GIRARD, Ohio — Women have a place in the largely male-led transportation industry, and it’s a matter of continuing to raise the awareness of benefits, pay and spreading secrets to success to bring more women on board.
In a five-woman panel moderated by Jessica Deane, director of marketing for Aim Transportation Solutions, challenges and advice were shared. The panel was conducted as part of Aim’s observance of Women’s History Month.
Aim, headquartered in Girard with locations in 12 states, is the largest privately owned truck leasing company in North America.
On the panel were: Leah Shaver, president and chief executive officer of National Transportation Institute; Patty Durkin, chief human resources operator at Aim Transportation Solutions; Jane Clark, vice president of member services at NationaLease; Wendy Pein, account executive of national accounts for Cummins Inc.; and Kim Beck, vice president of benefits and consulting at Cottingham and Butler.
For about an hour, the women took turns discussing their challenges and achievements throughout their careers in the transportation industry.
A statistic shared during the webinar was that women make up 15% of the transportation industry.
“The biggest opportunity is we need more female drivers,” Beck said. While it’s not always an easy job, the payoff is worth it with excellent benefits and wages heading toward six figures, she added. Women can also work in mechanics, engineering or office settings. “It’s all different positions.”
Women recruiters have a knack for talking with prospects, Beck said, helping people “open up” and finding a match for them in transportation. Agreeing was Shaver, who previously was a recruiter. For her, she found success talking with recruits and matching them up with careers where they would have longevity.
The panel agreed that shifting gears to transportation included learning how communication works with men, who would have heated office exchanges then go to lunch as if nothing happened.
I learned there’s a different style” to communication, Clark said. “I had to learn that – it was almost like a new language” that included learning to listen differently and adapt how to convey and extract information with her colleagues, Clark said.
Excelling in her environment, Durkin said support and education are vital. “All of those people around me helped me get here,” she said. Drivers and mechanics have more of a challenge than in the administration side.
“It’s our job to make it easier for everybody, Durkin said.
Emerging technology tied to autonomous trucking, added safety measures to ensure drivers are protected, and engineering for hybrids and electric vehicles will continue to expand, Pein said. “I think it’s only expanding with different opportunities we don’t know of today, even.”
When asked what she loves about her job, Shaver responded, “What’s not to love?” For the women she mentors, Shaver encourages them to find something they love about their job and grow with it. “You’re going to enjoy it that much more, and so much more of yourself comes through your work.”
Careers in transportation have led the women down different roads as well, including traveling to meet members in their communities, becoming philanthropic where they live and working with employees to improve their lives through benefit packages or helping them move into different roles at companies.
The panel also shared advice for women between the ages of 18 to 25.
Clark said for women to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. “If you have an interest in this industry and see an opportunity, don’t hesitate to take it,” she said.
Pein echoed the sentiment, building on it by adding to be transparent. If you don’t know an answer at work, lean on the support system at work.
Beck advised, “Put your fears aside. Put yourself out there and be confident.”
Don’t fear the industry. But also don’t be afraid to learn about different areas to become a stronger team player, Durkin said. “Get additional education,” she said.
Telling the audience that the women on the panel are now “members of your tribe,” Shaver said to send LinkedIn invites. “What are you waiting for? You have to position yourself to be in front of the leaders you admire to ask questions.”
She added that if opportunities aren’t presenting themselves, “You have to create them yourself.”