Peter Drucker, noted economist and author, once said, “Leaders grow; they are not made.” If this is truly the case, then the ability to lead is something we can all cultivate within ourselves and each other. Perhaps the challenge is in first identifying that trait and nurturing, testing, and honing the skills it takes to be a great leader.
The Girl Scouts of the USA call it: “Find the leader in each girl.”
Yet, in the fleet and construction industry, the number of women in leadership positions is still small. This can be expected, as any male dominated industry will lag in gender diversity balance. But, it shouldn’t be accepted as unavoidable.
How can the fleet and construction industry “find the leader in each girl,” so the next generation will benefit from a more equalized environment? For the first time, researchers found that more young women rated career as being high on their list of life’s priorities than young men. Women are moving into more math, science, and technology areas than before.
Yes, it is 2016 and more women than men are both enrolling in college and completing their degrees. Since 2010, women have gained on men in the workforce. Even so, women are rare in the trades, such as construction, fleet maintenance, utility, and in the management realm of these industries.
A PLACE TO START
How does an industry that revolves around medium- and heavy-duty trucks and diesel engines attract and retain more women?
Today we’ve (hopefully) moved beyond the “knowledge is power” era of Francis Bacon, who equated dominance with the ability to control. Instead, we are turning to a more collaborative model of authority, which aligns better with the natural tendencies of women to be better listeners and more focused on building relationships.
When women lead organizations, either as CEOs or on the board of directors, the result is often better profitability. Pepperdine University professor Roy Adler found a direct correlation to profits and a more gender diverse leadership team. Catalyst research finds, “companies with the highest representation of women leaders financially outperform, on average, companies with the lowest.”
If we’ve determined that a more inclusive C-Suite is a good financial decision, then we need to encourage and support the advancement of women into the corner office and break the proverbial glass ceiling, starting behind the wheel of a truck.
PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES
We can all own this process, from encouraging our daughters and granddaughters and the young women around us to supporting the women employed at the lowest levels in the industry. We can help them move forward and find that leadership trait that’s already there.
Women in the work truck and supporting industries are scarce. The department of labor reports: “zero percent” women as brick masons and concrete masons, three percent construction laborers, and so on. Without visible women in leadership roles and in the boardroom, change will be stagnant.
“With razor-thin margins the rule rather than the exception, this highly competitive industry could truly advance with more women at the helm. Our collaborative nature, our ability to genuinely listen and to promote from within, would advance the ball for the industry at large and not just individual firms,” says president and COO of American Transportation Research Institute and 2013 Influential Woman in Trucking recipient, Rebecca Brewster.
“Those of us who have been fortunate enough to break through the glass ceiling have a moral imperative to seek out leaders among our female colleagues and make sure that they too have the opportunity to make the difference in the critical business of moving this nation’s economy.”
Share your story with others, offer to be a mentor, and be especially careful not to stereotype (we all have a tendency to do this). Buy trucks as toys for young girls, teach your teenager how to drive a manual transmission vehicle, and cultivate the ambition that shows up on the soccer field, in the classroom, and when making a decision to pursue a degree or training in a nontraditional program.
The Women In Trucking Association has taken on this challenge and developed a “Trucks are for Girls” Transportation patch and curriculum in collaboration with the Girl Scouts. Now, young girls can learn about careers from women employed within the industry, along with the opportunity to climb into a truck. Troops across North America are giving these girls a glimpse into an industry they might not have paid much attention to in the past.
Let’s find the leader in the girls around us and make them into the next generation of truck fleet techs and management professionals. It’s up to us to introduce them to the work truck industry. Let’s Find the leader in each girl.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Ellen Voie, president and CEO of Women In Trucking Association, Inc. is a Certified Association Executive (CAE) with an MA in Communication from UW-Stevens Point. Follow WIT on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Find out more, call 888.464.9482 or visit www.womenintrucking.org.