Ellen Voie

Interview by
Published on
December 9, 2022

In this episode...

Since 2010, more and more women across the nation have embraced the challenge to keep America moving by getting into trucking. Between 2010 and 2019, the number of women truck drivers in the U.S. increased by 68%. More than having a big role as part of America’s supply chain, there are many opportunities for women in trucking, as many who start as truck drivers eventually go on to start their own companies. However, there are still some issues that must be addressed by the trucking industry for it to become more inclusive - things like making sure there is a clean and exclusive shower for women, being aware of unconscious bias when hiring or during promotions, and the like. This is what Women In Trucking Association CEO Ellen Voie is advocating for as the industry rolls on to 2023, to make the trucking industry more aware and more inclusive.

Ellen Voie

Ellen Voie is an industry leader and spokesperson globally for issues related to women in trucking and strategic ways to grow their participation as owners, operators and supply chain change agents.


the most powerful thing any carrier can do is to sit down with their female drivers their female leaders and ask them what are we doing right what can we be doing differently I've been part of many of those conversations and some of the things that women are asking for are so simple I mean for drivers it's like oh do you think you could get us women's cut uniforms you know or do you think you could put a shower in the women's restroom welcome to life of the mile delivered by freightworks one of America's fastest growing podcasts actually produced by trucks indicted to tell stories I need to do something insightful industry Excellence all here right now

this light by the mile delivered by freightworks I'm your host Butch Walton now listen the only way we're able to have these incredible guests I'm going to describe her in a minute is because you like share subscribe and engage and you know what our commitment here at freightworks is to tell the incredible story series of drivers and it's always a joy and and bluntly a privilege to have Ellen boy on she's an internationally recognized speaker an authority on gender diversity and inclusion for women working for non-traditional careers and transportation she's been all over the world I've been to 104 countries but you've been to a bunch a whole bunch and uh Sweden Australia New Zealand Vietnam France Mexico Canada and many many more she's a popular conference speaker she she also has been interviewed by Major news networks including Fox Bloomberg Voice of America she's the founder of women in trucking 2007 you know she serves as the organization's president CEO there's not I'm just going to say this there's not anybody I like to talk to more about women in trucking than you you're the marketplace leader so police receive that and thank you for coming back on life of the mile well thank you so so much I appreciate that Butch all right so let's just do what uh what strong women do okay I want you to describe the state of the world for women in trucking in North America just go as long as you need to well I'm just going to start out with one word opportunity it's unbelievable first of all um many years ago even 15 years ago when I started women in trucking a lot of women didn't look at the trucking industry and think wow there's a place for me there they just didn't think of it they didn't picture themselves fixing trucks driving trucks owning trucks um selling trucks or designing trucks but now women are seeing the value in the transportation industry in the supply chain industry and they're saying you know maybe you want to work in marketing you can do that in in the trucking industry maybe you want to drive a truck or be a diesel tech or whatever safety director the trucking industry has so many opportunities and women are finally finally realizing that they're they're valued they're needed they're they're very much can excel at the jobs in fact let's take uh drivers female drivers are safer than male commercial drivers yes um and and I'm told over and over that they're better with the equipment better with customers better with paperwork so women excel at driving women also um excel in the boardroom women bring a different perspective and a different way of making decisions and women are more risk averse so women will uh add to the discussion by saying well have you thought about this or you know have you thought about that um you know maybe it's mergers and Acquisitions maybe it's you know whatever but women will bring a different perspective so women really do increase the bottom line um by having more gender diversity and uh the the industry is finally realizing that we need to bring more women into the industry you know what Ellen I I uh I used to tell my daughters this I had three daughters and one son and two of our children were adopted uh but you know I used to tell our daughters I really believe this I believe that women have stronger intuition the Mendo and and it might create a controversy here but I believe it's true how do you believe the generic inherent residual Gifts of women help Trucking these days I mean what talk about that sure so um women are like I said the risk we're risk averse but we're also more collaborative and team oriented so that means for drivers that they want to know that their company cares about them they