An internationally recognized speaker and a businesswoman with a sustained passion for woman empowerment, Ellen Voie is one such dynamic lady in the business world who has been encouraging and supporting women in the trucking industry.
The Women In Trucking Association, under the capable supervision of Ellen, has established its position as an industry leader to promote the employment of women in the trucking industry, to remove obstacles that might keep them from succeeding, and to celebrate the successes of its members. After forming in 2007 with the support of a passionate leadership team, highly engaged members, and committed sponsors and partners, this non-profit organization has made an impact globally.
In 2012 Ellen was recognized by the White House for being a “Transportation Innovator Champion of Change.” This distinction gave the organization a higher level of both credibility and visibility in the trucking industry.
THE INSPIRING JOURNEY
Ellen started her career in 1978 when she was hired at a steel fabricating plant in central Wisconsin. She worked in the drafting department, designing material handling equipment, such as steel pallets, bins, and racking. In 1979 she was transferred into the Traffic Department. She earned a diploma in “Traffic and Transportation Management,” and later became the Traffic Manager.
In her personal life, Ellen married a professional driver, and they started their own trucking company. Besides, she did free-lance work as a transportation consultant, ran a small carrier, raised two children, and attended college to earn her bachelor’s and then master’s degree in communication.
After twenty years, her marriage ended. Ellen accepted the position of Executive Director of Trucker Buddy International, where she led the program for six years. Then, she was recruited by Schneider National to lead their retention efforts. Her job was to initiate corporate-level programs designed to attract and retain non-traditional groups, which included female professional drivers.
At the time, she was completing her pilot’s license, and she belonged to an organization for female pilots. It struck her that there wasn’t a similar group for women in the trucking industry, so she started one.
That was in 2007 when the Women In Trucking Association was formed!
As a member-based organization, their goal is to listen and provide the needed resources. For an association, this typically means information such as best practices, research, and as much data as possible. In 2007, there was very little data in the trucking industry related to gender. In fact, many trucking companies didn’t even track the percentage of female drivers or managers hired. The organization’s focus is to listen and learn and then provide the resources their members need to create a more diverse culture.
COMPANY’S FUTURE PERSPECTIVES
In thirteen years, the Women In Trucking Association has grown to about 5,200 members in ten countries. One of their goals is to expand into more international economies, to have a greater understanding of how to attract and retain women in other nations. Not all challenges are the same. For some, such as India, it might be cultural, and for others, such as in Western Australia, it might be due to the nature of the challenging terrain. They are also working to create more local and regional groups by forming chapters.
HURDLES IN THE PATH & THE BIGGEST FAILURE
“The goal during turbulent times is to be adaptable. We need to make decisions in an agile way so we can be proactive instead of reactive. For example, we decided to cancel our annual conference and to change it to a virtual event. This created a challenge to deliver the needed and desired content without compromising the interaction. We are all getting better at virtual meetings. However, it still removes the personal connections we make at an event, and our goal is to ensure our attendees feel included, educated, and entertained enough to want to come back next year”, stated Ellen.
She doesn’t look at any actions as failures; she views them as learning opportunities. There are decisions she has made that have turned her in a different direction, but that’s part of the journey. She can’t think of anything she could have or would have done differently.
THE “SECRET SAUCE” and “VISION” IN LIFE
Ellen proudly said, “As a leader, my approach is to lead by example. I work hard and expect our team members to work hard, as well. Since we are a virtual organization with remote staff, it makes it more challenging to motivate and support, but we do that through consistent interaction. More importantly, we hire people who can work independently and who are self-motivated. We don’t count hours, and we don’t over manage. Instead, we treat each individual as an adult and measure outcomes instead of hours. This makes work-life balance easier when our team members choose their workdays and establish their own schedules. Outcomes are the goal, not timesheets or check-ins.”
Ellen’s vision, or perhaps her superpower, is that she looks ahead to the future. She sees the opportunities to create change and grabs them. She does not let anyone tell her she can’t succeed! Ellen is driven when it comes to looking forward and making the industry a better place.
New ideas as a CEO include creating more opportunities for various demographic or professional groups to learn from our expertise. For example, female professional drivers could be segregated by whether they work in teams or solo, owner-operators or company drivers, or by the type of freight they haul, such as flatbed, automotive, dry van or refrigerated. Ellen loves to see more of an individualized approach to these connections.
BEST ADVICE RECEIVED
Ellen Voie shared, “The best advice I ever received was to move out of my comfort zone. Each one of us needs to test our limits to see what we are capable of accomplishing. Without pushing ourselves, we’ll never experience the sense of accomplishment that comes from the challenge. I have sky-dived, Bungee jumped, and learned to drive an 18 wheeler, fly a plane and ride a motorcycle.”