In early May, I moderated a fantastic panel of women talking about the future of commercial vehicles. I walked away feeling proud to have been involved in what may have been the first-ever all-female panel at that event.
And then it hit me. I've been in the fleet industry for more than 16 years. Why did this take so long?
Women in Trucking (WIT) was founded in 2007 -- one year after I started as an automotive fleet journalist. The Women in Fleet Management (WIFM) group was founded in 2011. Both groups have been around for more than a decade now. And both advocate for women fleet leaders in transportation.
So, what's changed?
From a straight year-over-year comparison, things are looking up, right? Using the most recent data from 2021, the percentage of women fleet managers was 16.8%. Looking back 10 years to 2011, the percentage of women fleet managers was 14.3%.
But what happens when we dig deeper? Numbers have dropped by 3 percentage points. The highest percentage of women fleet managers was in 2019, at 19.3%.
Looking at the average percentage of female fleet managers in the U.S. between 2010 and 2021? We get 16.79%.
Looking at the percentage of female truck drivers, the numbers drop down to just 10% of the workforce.
Have things actually, improved?
A Women’s World?
If you did a Google search for the top male-dominated industries in 2022, the #1 job was "vehicle technicians, mechanics, and electricians." Moving down the list, you quickly find "mobile machine drivers" at #6, "forklift truck drivers" at #7, and "large goods vehicle drivers" at #8.
Using the latest percentage of male vs. female fleet management workforce, you don't see the same percentage breakdown as fleet until you hit #75, "IT business analysts, architects, and systems designers."
Farmers have a higher percentage of women in the workforce than fleet management.
While it's slow, when you look at the fleet industry today, you DO see change. One area that has seen an impact is the percentage of female leaders in transportation. 33.8% of C-suite executives in transportation companies are women, representing a 1.5% increase from 2019.
Looking at the industry, we have several solid, strong women executives, including Mary Barra, chair and CEO at GM, and Jennifer Rumsey, president and CEO at Cummins, to name just a few. Within the Bobit Fleet Group, three of our top fleet publications (Work Truck, Government Fleet, and Heavy Duty Trucking) are led by women executive editors. Two have an all-female editorial and content team.
And, for those who know, many women have had to wait in line to use the restroom at fleet and trucking-related events. That might not seem like much, but it's huge for those who have been around for a while.
Making Change Happen
So, what else do we need to do to make a real impact? How can we help move the needle in the right direction?
We can continue to recognize the amazing women working hard in our industries, running fleet operations, driving trucks, and leading corporations. We can work to continue to be welcoming to not only women but all underrepresented groups within our organization through supporting emerging groups like the Black Fleet Network and continuing organizations like WIT and WIFM.
We need to acknowledge that there is still an imbalance. That systemic bias over decades cannot be overcome overnight. Everyone belongs in fleet.
Moving Forward with Progress
Coming back to what started this whole rumination, it's time events look past gender and look to experience. I'm proud and humbled to be a part of the change that is not just coming but happening. Being a member of an all-female powerhouse panel talking about the future of commercial vehicles is a sign of the changing times and a step in the right direction.
While I cannot wait for the day when I'm no longer surprised about this type of session experience, I'm looking forward to seeing the percentage of fleet managers, drivers, and executives continue to increase.
Until then, I'll continue to stand up, speak out, and represent the women that know trucks, love trucks, and have fleet running through their veins.
As Madeleine Albright said, "It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent."
I fully intend to fulfill that sentiment.
How are you helping create a more welcoming fleet industry? What changes have you seen that I didn't cover or challenges for progress?
Email me, let's chat!
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