want to know that they're dispatcher um cares about them as an individual where male drivers are looking for pay Equity pay parity female drivers are more concerned about does the company care about me do I have a good relationship with the company um and then women in leadership when you have a more collaborative team oriented uh manager that is increases your engagement and higher engagement increases retention so people are happier when they're more engaged in their job at work so women bring that women are better at engaging their team around them just just the way we're wired so bringing more women in whatever level is is beneficial you know I through all the years of companies that I've owned and and teams that I've managed and at the risk of it sounding like it's patronizing and it's not the best employees I ever had Ellen we're single moms single moms and and and I I remember asking myself why is that true and and I I would sometimes driving in Dallas or Colorado Springs I would say to myself you know what they have to manage a lot they multitask the job for them is is not just a job it is the provision for their family and humbly the best employees I ever had were single moms do you have any thoughts on that wow um as a single mom I I would I guess I hadn't really thought about it in that way I think you know I women bring a different perspective in a different type of Drive um but I would I guess I'm not going to disagree with you butch you're probably right but um I just hadn't thought of it that way right now let me ask you about the new women that are coming into Trucking and transportation do you see a generation that's coming on board we're going to do another episode with you after this one specifically about women in trucking and I've committed to make that like an infomercial to get more people on board but as a precursor to that what are you seeing about women that are now coming into the industry where are they coming from so I'm going to tell you um personally when I started in this industry many many years ago and you'd go to an industry event the only women in the room there were maybe three of us who actually worked in the industry the rest are all spouses of of men who worked in the industry um that has changed and we we just came off our conference we had 1 700 that was huge it was huge registered attendees and what I find fascinating is more and more women in middle management we had companies that brought Amazon brought 74 people yellow brought many people in the 60s uh there were companies that really invested in their teams to bring them to our conference so that they could learn they could Network and they could better understand the challenges and opportunities in the industry so that has really changed you wouldn't have seen that in the past especially those kind of numbers but the companies are investing in these these women and sending them to the conference so that they can be more empowered um more more engaged and more um knowledgeable about the trucking industry so I again you would not probably have seen that those kind of numbers from one carrier at a conference in fact I'm going to tell you a little uh funny kind of story please do there's there's an organization called women's Transportation seminar and they were started many many years ago and the reason they have the name seminar is because the women when they would attend if they said they were going to the seminar their male bosses would allow them to go and that's why their name is seminar yeah it's crazy that's terrible I'm so sorry I I I I feel led to apologize on behalf of huge parts of the population yeah well and they're a great organization um but um a little different than ours but uh now when we we say we're going to the accelerate conference and Expo for women in trucking the companies are on board and they're saying yes we want to bring more women into the industry we want to advance and and attract and maintain um and they're investing in these women so I that has really changed over the years what what are you what do you find about companies that at the risk again of sounding patronizing which it's not what do you find about companies that are are female friendly are are open-hearted that what what do you what do you see in those companies like describe the companies that have somehow gone over the transom and gotten to that place where they realize we need you we're saying these companies do is recognize the value of gender adversity but secondly the most powerful thing any carrier can do is to sit down with their female drivers their female leaders and ask them what are we doing right what can we be doing differently I've been part of many of those conversations and some of the things that women are asking for are so simple I mean for drivers it's like oh do you think you could get us women's cut uniforms you know or do you think you could put a shower in the women's restroom or a shower you know facilities I mean there's companies that like I just remember um safe driving awards that are big belt buckles you know how many women wear a big belt buckle you know those it's things like that asking your the happy employees what are we doing right but what can we be doing differently and so that is very powerful we have um the top companies for women to work um and there's certain criteria and it has to be that you know they're hiring practices so maybe you use a team approach for hiring maybe you you know you