Women appreciate flexible work arrangements, fair compensation, and inclusive corporate cultures that encourage and support women’s professional development and advancement. It is important to find resources, best practices, innovative ideas, and content to ensure such corporate cultures. These changes all lead to women’s empowerment. Ellen Voie’s whole career has been in empowering women, and therefore she is one of the most admirable women leaders in business. As Founder of the Women In Trucking Association in March of 2007, Ellen Voie now serves as the nonprofit organization’s President/CEO. The group’s mission is to promote women’s employment in the trucking industry, encourage and support them, remove obstacles that might keep them from succeeding, and celebrate its members’ successes.
Earlier Sense of Timeliness
Ellen says that losing her mom at an early age gave her a sense of timeliness. She felt that she had to push herself to achieve everything possible in a short amount of time because Ellen did not know how many years she had to accomplish her goals. Her mom also believed in her and encouraged and supported her before she was diagnosed with a fatal illness (ALS) when she was a teenager.
Promoting Gender Diversity in Workforce
The Women In Trucking Association’s mission is to make women aware of career opportunities and mentor and assist them as they become more successful in their roles. Women In Trucking Association is not limited to women only, as 15 percent of its members are men who believe in the association’s goals. Many companies in transportation are reaping the benefits of stable workforce diversity. Gender diversity brings new perspectives, fuels more significant idea generation, problem-solving, and innovation, increasing business performance and overall revenue generation. Access to relevant market intelligence, content, networking, collaboration, and best practices helps achieve this. Ellen has a vital role in promoting gender diversity.
Changing the Image of the Trucking Industry
Ellen’s first challenge was in starting a nonprofit association in the middle of a recession (2007). Creating an organization requires a strong commitment, both financial and personal. She knew that she had to prove that Women In Trucking Association is a viable group that would provide a valuable resource to its members. In its first year, it attracted 500 members, which was impressive considering it was a challenging year for everyone. The next biggest challenge Ellen faced as an organization was in changing the image of the trucking industry. Too many people view careers as drivers as being something only men can do. This isn’t the case. Many women see these trucks as just a diesel engine and smokestacks instead of all the technology that makes the truck easier to operate and ultimately much safer for both the driver and those on the road around the truck.
The pandemic has strengthened the group’s mission by proving the value the trucking industry brings to the economy. Professional drivers were on the front line, delivering the needed supplies while putting their health at risk. Professional drivers brought toilet paper, sanitizer, food, and gas to the public while their safety was compromised. Restaurants and rest areas were closed, reducing the places drivers could access sanitary facilities and decent meals. Yet, they did their job without complaining. The non-trucking public has seen the trucking industry’s importance and how jobs are still stable and available.
Supported by a Passionate Leadership Team
The organization is supported by a passionate leadership team, highly engaged members, and committed sponsors and partners. Women In Trucking Association has five employees and an association management firm that supplies six more staff members, all working in a virtual environment, making collaboration even more challenging. However, the group’s work culture promotes both independence and self-motivation. Ellen believes in a results-oriented work environment, so she doesn’t monitor hours or days, and vacations and time off is unlimited. The caveat is that each of its team members has a job to do, and they are responsible for ensuring that the job is done. In other words, Ellen treats people like adults and asks them to do their job. If someone wants a day off, they are free to do so, as long as they don’t compromise any commitments.
Valuable as a Board Member
For Ellen, her training as an association executive and her certification (CAE) makes her valuable as a board member for other nonprofit associations. She started both a trade/professional IRS 501(c)(6) association and a charitable 501(c)(3) foundation, so her insight has been sought out by other organizations. She knows how to write by-laws, work with a board and a staff and still serve its members, so she is often asked to serve on other nonprofit boards. This is her way of contributing.