Many trucking companies today are actively looking for female drivers, both in response to falling numbers of male applicants and because women often have abilities most male drivers do not. Women tend to take fewer risks behind the wheel and are more conscientious about completing their paperwork and caring for their equipment. Women are often better at interacting with clients as well. These are only generalities, of course, but the point is that any perceived drawbacks that the average female applicant may have are more than balanced by potential advantages.
Unfortunately, few women apply for these kinds of jobs, and not all women who get behind the wheel (or in related positions, such as mechanic or safety director) stay there very long. Part of the problem is the widespread stereotype that truckers are always male. Many women don’t realize that a job as a driver is even an option for them. Then, too, while the industry has made important strides in recent years, some companies still have an “office culture” that is subtly or even overtly hostile to women.
Fortunately, there are a number of concrete steps companies can take to become more attractive to qualified female applicants.
1. Practice Respect
A lot of people dismiss sexual harassment and bullying as joking around, friendly hazing, or “boys being boys.” Managers might not realize their company has a problem, especially if there are no female employees to complain. Calling in an outside consultant to do sexual harassment training and for help drafting a strong sexual harassment policy can help. The truth is that it’s possible to have a good time without doing it at anybody’s expense.
2. Recruit Female Managers
If the leadership of a business includes women then entry-level female employees can tell they have a future with the company. Female executives may also be more aware of the needs of women drivers and better able to spot places where the company can and should improve.
3. Pay Attention to Ergonomics
Because most women are smaller than most men, a truck cab designed for men might be uncomfortable for female drivers or even unsafe. Some manufacturers are considering women in their designs now, so equipment for a diversity of drivers is available. That being said, physical differences are often less important than they would seem or are important in different ways. For example, while some female drivers might need assignments that don’t involve unloading heavy cargo, other women are just as good at heavy lifting as men—but they’ll need work gloves in women’s sizes. Quality work gloves for women are very hard to find.
4. Make the Case to Potential Recruits
Because many women do not realize they can have careers in trucking, or do not want to be the only female driver a company has, sitting back and waiting for applications to come in might not be enough. In fact, hiring managers might have to seek out women and explain to them that they are qualified and should apply. Such assertive efforts are necessary to counteract the long tradition of women being excluded from the industry. The more women come in and find success in trucking, the more its reputation as a boys-only club will fade.
By reaching out to women, a company can double its pool of potential applicants—and that is good for everybody.