um try to keep the resumes blind you know meaning that you're you're not knowing their gender you know so that uh there's no unconscious bias in your hiring and that's the other thing but is being aware of unconscious bias right because a lot of people don't think about those things like uh one of the studies that uh women are often promoted based on their accomplishments and men are often promoted based on their potential so being aware of things like that uh women powerful that is powerful it's powerful women will apply for a position when they have 100 of the qualifications um men will apply at 60 percent and say oh well I can learn that so we have our own built-in unconscious bias where we need to overcome that and also we talk about this at our conference um The Imposter syndrome where a lot of women especially in a male dominated career will sit in in a meeting and not speak up because they're afraid that someone will say well you don't know what you're talking about um even though they do so it's things like that being aware right and and is that the byproduct of uh you know young girls and teenagers and early adults getting you know shamed or blamed or not respected or not heard I mean what what constitute what constitutes the reason that women show up and and sometimes have that sense of maybe I should be quiet well I would say it's both biological and it's nature and nurture I would say part of our upbringing um one of the the unconscious bias that I I understand is women will downplay their achievements they won't brag about what they're doing and maybe the term brag isn't correct but um Studies have shown that women will actually downplay their grade point average in college because they want people to like them so again that's how we're wired so maybe a lot of women don't want to raise their hand and say look what I did for the company and so when I talk to them I'll say you know what it's not bragging it's saying this is something that I did to advance this company for example when I was the assistant traffic manager my boss told me um I audited Freight Bells and he said keep a spreadsheet and write down how much money you saved every time you audit the freight Bill and change the classification to a correct correct classification um and it should be double your salary every year and so I would keep track of how much money I save by auditing Freight bills and it it was typically double my salary so I could come in and say this is how much money I saved the company it's not bragging it's it's making yourself more valuable right right and you know what I'm going to make a parenthetical comment I I'm not sure how many people have read your Master's thesis but I did I I did and it was incredibly incredibly insightful can you talk about that for a minute because you know that I took notes I I literally sat with what you sent me and I took notes and it was very insightful can you talk about what you did in that Master's thesis and some of the primary conclusions that came from it sure um so my Master's thesis uh I have my masters in communication emphasis on interpersonal and my thesis is called the complex identities of women married to professional drivers and so I went into the you know the research not knowing for sure I mean but but being you know married to a professional driver at that time um I I knew that you're one person when he's home and you're another person when he's away because when he's away your mom and dad and you're you know you've got to tackle all the tours and you've got to be responsible for anything around the house and with the kids and um but then when he's home then suddenly you're back into this role um and he has to fit back into the family Dynamics as well so what I learned and I was challenged by my PhD committee to study um military families also pows Mias military also commuting couples um and the difference between professional drivers and all those other groups is that there's an end for them if you're in the military you typically have X number of years you know of being away same thing with communal couples usually their ultimate goal is to end up in the same city um and and also with pows I mean it's to get them home so with um in the trucking industry it doesn't end it's it's it's a career so that was the different but it's it was very um eye-opening because one of the things that I learned is um things like Fidelity people assume that when couples are apart that there's a problem with their marriage and that's not the case there's great marriages in the trucking industry it's more related to your values not the time apart so somebody who goes to work every day and comes home at five o'clock could you know have the same you know not not be true to their spouse just as easily as somebody who's away um all the time and it again it's related to your values not the time and distance apart that that that that was so insightful and uh you know I I having come out of uh you know my own studies in graduate school and interpersonal communication I I loved the angle that you took on that let me let me ask you a couple of other things um would you be open to your children getting into the industry you're in oh absolutely um oh they're established in their careers my son is actually an electrician so okay yeah electromechanical uh and my daughter works in artificial intelligence so he does yeah yeah she's amazing but um so I I never tried to steer them either away from the