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Every day the admins on the Women In Trucking Association Facebook group scan the posts for negativity, profanity and just plain nastiness. Every day someone is banned from the site because they can’t seem to keep his or her comments civil.

Why?

Why can’t we show more kindness, empathy and just be nice?   

Believe it or not, there are biological reasons why our brains lean toward negativity. It goes back to the Stone Age and our tendency to be more concerned about survival than kindness. Avoiding a predator was crucial, so staying away from a tiger was more critical than petting a friendly dog. 

Another study found that we are less likely to be mean toward someone who is physically close to us, and since the internet separates us physically, we’re not thinking of the targeted victim as someone nearby. There is also research suggesting that communication without the nonverbal component (gestures, body language, etc.) increases an adverse reaction to the “perceived threat” from another person. 

I cannot handle mean people. I refuse to tolerate people who call someone names or make threats or just post unkind things about the person’s inherent traits instead of focusing on a behavior.  

We’ve all been taught to “fight fair,” which means we should address what the other person said or did, and NOT who they are. Instead of saying, “You’re a jerk,” which only puts them on the defensive, how about saying, "I don’t appreciate the comment you just made about me.”

On the internet, people attack one another’s character, not their comments. When this happens, there is no chance of working through the dissention. How do you defend yourself from an assault on your character? You can’t. 

As I write this, we are approaching the mid-term elections in the United States, and the attack ads are very disturbing. Why can’t the candidates focus on how they are different from their competitors and what they will do if elected? Instead, they smear their opponents and in the process, offend us, the voters. 

Apparently, attack ads work because they tell a story and create empathy. Every story needs a component of conflict, and the attack on the other person gives voters the conflict to want to empathize with the “hero” in the ad. However, if the attacks are found to be false, it doesn't allow the victim to be a hero, but rather a liar, which will backfire on them instead.

So, let’s go back to why we can’t seem to get along. Wouldn’t it make more sense to stick together and support a greater cause than to intensify the conflict between ourselves? In the trucking industry, we have company drivers versus owner-operators, Teamsters versus non-union drivers, one carrier against another, private versus for-hire fleets, and the list goes on. Drivers often feel that their counterparts get a better break, maybe earn more or have better loads or preferential treatment at a shipper or any number of reasons to resent a fellow driver. 

For every person out there who drives a truck, you have so much more in common than you realize. You’re all doing the same job, for the same reason.  Can we start there?  

Try a little kindness. Try some empathy, and maybe your life will change. In fact, your life could be longer. A negative outlook has been proven to shorten your lifespan. Is it worth it? Many studies have connected longevity to personal happiness and a positive outlook.   

You’ve probably heard the adage, “If you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all.” I have, and although it prompts me to bite my tongue often, I’ve learned just to let it go. It’s not worth my time or energy to respond to negative people, and it’s not worth yours either. 

My mom always reminded me to, “consider the source,” which meant that a comment from someone I didn’t admire wasn’t worth contemplating.   

Think about this the next time someone posts a negative or nasty comment on social media. They are NOT worth your time or attention, and happier people will ignore them and go on to live longer. That works for me!

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Recently (Clare and) I had the opportunity to visit Convoy’s headquarters in downtown Seattle, meet with their team, and share ideas for how technology can 1) help women thrive in trucking today and 2) increase the percentage of women entering the industry altogether.  

Convoy is a trucking marketplace with a free mobile app for small trucking companies that matches them with freight that needs to be hauled. 

During the day I had a chance to speak with engineers, data scientists, bilingual operations specialists and others about the challenges in attracting and retaining women in the trucking industry. I shared examples of how WIT is working to address those, including educating the next generation about career opportunities in supply chain, and partnering with industry organizations to become more accepting and accommodating of women in trucking. I met with different groups, including Women At Convoy, who are focused on furthering Convoy’s success by advancing women in technology. 

I was happy to see that Convoy is placing a strong emphasis on a culture of diversity and creating ways to bring different ideas, strengths and backgrounds to the forefront to become stronger as a company. But more importantly, I was struck by their collective curiosity and drive to deeply understand the challenges in trucking today, and how they’re using that information to create better services and products for owner operators and small trucking companies especially. In a company-wide fireside chat, I was interviewed by Convoy’s CEO, Dan Lewis about the inspiration for getting WIT off the ground in 2007, misconceptions about women in trucking, and progress we’ve made in the industry, among other topics. We also talked about how companies like Convoy can use data and technology to remove a lot of the barriers that women find challenging in trucking.  

