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How to be inclusive in 4 not-so-easy steps

Actionable advice from 2021 Top Companies for Women to Work For in Transportation

Women in Trucking has released its annual top 100 list. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

On Monday, nonprofit association Women in Trucking (WIT) announced its annual Top Companies for Women to Work For in Transportation.

The list showcases companies that took actions to not only increase the number of women in their organizations but retain and develop them into leaders as well. 

Transportation companies are judged and voted on by fellow Women in Trucking members in areas including corporate cultures, compensation, benefits, professional development and career advancements.

A recent study from Congress found that while 46% of the national workforce is made up of women, females hold only 24% of transportation and warehousing jobs. Of that 24%, 12.5% work in truck transportation, 8% own logistics firms and 6.6% are truck drivers.

Women in Trucking believes that recognizing these top companies will help teach others better business practices for developing a strong female workforce in transportation, and more importantly, retain that talent to help lead generations of women to come.

Below are four ways that industry leaders have recruited and maintained high levels of female engagement within their companies, creating a more inclusive workplace for future thought leaders.

Create an employee resource group

One of the most common trends among WIT’s Top 100 companies was the establishment of employee resource groups (ERGs), often employee-led voluntary committees that represent a specific group of individuals.

These groups are not always based on gender — there are employee organizations on race, disabilities, military service and sexual orientation.

While on the surface this may not seem like a way to recruit more women into the transportation industry, it is a way to foster and maintain a dynamic, open-minded culture.

In an interview with FreightWaves, Charlie Saffro, founder and president of CS Recruiting, described how focusing on retaining employees first leads to organic recruitment.

“You won’t be able to hire females unless you have a good environment for females to thrive in,” she explained. “For example, when looking at freight brokerages, if the sales floor is full of swearing, on-the-floor arguments, creating a hostile environment, you are going to lose females and they are going to tell other females not to go into logistics because of it. … Instead, you need to create a safe workplace that they can see themselves thriving in, no matter where they are in life.”

That is just what these ERGs do: create a safe place for women to be heard and to become a part of the culture.

Digital freight network Convoy was listed on the WIT Top 100 and has recently created its own ERG, known as the [email protected] 

The company has used this group as a source of development and empowerment for its female employees, who like many digital brokerages, balance working between two male-dominated industries: transportation and technology.

“In 2021, we’ve been focusing on strengthening this culture of inclusion, mitigating bias and fostering a diverse employee community through several initiatives,” said Sunita Solao, vice president of people at Convoy.

“Convoy’s ERGs are a great example of this effort and are at the heart of our community and key to fostering a sense of belonging at the company. We currently have eight employee-led groups, which offer a forum and opportunity to network internally, build a diverse community and create opportunities for learning and development,” Solao said. 

Often these ERGs can affect how women in the workplace are treated as well, building that inclusive atmosphere a company is looking to achieve.

BlueGrace Logistics, also listed in WIT Top 100, uses its diversity-focused “Lunch and Learns” to engage all employees, showcasing the different lives women and those of minority status live outside of work, along with monthly engagement surveys to ensure company events are properly supporting women in the workplace.

“BlueGrace’s No. 1 core value is ‘Be Caring of All Others,’ and this has been just as vital in our professional success as it has been in shaping our inclusive culture,” said Ledora Brown, senior public relations manager at BlueGrace Logistics.

Brown explained that BlueGrace does more than promote these initiatives within its four walls, the company encourages its employees to attend and promote outside events that could contribute to the growth of the company’s inclusive culture.

“BlueGrace advocated for me to present at a conference in New York recently for a PR News award-winning program I helped create called ‘Identifying the Elephant in Room: Critical Communications Strategies in the Face of Racism.’ Leadership recognizes equity and inclusion is an on-going process and I look forward to contributing to our continued growth,” she said.

Stimulate equity

For many women, the key concern when entering a workplace is not to just feel included in the group but to be sure that equity is important to the organization. Equity is achieved when everyone has access to the same treatment, opportunities and advancement as all other employees and aims to identify and eliminate barriers that prevent all minority statuses from participating.

One of the simplest ways to help achieve equity in the workplace is through education, whether that comes from providing tuition reimbursement, in-house mentorship programs or development opportunities.

Global logistics provider XPO has championed this through both its XPO University classes and its employee resource group #SheIsXPO, which encourages the development of midlevel female leaders.