industry or into the industry but I know that it was tough on them having a dad who was gone all the time right um so I'm sure that that influenced them as well my son is a real homebody I mean he literally does not even travel I mean he are they up in Wisconsin yeah yeah my son lives in the same city and my daughter's about half hour away okay um yeah they they found their own their own careers so they're doing great is uh let me let me ask you this uh when you look at your own life because we're going to do episode two on women in trucking but I want to talk about you personally what are some of the things that are on your heart to do in the days ahead I mean I what I've learned about you in the handful of podcasts that we've done is that you're not somebody that's like a airline pilot in the holding pattern you're not you're not content you just keep landing at the same airport so what what's what's ahead for you Ellen I mean what what what what do you feel passion for in the days ahead well to be honest with you butch I'd like to serve on boards I would like to to keep what's in my head here and bring that knowledge to maybe a trucking company a publicly traded trucking company or um other industry uh companies that are looking for more gender diversity on their board as well but I have a lot of knowledge that I can share um and also probably I I've I've thought about writing a book or two you should um yeah well I've written a couple I actually wrote marriage in the long run right a number of years ago on crushing cones but uh one of the books that I really would like to write would is I have the title big rigs big hearts and about Trucking stories about all these drivers and all the altruistic things that they've done and make sure make sure you lock that name up okay I I mean it when we're done I'm gonna make sure I'll buy it for you make sure you lock that up okay get the URL so so you you want to talk about you know it's it's so interesting metaphorically you've got these huge trucks but you have huge Hearts driving them don't you you know and drivers you know they keep saying drivers of the cell to the Earth and they they are and they're so generous and just real people and so humble I mean most of the drivers I I know are just so you know oh I'm just a truck driver I'm like no you're not you're a professional driver and you deliver the goods and without you we wouldn't have things in our homes right right right right and you know describe that for people again like if if all the people have been talking about the rail industry strike potential like if every truck driver said I'm gonna have a bad week what would happen uh you know when I hear people why do people say things like oh I remember this one woman um I used to live in the Green Bay Area and they have lots of roundabouts in Green Bay and you know roundabouts are not the best for a tractor trailer and this one road had all these roundabouts and I said oh they're just it's horrible for the trucking industry and this woman said well truck shouldn't be going down that road and I said really there's two grocery stores in a mall how do you think the products are going to get delivered you know I mean she really didn't associate the trucks on the road with the with the products she's buying so I think that you know it did get better during the pandemic when people were starting to understand what the word supply chain means um and saw that drivers were still out there doing their job um but uh I think that we still need to remind people what our trucks are doing out on the road um serving them have we not done a good job of explaining that like who is responsible for this I mean why why doesn't America understand that we don't have anything like if everybody had a bad week and said I'm not going to drive my truck this week it would be a disaster why why don't people understand that Ellen well so at women in trucking we're doing a number of things we created the Girl Scout patch and the curriculum because we found out the Boy Scouts had a patch in supply chain and Girl Scouts didn't so we created the curriculum designed the patch and we have an activity book called scouting for cookies and it talks about how the grain from the field goes to the bakery in a truck from the bakery to packaging in a truck packaging warehousing whatever and that's brilliant that's brilliant what was whose idea was that fine you know what I have no idea if you sleep at night but that was a that was a brilliant that was a brilliant idea well and the other thing is our truck driver Dahl we have Claire the truck driver doll I want children to um have exposure to the Trucking in this industry when they're playing and make believe or whatever um so the doll and our new driver Ambassador tractor trailer uh which we take to schools uh we take to trade shows we take to Industry events um and inside there's a Hands-On learning environment and it's got uh like do you have the DNA to be a driver what other jobs are in there and it's got video screens touch screens um what are the myths about Trucking and then in the front is a simulator that was donated by ATS and that is the highlight of when people walk in the trailer they want to sit down at the simulator and see what it's like um but that that tractor trailer we call it Whitney is is our way of educating people about the industry that that is that is that is so powerful that is so powerful now listen it's a little aside most people don't