Women continue to face unique challenges in the trucking industry.
Jennifer Hedrick is a collaborative leader and the executive director of Women in Trucking (WIT). During episode 17 of Banyan Technology's Tire Tracks™ podcast, she joins host Patrick Escolas to share her story of leadership and discusses WIT's mission.
Learn about recent growth in the industry, how membership is structured to support the community, and how WIT is working to educate the next generation about over-the-road transportation as a whole. We’re all better off when we can operate in a diverse environment and Jennifer shares how her organization is driving meaningful change.
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:
Jennifer Hedrick on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/hedrickjennifer/
Women in Trucking: https://www.womenintrucking.org/
Women in Trucking on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/womenintruckingassociation/
Patrick Escolas: https://www.linkedin.com/in/patrick-escolas-700137122/
Banyan Technology: https://www.banyantechnology.com
Banyan Technology on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/banyan-technology
Banyan Technology on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/banyantechnology
Listen to Tire Tracks on Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/tire-tracks-driving-the-logistics-industry/id1651038809
Listen to Tire Tracks on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/3Aiya6qVXFsiXbUAwMT7S7
Hi, everybody. It's Patrick Escolas with another episode of Banyan’s Podcast, Tire Tracks. I am very honored to be here with Jennifer Hedrick of Women In Trucking. Jennifer, hi, how are you doing today?
Hi, Patrick. How are you?
Thank you very much for joining us today. We've had quite a few different people on the show. I know that Women In Trucking I follow on the LinkedIn is as I got into the logistics industry, it was one of the first things that came up to follow. So I tried to get and I got some great knowledge from it and a few other resources. So I know a little bit about Women In Trucking. But before we get into the organization as a whole, let's start with you as I start kind of everybody here. What brought you into logistics? What brought you into transportation? I went because there was a job opening, and it ended up that's where I'm at. But where was your journey?
Sure. So my journey has been in the nonprofit sector in the Washington, DC area for over 15 years. I've been in the association space and leading a number of different associations, mainly trade associations.
A few years ago, I got a position with the National Industrial Transportation League or NIT League. They're an organization that promotes issues around trucking, rail use, and ocean shipping. I was their executive director for almost six years and just really loved being with that group. Loved the issues that they focused on and that they advocated on, both on the legislative level and federal regulatory level.
So fast-forward a few years later and this opportunity came up. I had – NIT League had moved on to a new opportunity with new management. So I was managing some other different types of associations that weren't transportation-related. This opportunity with Women In Trucking came up, and I just jumped on it. I wanted to return to the transportation space and was really thrilled that I had an opportunity to do so through this job opening.
That's awesome. What got you into the nonprofit or the association space in the first place?
Really a passion for working with organizations and fulfilling their mission. That was really just an area of focus of mine from early in my career. Then it sort of changed into I was working for charitable organizations. Then I had an opportunity to work with an organization called the Pellet Fuels Institute, which that organization represented manufacturers of wood pellets, not an area that many people have heard of.
I was going to say. Is it someone just have a stockpile of wood pellets somewhere? Or is this fueling something that we're just – the average layperson isn't aware of.
Sure. So there are things called pellet stoves that folks have.
They're very similar to wood stoves, except they're heated with wood pellets.
And do they have to be like a very uniform size or particular –
They do. There are some specific standards for that, and they're manufactured all over the country by many different companies. You can buy them at your – wherever you live. You can buy them at your hardware store or your grocery store, other types of locations. But they come in 40-pound bags.
So if you've got a pellet stove at home, you can buy a couple bags of pellets, and then you're on your way.
You’re set for a while. Yes, exactly.
So with Pellet Fuels, I was doing a lot of work with them on the lobbying front. They had a lot of [inaudible 00:04:16] that they were working on before Congress and also just some coalitions they were building through like US Department of Agriculture, that kind of thing. So that focus on trade associations and growing businesses and protecting businesses really felt like home to me at that point. So I have really focused on trade associations and working on behalf of trade associations for the past almost 10 years now, specifically.
So you're pretty comfortable that this is where you want to be. That's awesome.
It is. Yes. I really enjoy it.
No, that's great. Here we are again. I'm talking to a new person, and we've touched on a small minuscule piece of everything that makes up all the moving goods that I would have never thought of wood pellets and pellet fuel. Yes. You're like, no, that's what got you into where you're at now.
You mentioned with the associations and the nonprofits really driving that mission. What is the mission of Women In Trucking, other – from the title, I assume, which is putting women in trucks. But I'm sure it's much more robust and defined than that.
It really is, and that's a great question and a question that I have gotten a lot since I've started with Women In Trucking, both with friends of mine and as president, CEO of Women In Trucking. It is very broad. We're not just focused on putting women in trucks. We're focused on promoting opportunities for women in the broader transportation space, particularly in trucking. So we look for opportunities to promote job opportunities for women, to encourage employment, to celebrate the success of women, and to eliminate barriers. So that's really our mission, our core mission. Then we do that in dozens of different ways, which is really exciting.
