022 and Awe-inspiring: Extremely Impressive Personalities to Watch for 2022 by The CIO Today, and was featured on the Mid-America Trucking Show Wall of Fame.
In 2021, she was appointed to a two-year term on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee, was recognized in CIO Look’s “Empowering Women into Most Powerful Positions,” profiled in Insights Success: ‘A True Inspiration for Emerging Woman Entrepreneurs’ and ‘Inspiring Women Leaders Making a Difference,’ named to Aspioneer’s 2021 Elite Women in Business list, named Most Diligent Businesswomen to watch in 2021 by The Enterprise World, named one of the Inspiring Business Women to Watch in 2021 by Business Foster Magazine, and World’s 10 Most Successful Entrepreneurs Making a Difference in 2021 by World’s Leaders Magazine.