“[#SheIsXPO] aims to build engagement with women and allies across the organization. Additionally, the launch of our Women in Leadership program addresses the unique needs focused on the development of our midlevel female leaders. Finally, the partnerships we’ve formed over the years with organizations like Women in Trucking and Fairygodboss have helped us develop best practices that foster women’s career advancement,” said XPO Chief Diversity Officer LaQuenta Jacobs.

“Together with our employees, we’re moving forward on gender equity through progressive workplace initiatives, active recruiting of women in all roles and internal promotions,” she said.

Sometimes building equity for women can be achieved through simply redirecting it to women.

To celebrate Global Diversity Awareness Month, Convoy announced it would be paying an extra $50 a load for every minority-owned and women-owned carrier that hauled for it throughout October.

Not sure if you were certified as a women-owned carrier? Convoy’s team was available to guide these female leaders in order to get the certification they deserved. 

Through these incentives, not only has Convoy helped redistribute wealth to empower a minority segment of carriers, it’s effectively promoting equity for its customers as well.

“We are building systems to help our customers meet their supplier diversity goals and help diverse carriers earn more money. By ensuring diverse carriers haul freight for customers with supplier diversity programs, we can contribute to our customers’ Tier 2 programs and measure and grow their program’s impact and effectiveness,” said Convoy in a statement for the program.

Encourage women to lead new initiatives

Lastly, WIT Top 100 employers empowered women within their organizations to lead new frontiers within logistics and transportation.

For example, when XPO Logistics created its new chief diversity officer role in 2020, its special committee presented the opportunity to Jacobs, paving the way for the global logistics firm to create equity opportunities for women across the globe.

NFI Industries, a WIT Top 100 employer, is investing in electric vehicles — and giving female drivers first shot at driving those trucks.

Jazmin Vasquez, a professional driver for NFI Industries, has become one of the first drivers in the country to operate an electric heavy-duty truck, a Kalmar Ottawa electric terminal tractor.

Recently named WIT’s October member of the month, Vazquez followed her father’s and brother’s footsteps and became a professional over-the-road driver in 2019 before shortly after taking a yard tractor driving position.

Jazmin Vasquez standing in front of a Kalmar Ottawa electric terminal tractor. (Photo: Women in Trucking)

Not only has Vasquez been contributing to better air quality and a fundamental shift in driving technology of the future, her role has made her proud of her work and she encourages other women to join her in the male-dominated field.

“If you want to drive, don’t let anyone tell you you can’t,” said Vazquez.

Offer flexibility

When encouraging women to enter a workforce that is dominated by men, it’s important to realize that flexibility will be an incentive that many are looking for to continue growing their family and building a household, something that women have been found responsible for thousands of years, prior to even receiving natural born civil rights.

This fact has not gone unnoticed by Christy Williams, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Highway Transport, a asset-based carrier with over 400 tankers and 15 service centers across America that was listed on WIT’s Top 100.

“We operate with the guiding principle of ‘family,’ and we understand that drivers have different motivations and needs when they join a company,” said Williams in a recent blog. “If we really want to attract and retain women, we must continue seeking and implementing ways, such as flexible schedules, to make it happen. We’re committed to working toward the goal of increasing female positions across the board.”

That plan has worked out well for the company, with the Freeport, Texas-based drivers now made up of more than 25% women, with over 98% on-time service to its customers. These women are offered benefits including flexible routes and hours and timely pay raises and supported by a culture focused on respect, according to Williams.

Saffro of CS Recruiting expects to see more transportation companies focus on considerations for attracting and retaining female employees by respecting and honoring the lifestyles that females choose to live, similar to how Highway Transport’s leadership has chosen to lead its female employees.

“Companies need to start taking women’s needs seriously, including flexible schedules and even PTO for miscarriages or family emergencies, if they want to retain more females. It’s not about [marketing] freight as fun and exciting, because it is a hard and dirty industry, it’s about being respectful to employees and growing confident leaders,” she said.

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Grace Sharkey

Grace is an entrepreneur and former supply chain executive who has held positions in sales, operations, and consulting. She is passionate about the future of the industry and how technology can improve the experience for all supply chain members. She believes supply chain is the one industry that affects every human directly, and is looking forward to creating content that mirrors that sentiment. If you have a story to share, please contact me at [email protected]