Creating a more gender diverse supply chain workforce

It needs courage and deep passion for a woman to lead in a patriarchal society and an industry which is traditionally considered for men. When it comes to transport industry, we barely get to see half population leading from the front. Nevertheless, there are women in this world who believe in proving people wrong. Today, we are going to talk about one such woman – Ellen Voie.  She is the founder and President/CEO.  She created the Women In Trucking Association.  Recently we had a chat with Ellen about the idea to enter trucking industry and how she has spearheaded the company. Here are the excerpts: 

Revopreneur: What goal do you have for the company?

Ellen Voie: My goal is to create a supply chain workforce that is more gender diverse.  Transportation careers are typically male dominated, so women don’t always picture themselves in these roles.  We spend a lot of time sharing stories with other women so they can consider themselves in these careers.

Revopreneur: Describe your journey and the major milestones.

Ellen Voie: My journey has been wonderful. Given below are some of the major milestones:

  • 2007: Found Women In Trucking Association Membership drive that attracts 500 members
  • 2008: Earns commercial driver’s license (CDL) 
  • 2009: First “Salute to the Women Behind the Wheel”, becomes WIT President & CEO 
  • 2010: Frito Lay becomes 1st Gold Level Partner First male director joins the board. Women In Trucking Scholarship Foundation is born. First ride along with chairwoman of the NTSB 1st annual “Influential Woman in Trucking” award
  • 2012: White House recognizes WIT as “Transportation Innovator Champion of Change!” 
  • 2013: President Obama invites to commemorate 50th anniversary of Equal Pay Act. WIT Board member attends signing of Transportation Bill at White House
  • 2015: Appointed to U.S. DOT’s Entry Level Driver Advisory Committee

Revopreneur: How do you see revolution in terms of business?

Ellen Voie: For those of us in the trucking industry, revolution means changing attitudes.  Women need to understand that they are wanted, valued, and needed in transportation careers.  We also need to change the attitudes of the men who have been in the industry for decades and are comfortable with “the way we’ve always done things.”

Revopreneur: What was the modus operandi to get to where you are today?

Ellen Voie: I have a passion for empowering women and through the Women In Trucking Association, I can help attract, retain, empower and promote more women in supply chain careers.  This goal is shared with my board, my team and our members, so we can create change through strength in numbers.

Revopreneur: What have been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome?

Ellen Voie: The first challenge was in starting a nonprofit association in the midst of a recession (2007).  It was not an easy task; however, our goal was to have 500 members in our first year, which we attained.

The second biggest challenge has been in changing the attitudes of the people in the trucking industry.  In the past they claimed they would focus on hiring the best person, regardless of gender, race or age.  However, they weren’t really creating a level playing field and gender diversity wasn’t a priority. Once we pointed out the benefits that women bring to the industry, from the truck cab to the board room, they started working toward a more inclusive work environment.

Revopreneur: What are your outside interests?

Ellen Voie: I have a pilot’s license and own a Cessna Skyhawk (single engine airplane) and I love to spend time in the air.

Revopreneur: What’s the biggest factor that has helped you be successful?

Ellen Voie: I would say that my ability to set a goal and work toward that end is my strength. I don’t allow others to dampen my enthusiasm or to tell me I can’t succeed in my efforts.

Revopreneur: Who has been your role model and what have you learnt from that person?

Ellen Voie: I would have to say that my mother was my role model.  From an early age she encouraged me to participate in male-dominated activities, whether it was sports, auto mechanics, woodworking or even welding, she supported me during a time when gender roles were much more defined.  She was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease when I was 19 and passed away a few months later, so she never lived to see how I’ve succeeded in my career.

Revopreneur: What do you do when you are not at work?

Ellen Voie: When I’m not flying my airplane, I love to take long walks and listen to books on tape. I also enjoy my family; I have two children and two granddaughters who live nearby.

Revopreneur: How do you encourage creative thinking within your organization?

Ellen Voie: In order to be creative, you need to be able to take risks and make mistakes.  We encourage risk-taking and if it doesn’t go the way we planned, we just regroup and start over.

Revopreneur: What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?

Ellen Voie: The biggest risk I have ever taken professionally is to start the Women In Trucking Association.  I had to fund the organization myself until I could convince others to support our mission.  I hired an associate and paid her before I was paid.  I ended up being downsized shortly after I started the nonprofit and had to focus all of my efforts on making the organization viable in a very short time. 

Personally, I would say that obtaining my pilot’s license, my commercial driver’s license, and my motorcycle endorsement were all risks, but in addition to that, I have gone sky diving!

Revopreneur:  How do you see the World post-Covid-19?

Ellen Voie:  In regard to transportation careers, the public is finally recognizing the value of the supply chain and the importance of professional drivers.  This is helping us attract more women (and men) to our industry.  They see how stable their careers are in trucking and how the products they buy at the store are brought on a truck!

Revopreneur:  What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?

Ellen Voie: Don’t let anyone tell you you’re not capable. Ignore others who want to slow you down.  Once you’ve established your credibility it will be easier to be accepted by your peers (both men and women). 

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