know this back in the day for about 10 years okay I I'm going to confess this I used to collect Beanie Babies I had over 500 of them including like some that were worth twelve hundred dollars or whatever it would be great to get some kind of a trucking oriented Beanie Baby I I've got some relationships with the marketing people there so maybe maybe at some point we we can we we can talk about that um okay we got a couple of minutes here left uh and and we're gonna do episode two talking specifically about women in trucking I want to ask you this did you know when you were little that your life was gonna be like this Mike did did you ever when you were seven nine ten fifteen did you ever have a sense my life is going to be Mercurial I'm gonna start things and launch things like what was your first business what was your first job so actually I I went to school for for a broadcast journalism okay so I actually did go to Trans American School of broadcasting okay um and uh and and of course you hope you host a program on Series yeah yeah and and of course I was the only girl at the school um because sure you know in the 70s women weren't disc jockeys you know and I I that did pass my third class radio operators license worked at a radio station in Ohio um for a while so that was what I was picturing my career to be and I moved back home my mom um got uh ALS and so I moved I moved back home I was 18 or 19. okay I was 19. um moved back home and looking for a job and this still fabricating plant had this opportunity for Drafting and I had taken drafting in industrial arts class in high school sure so I applied for the job and then they came to me and said you know uh we want to move you into uh traffic and we'll send you to school and at that time I was 19 or 20 and based on his school and that's that's how I got my career in trucking that is that is that that's incredible and I I want to say this as an aside I'm I'm very familiar with ALS I actually had a dad that died with something called Huntington's disease and it's you know it's in that same kind of brain genre so uh you know and and hard things in life right can produce great things in us if we just let you know I'm a spiritual person if we let God direct us to where we're supposed to go next you know you are always interesting ER and and we're gonna come to an another episode here in a minute now listen we uh you know this about us we always give a little gift at the end I'm gonna send you something I'm not going to give you the opportunity to pick something okay so we've got they're they're called I don't know what they're called they're they're like a beanie thing and up there in uh Wisconsin do you have snow yet uh we did a couple times but it's gone now it's it's it's warm it's in the 30s today okay well you you can give this to somebody else but I feel like I'm supposed to send you this it's got the life of the mile patch on it it's it's uh it's a beanie you know you know who Clark Reed is no okay he he drives for Freightliner team runs smart and uh you know there are a handful of people that are always welcomed guests and and and you're you're one of those now real quickly when people want to reach out to you what's the best way that they can do that is it women intrucking.org and my email is just Ellen womenandtrucking.org um and I would say visit the website because there's a lot of information on there right right and uh and and what what is behind you by the way on the wall those are articles about me they are yeah yeah and um the one right there is when um I went to the White House um in 2012 to get the um transportation innovator champion of change award um so that was and there's a letter from my congressman and pretty cool yeah that that that that that is so good and and one of the things we're going to talk about uh in the next episode is freightworks has started uh a property division called property works and we just uh we we purchased 85 Acres at the inner intersection of 74 at 221 and uh there's a loves that's going to come there and so I'm interacting with the loves folks and uh but I want to talk to you a little bit about that in the in the in the next episode you know Ellen the the thing that has always struck me in my conversations with you you is that you've got insights about your own life that apply to not just women but but men and people that are in the industry and and you know as somebody that has no had no background when we launched this podcast we're up to I don't know 120 episodes I had no background I and I said I don't want to office I want to hang out in the driver's Lounge drivers are the ones that are giving me a PhD in what it means to work in this industry and you were an elegant official and um and and frankly powerful voice and we're really grateful this is life of the mile delivered by freightworks I'm your host Butch malpe make sure that you like share and subscribe to selling Boya the founder of women in trucking among other things and uh and and we're just grateful that you were on today thank you so much thanks for watching this episode you know life by the mile delivered by freightworks is one of the newest largest and fastest growing podcasts actually produced by a trucking company now we want you to like and share this episode if you'd like to see more episodes click here and make sure that you subscribe to this channel by clicking here we'll see you there

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