The supply chain industry has been transformed in recent years. Part of the transformation is the inclusion of more women leading the business sector who bring unique business ideologies and strategies. As pioneers in a traditionally male-dominated work environment, women are now leading large trucking companies towards success due to their significant participation.
Thriving as an epitome of a successful businesswoman, Ellen Voie (CEO and President of Women In Trucking) has advocated for gender diversity and inclusion for women working in non-traditional careers in transportation. Ellen established Women In Trucking Association as a non-profit organization in March 2007. As a confident and visionary leader, she has profoundly contributed to the organization’s growth by spearheading the group’s mission.
Women In Trucking was established to encourage women’s employment in the trucking industry, address obstacles that prevented their success in the industry, and celebrate the success of its members. It is the only organization focused on advancing all women in the transportation industry. While most of its competitors focus on professional drivers or trucking companies, the Women In Trucking Association represents both.
Mirror Review recently had the opportunity to indulge in a conversation with Ellen. She spoke about the various aspects of leadership, highlighted her journey of entrepreneurship and the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the marketplace. Here are some snippets from the intriguing conversation.
Which exclusivities distinguish Women In Trucking from its competitors?
We are both a trade and professional organization. Unlike most trucking industry associations, our mission focuses on gender equity. We represent different groups, such as drivers, maintenance technicians, safety professionals, managers, and CEOs. Our membership is in twelve countries, and about fifteen percent of our members are men who join because they believe in our mission.
Our primary goal is to remove obstacles for all women in the trucking industry. For instance, unconscious bias in hiring and promoting, learning, and imposter syndrome tendencies—in female CEOs. As safety is a priority for drivers, we work with truck stops on safety and security and partner with truck manufacturers on truck cab design, ergonomics, and safety. We also have several publications for our corporate members, such as an anti-harassment employment guide and a recruiting and retention publication, ensuring best practices. Currently, we are working on a Diversity and Inclusion index.
How did you start your journey with Women In Trucking?
During the initial phases of the organization, I had to work hard to prove our viability and influential capability. When I founded the organization, there was only one employee, and I continued to work for a trucking company to maintain an income. More recently, I hired an association to manage the daily operations of the organization. Altogether, we manage all aspects of the non-profit—from communication to membership services, renewals, and resources.
As we grew, I hired people who could preside over tasks that I wasn’t interested in doing or disliked. While most non-profits struggle to make it through during their initial years, we accumulated 500 members in our first year, which pivoted our success. Presently, we have over a dozen team members specializing in areas such as membership, social media, technology, strategy, and more. I can focus on working with the board of directors and continue outreach through speaking events, presentations, and writing.
What are your roles and responsibilities as the CEO?
Being the founder, I am also the face of the organization, and my passion is the reason many people want to be a part of our movement. Over the years, I have become a more confident leader. My “hands-off” leadership style has served us well in our fourteen years, as we are a virtual organization with team members located all over the United States.
As a visionary, my leadership style reflects my desire to envision a better work environment in the future. My team helps me accomplish my visions. I depend on them to suggest ways to bring changes in the industry as I am not a detail-oriented person. When I hire someone, I provide them ample autonomy and allow them the liberty to schedule their work. Time off is not monitored as each person is responsible for the timely completion of projects and activities.
What are some of your notable achievements throughout your entrepreneurial journey?
In 2012, I was honored by the White House as a Transportation Innovators Champion of Change. I was awarded the Frank W. Babbitt award from the Wisconsin Motor Carriers Association in 2014—an annual recognition given to an individual who has demonstrated outstanding service to the trucking industry and association as a whole. I have also been the recipient of the Skinner Humanitarian award which is presented annually to a trucking advocate in my state.
In 2015, I received the “Distinguished Alumna of the Year” award from my alma mater and was also named one of Supply & Demand Chain Executives magazine’s “2016 Pros to Know,” which honors select supply chain executives who are leading initiatives to help their clients, companies, or the supply chain community at large to prepare for the significant challenges in the year ahead.
I received a series of recognition in 2019. Of these, being named the “Cinderella to CEO of the Year”—which recognizes women who have overcome obstacles to change businesses, communities, and industries for the better—was the notable one. In 2021, I was appointed to a two-year term on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee.
What were the impacts of COVID-19 on your organization?
The pandemic had a positive impact on our organization as it highlighted the importance of the trucking industry and the stability of jobs. Professional drivers were considered essential workers delivering products for consumers, while other businesses were shutting down and sending workers home. As women were more adversely affected by the pandemic, our focus is to encourage women’s employment in the trucking industry, from cab to boardroom, which has become even more vital due to the pandemic.
What are the upcoming services lined up for the future?
Our new ‘Driver Ambassador’ program focuses on raising awareness for the WIT mission, promoting career opportunities women have in trucking with a hands-on mobile learning environment.
Additionally, we are creating chapters to expand our influence into more local and regional groups that can continue the association’s work. Our annual conference attracts women and men on international levels who attend to educate themselves on advancing more significant participation of women in their companies.
What would be your piece of advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Any woman entering a male-dominated industry must work hard to prove herself. Once she has established her credibility, she will be seriously considered for advanced opportunities. We can all be leaders!
Ellen recommends: Any book by Mary Kelly, but the “Five Minute Leadership Guide” is one of her favorites.
Read full issue: The 10 Pioneering Business Leaders, 2021