The third annual Women with Drive Summit from Trucking HR Canada was another huge success and the Ontario Trucking Association was thrilled to take part and support the increasingly popular event.
The Toronto event featured human resources, marketing and operations professionals and focused on strategies for recruiting and retaining women in the trucking industry.
The event included industry experts across several panel discussions who discussed a wide range of issues on how the industry can attract, accommodate and empower more women. Not surprisingly, organizers and attendees agreed that the biggest barrier is still behind the wheel. Statistics Canada says just 3 percent of Canada’s drivers are women – a number that Trucking HR Canada and participants at Women With Drive would like to see increase.
OTA VP of Communication Marco Beghetto led a two-hour ‘Global Perspectives’ discussion and Q&A featuring five very successful career women from Sweden (Elin Engstrom, test driver, Scania), Denmark (Vibeke Theisel, driver) the UK (Jenny Tipping, driver-trainer, Manpower Logistics) Australia (Heather Jones, CEO Pilbara Heavy Haulage Girls) and New Zealand (Meryn Morrison, health & compliance manager, Regal Haulage)
The event highlighted how the driver shortage is not unique to this side of the pond as many of our own labour market and demographic challenges are also being felt overseas. Each of the panelists discussed their early struggles as women in trucking and how over time they excelled in the industry. They also offered diverse perspectives on how to combat the driver shortage.
“Sweden in general is pretty good at equality,” said Engström. “We have a lot of organizations, both local government and companies that travel around in Sweden, informing students about the trucking industry.”
Asked why women make good truck drivers she quipped: “The majority of drivers I have trained that did the best were women. Not because they’re female, but because they listen.”
Theisel, who once was a nurse, talked about her she went from delivering babies to delivering freight. She said she could have never imagined being a truck driver seven years ago. She fell in love with the job after her trucker boyfriend dared here to ride along to see what the industry is about. “Now it’s not about the job,” she says. “It’s a lifestyle.”
Tipping discussed how recent recruitment programs in the UK have led to a small surge in young women entering the industry. Nearly one in five new female recruits are between the ages of 21 and 25, she said. It’s not a remarkable number in the grand scale, but a trend that shows promise.
Other issues the panelists covered:
Battling perceptions and stereotypes of women drivers; characteristics that make for successful women drivers (hint: not all that different from male drivers – hard working, patience and safe); new ruck designs and automation in equipment to make life on the road more comfortable; and barriers to the industry that persist for women and how they can be overcome.
The Women with Drive event also included an opening address by Stephania Varalli, Co-owner and co-CEO, Women of Influence organization and a highly entertaining and inspiring keynote luncheon Q&A with Frescho.ca founder Mandy Rennehan, among several other panel sessions.
Look for more pictures and video from Women With Drive in OTA newsletters.