One of features in Convoy’s app that reduces the potential for gender bias, which is particularly valuable for female carriers who don’t like negotiating over the phone because they feel like they’re treated less fairly than their male counterparts is the option to book instantly or bid on a load at a tap of a button In the Convoy app, your gender doesn’t matter; male or female, you’re evaluated on your quality as a carrier, and the service you deliver. 

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are more examples of how Convoy is using data and technology in unique ways to advance the future of freight. I look forward to exploring more ways WIT and Convoy can partner together to change the conversation - and the game - for women in trucking.  

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Dear Facebook friends who post, comment or lurk on the Women In Trucking (WIT) Association Facebook group. Our admins are professional drivers who are just like you. They all have full time jobs driving a truck for a living, however, they have volunteered (no, they do not get paid) to spend their time, energy and passion to keep this page as a resource, a place to network and a safe place to learn….for YOU. Yes, you.

They spend countless hours removing profanity, attacks on other people, recruiting ads and negative comments that are not meant to be helpful.

How about giving them a day off?  What if everyone on our Facebook group actually abided by the rules that YOU agreed to when you were accepted into the group? Let’s allow them ONE day to sit back and have some relief from the negativity and spitefulness.

When you asked to join the WIT Facebook group you agreed to never recruit drivers on this page, but the thought of nearly 11,000 professional drivers in one place is too much for you to follow the rules. Can you imagine how our Facebook group could turn into a recruiting center if we allowed you or any others to post your recruiting ads for drivers? If you want drivers, check out the Career center on the Women In Trucking website and pay for an ad like everyone else. 

We have many new or soon to be professional drivers who turn to our Facebook group for advice or support. Please refrain from making fun of them. You were new to this industry at one point, and I hope that you had someone who you could ask for advice or just a little reassurance. The only stupid question is the one that’s not asked, so if some of the requests for information seem to be uninformed, then let them use this group to learn. Be helpful, not hurtful.

In regard to posting, how about NOT attacking the person because he or she has a different opinion than you regarding their carrier, the job or the shippers, truck manufacturers or anything else? Your opinion is not more valid than theirs, and if you want to point out a FACT they might not have considered, then use data, not emotion, to respond.  

Be civil and do not attack the person’s character but address the statement or opinion. Calling someone names is truly NOT going to benefit anyone and attacking a person for their viewpoint is so unprofessional.

If you do have an opinion about a company that might be a dues-paying member of the Women In Trucking Association, keep this in mind. You might not like a particular carrier, shipper or truck manufacturer, but give reasons WHY you were disappointed. We truly don’t care about your brother in law’s uncle’s grandma’s second cousin’s experience at that company. Second and third hand opinions will not be tolerated. If you want to share a personal experience, we welcome it, but it must be YOUR experience.

Another rule on the WIT Facebook group is that you are not allowed to post photos of truck accidents. Why? Because you’ve seen way too many on the road, and we don’t need to relive these sad, horrific moments again in social media. Please respect this rule and keep it positive. It’s something the admins will delete every time, so abide by the rules and leave out the negative graphics about your fellow drivers who were involved in a crash. 

One of the things I love about this industry is how generous professional drivers can be, but please don’t ask to post a GoFundMe or any other site asking for money. The admins delete hundreds of these annually, and although they appreciate your request, they can’t allow any posts asking for money for a fellow driver or a family member because it would become unmanageable. I send people to the Saint Christopher’s Fund (www.truckersfund.org) all the time.  

Is it really that hard to stay focused on creating a group that supports, nurtures, educates and allows a safe environment for both female and male drivers and those who support them? Is it that hard to read the rules and when you agree to them, then abide by them?

Let’s give our very hardworking admins a break and abide by the rules on the Women In Trucking Association Facebook group. And it wouldn’t hurt to thank them once in a while either.  

Thank you Deb, Cindy, Margaret, Linda, Lori, Mary, Pam, Victor, Marie, Shannon and Tracy Lynn. You’re the best.

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Imagine you are a 24-year-old female who decides to become a professional driver. You attend a truck driving school during the day for three to six weeks. You proudly display your newly earned commercial driver’s license to the recruiter, who promises you a great job with new equipment and a friendly dispatcher.   

