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Women on the rise in trucking and the supply chain

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Last month, FreightWaves interviewed Ellen Voie, president and founder of Women in Trucking (WIT), on the What the Truck?!? podcast. After years of advocacy in the industry, it seems the cultural shift may have finally reached a tipping point.

WIT is an organization that was created to encourage women into taking up employment in the trucking industry, and minimize the resistance women experience from breaking into the industry. In association with the National Transportation Institute (NTI), WIT developed the WIT Index that monitors the percentage of female drivers and leaders within the industry to understand gender inequality better.

The NTI conducts surveys with hundreds of trucking companies and compiles data about driver wages, benefits, and retirement plans. It analyzes the data to understand the ecosystem and also shares it with carriers for benchmarking and forecasting.

In recent findings, the percentage of female drivers has increased only marginally from 7.13% in 2016 to 7.89% by the end of 2017. The representation of women in management-related desk jobs increased from 23% in 2016 to 23.75% percent by December 2017.

The biggest surprise has been the increase in fleet companies, which have seen a 19% growth this year. This could mean a lot more fleets are serious about understanding the gender divide, which could pave the way for them creating initiatives to improve the gender ratio.

According to WIT’s Redefining the Road Magazine, women-owned businesses grow 47% faster than others, and more than 200,000 women drivers now make up 6% of the trucking industry. That number is actively growing, especially with the strong economy and supply chain constraint.

Another dimension adding to the significant shifts we’re seeing is technology. The days where the industry was characterized as blue collar and heavily reliant on manual labor are fading. A new generation is emerging. The demand for new workers is rapidly growing, and universities are also increasing the amount of supply chain management programs.

According to Gartner research, full time student enrollment in the top 25 supply chain programs rose 43%, from 8,500 to 12,200, in just two years from 2014 to 2016. It’s a particularly open time for women to consider a career path in the field.

Currently, it probably comes as no surprise that women in supply chain careers earn less than men, and, according to the Wall Street Journal, the disparity grows wider as they advance in their careers. Overall, their studies found that men earn 29% more on average than women in 2017, and that gap rose to 48% among purchasing and supply-chain professionals with 15 to 19 years of experience.

Those numbers tend to reflect most industries, however. The factors are complex, and the bottom line is things do seem to be changing. With the widespread rise of conversation on workplace equality, the supply chain and manufacturing industries have the responsibility to be more inclusive to women and act as a model for how other industries can attract talent at every level.

It would seem the needle is finally moving.

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