October 25, 2019
This month as we bring awareness to women’s health and breast cancer, we are also celebrating women in business, particularly in the business of trucking.
It seems female stereo types are being positively confronted in every industry from science and engineering to truck driving and mechanics. While the automotive field is just one of many male dominated industries that women are entering, it is trucking with the largest growth in shares of any industry. Over the last decade, the trucking industry has evolved considerably where gender diversity is concerned, with women stepping into roles from trucking management and logistics to fleet software development and engineering. But with all of the successes, there are also concerns.
Catalyst Research points out that working in a male dominated industry can pose many problems for women including:
The research goes even further to point out these statistics on a heightened level of harassment. 62% of the women interviewed who work in male-dominated industries in the United States reported that sexual harassment is a problem in their industry, compared to 46% of women working in female-dominated industries.
Thankfully harassment is being taken seriously and many companies are bolstering efforts to quickly and fairly address every report. However, it is not just harassment that makes the industry dangerous for women. Truck driving has been listed as one of the most dangerous occupations in the nation but a 2017 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report.
Some 840 truckers died in 2017, the highest number for the category since the BLS started keeping track in 2003.
The good news is that data shows women truck drivers are generally safer than men. While research is not proven, experts think it's because they are less likely to take risks.
All that said, for some women, taking the chance on trucking can prove to be the best decision. Sharon Nader could not find a job even with an undergraduate degree. She decided to take a chance at tuck driving and after over two decades, she has not looked back. After a casual conversation with her husband, Joe, a truck driver of 20 years, she signed up for training to get a Class A Commercial driver’s license. She says that in the beginning, it was a challenge to manage the large vehicles, but as the industry has evolved so too has the equipment enabling women to drive as easily as men. Now after 10 years of driving, Sharon can’t imagine doing anything else. Sharon is hopeful that more women will join her in trucking and encourages them to do the research in order to have a clear understanding of what the profession entails
Jennifer Kuntz entered the trucking industry naturally. Her parents, Calvin and Darlene Kuntz started their business, D&D Transportation Services in 1980. The company has become a thriving business and Jennifer is now Vice President in charge of operations. She admits that her entry was probably easier than most women, but she also experiences the challenges of being a woman in a male dominated industry. She has made it a mission to provide equal opportunities for women at her company as drivers and in the office. She is committed to keeping them safe, compensated equally and promises to get them back home to their families when they need to be.
Jennifer Kuntz, Vice President of D&D Transportation Services is committed to keeping her female drivers safe, compensated equally and promises to get them back home to their families when they need to be.
Clearly, male dominated industries like trucking can be challenging to maneuver if you are a woman, but as these fields evolve, more equal employment rates between men and women will take hold and pay off.
Numerous scientific studies have shown that gender diversity in the workforce not only fosters collaboration, understanding, and tolerance, but also boosts competitiveness, productivity, and corporate social responsibility. — Logistics Management
As the industry grows, there are organizations across the country supporting gender diversity and a balanced workforce. One organization taking initiative in transportation workforce development is the National Network for Transportation Workforce. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, the network is comprised of 5 regional centers and housed within university campuses across the country including:
University of Memphis
University of Vermont
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Montana State University
California State University – Long Beach
The purpose of the work is to coordinate programs that address workforce reentry, workforce transition and/or career advancement. It is no surprise that women in the millennial generation are a target because of their interest and knowledge of emerging technologies. This purpose driven population is also focused on making a positive impact an industry so, the NNTW effort highlights the beneficial force that transportation profession can bring to the modern world.
As the industry grows and technology advances new approaches and easier mechanics, the female population will continue to join these male dominated industries with confidence and enthusiasm. The trucking industry would do well to celebrate the roles they are taking, encourage them to grow and support their successes.