You then learn that you need to go out on the road with a trainer, a 58-year-old man with whom you will be sharing the cab of a truck, including the bunk area, for the coming weeks. Regardless of his clean record, his paternal demeanor or his soft smile, the thought of sharing a small space with a stranger of the opposite sex could be terrifying.

A recent 20/20 segment hosted by Diane Sawyer titled, “My Reality: A Hidden America” interviewed women who had been sexually assaulted by male trainers. One was told she would have to have sex with her trainer before he would “pass” her. Some of these women told Sawyer they carry knives and other weapons for protection.

Is this the industry we are promoting to women? Would you encourage your daughter to enter an environment that pairs men and women in a training situation with a bunk only inches away?

Some carriers have taken steps to minimize the possibility of sexual harassment by training women in day cabs to return each night. Others have turned to a same-gender training policy. Prime, Inc. adopted the same gender training policy in 2003 after the EEOC filed a Title VII violation against the carrier for sexual harassment toward a female trainee. 

Prime Inc. was then (again) found guilty of violating Title VII because its policy discriminated against women because some female trainees faced a delay in obtaining a female trainer. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)  claimed the company “denied employment opportunities to [women].”  

The EEOC attorney went on to state, ”women are entirely capable of understanding and assessing the risks of truck driving.” Really? Should women be expected to deal with unwanted sexual advances because they are “CAPABLE OF UNDERSTANDING” these risks?

This claim is alarming in so many ways. How can we, as an industry, expect women to be fully prepared for sharing a very small space, which includes sleeping quarters, with an unrelated individual of the opposite sex? Did the court even consider the proximity of the sleeper berth in its decision?  They should.

Recently I learned about research by Dr. Jennifer Hirsch and Dr. Claude Mellins who spent years interviewing college students to better understand “how the hidden forces of campus ecosystems [affect] how and when assault happens.” They learned that when students socialize in dorm rooms where a bed is present, the incidence of sexual assault increases. The claim is that sex is often enabled by opportunity.  I reached out to Dr. Hirsch to ask for her insight into how the proximity of a bed in a training situation could increase the incidence of sexual assault for professional drivers.  She has agreed to work with us to better understand these issues as they apply to our industry. 

Women In Trucking Association understands that not all carriers can or want to adopt a same-gender training policy, but we assert that they should have this OPTION if they so choose.  Consider the example of the Hooters chain of restaurants. Whether you eat there or not, you’ve probably seen the skimpy tank tops and short orange shorts worn by the (female) servers. How can Hooters limit their criteria to women only?

There is a way to discriminate in employment under a provision called the “Bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ). Hooters defended their hiring practices by claiming their “restaurant concept…includes certain ambiance requirements.”  

The Bona fide occupational qualification allows employers to consider a quality or attribute in hiring that might constitute discrimination in other contexts. For example, airline pilots face mandatory retirement at age 65. A male clothing manufacturer can specify a male model for advertising purposes.

Perhaps we should consider allowing carriers to use the BFOQ for training purposes IF THEY SO CHOOSE. There’s no “one size fits all” solution, so the fact that Hooters hires female servers doesn't mean Olive Garden must do the same. It’s an option. 

We’ve taken this to the next level and met with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator, Martinez, and Deputy Administrator Gautreaux to ask for their support. We are not asking the FMCSA for regulatory intervention but wanted to be sure they were in agreement that this should be an optionfor carriers. They both felt it was a viable solution but wanted us to secure industry support. 

Since the EEOC won its case against same-gender training policies in the court, we are asking for legislative solutions to this issue. Congressman Michael Gallagher (R-WI) has agreed to support this action and is currently working on a way to include the Bona Fide Occupational Qualification into future legislation. We recently gave Congressman Gallagher a ride-along with a female driver to better understand these concerns.

If you are willing to provide your support for the OPTION to invoke the BFOQ to support the opportunity for a carrier to adopt a same-gender training policy, please contact me (ellen@womenintrucking.org). The more industry support we have, the better our case will be to advance this issue.

We are not asking anyone to change their training process. We are only seeking relief for carriers who CHOOSE to adopt a same-gender training policy in the future. Your backing will help. Will you help us ensure a safer environment for future trainees with your support? I look forward to hearing from you.

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