When you talk about some – it’s a broader mission, but you brought up eliminating barriers. What kind of barriers are in place right now that specifically for Women In Trucking, because that's probably more where you're concerned than trucking as a whole?
Sure. So I think let's look at drivers, women drivers, for example. There's been a lot of work done over the years. Women In Trucking was founded in 2007 by Ellen Voie. We've grown to be an organization of over 8,000 members.
I was going to say I'm surprised it's that recent of a creation date for the organization for as known and involved as you guys are. So congratulations. You're doing something right.
Yes. Thank you for that. Certainly, credit goes to Ellen Voie and Char Pingel and the women who built Women In Trucking from the ground up. But when Women In Trucking was started, there were a lot of different issues that women were having. Think about safety issues if you're driving a truck and need to stop at a rest stop or a truck stop or somewhere else. Think about not having a facility to shower, that kind of thing. Think about lighting at these different areas and not being protected or not being advocated by just for general safety issues.
For a long time, companies wouldn't necessarily hire women. We just had a presentation the other day to one of our member companies where we sort of reviewed advertising for different positions over the years. It’s just all of them, all of the advertisements were targeted to men. So barriers of overcoming the idea that women can't do jobs associated with truck driving. That they're not strong enough or they're not assertive enough. So those are some areas where we've had to just really eliminate barriers. So much of that you can probably understand is just convincing people that women can do the job.
Right, right. It seems so crazy to me to think, just because of a gender that you're like, “No, you can't do that.” I mean, though, I will understand. I think the Internet will bring up some advertisements for like car sales back from 40 years ago, and everybody's like, “No, no, no. You can't do that kind of thing.” But it sounds like that was still happening here in the modern age. With that, and you would mention, this is interesting to me where you're talking about how at the different facilities, having the right lighting or the right facilities. I mean, is that something that you have to get buy-in from businesses? Or there's just been enough growing population of women drivers that they've had to acknowledge and make those changes? What does that look like?
Sure. So I think a number of businesses have just realized that, wow, we need to change. We need to provide different opportunities. Certainly, I think there are times when legislation sort of pushes that kind of along. That's one way. But I think there's just a broader understanding and desire to not only accommodate but just be sure that people in their communities, women, men are safe and that are getting the resources that they need.
Right, because there's a lot of alone time when you're trucking, regardless. Within that, and I know that – so from the Banyan side, we used to be very LTL-centric, and we talk about full truckload and parcel and everything now. But when you're talking about Women In Trucking, are you defining what kind of truck you're getting in? Or it's really just across the board?
We're not defining that. It's across the board. We have so many types of members from those that own their own trucks to [inaudible 00:10:30] that work for large carriers and sort of everyone in between. So we're not defining that. We want to represent the industry in the broadest way we can.
With that, what are you seeing? I mean, since 2007, you might not have been involved with them. But what has Women In Trucking as far as the demographic? Like have you seen a large growth in Women In Trucking positions now? Or is it kind of at a steady pace? What do the numbers look like?
Sure. So we put together something called the WIT Index. That’s on our website, womenintrucking.org, and readily available to anyone who would like to download that.
Go there now. Soft call out. Yes, there you go.
Thank you. Thank you. But really, it just shows where women are right now in a variety of different positions. So use that WIT index as an industry barometer to measure growth in different areas. So HR, for example, marketing, corporate management, C-suite level positions, women that are on boards, for example, driver rates and growth in that particular area as well, technicians. So we take that information. We have a survey. This year, we had 350 companies participate in that, and we use that information, as I said, as a kind of a barometer to see where we are in the industry and where that growth is occurring and continue to occur.
Awesome. Now, would you say that without having the WIT Index in front of me, is this something you guys are proud of where it's at right now? Or there's a – is there a lot more room to grow and you're not where it should be? What does that look like from a status? Are you halfway to your goal? I mean, it's a mission that probably evolves as you continue to support the women in the industry. But how do you feel looking at the industry right now?
Sure. So that's a great question. I think there are some areas where we – there is a lot of women representation and in certain roles that are sort of known and expected like HR, for example. A lot of women in HR roles and filling those roles in large corporations and small companies within the sector which is terrific. Then there are other areas that have a smaller representation, so women in technology-focused jobs, those sorts of things, technicians, that kind of thing. We're seeing that there is a large growth in that. That's gone from – I think it was three and a half percent last year to seven percent this year, so a doubling.
Yes. That’s not nothing. There we go.
Quite small but that's an area where we're excited to see significant growth. Then something else that I was really excited to see is that we're continuing to see women represented in CEO roles, and that's continuing to grow. We've seen growth in that this year as well. I think it's almost 40% CEO roles, C-suite roles within the trucking industry are held by women, which is great.
Yes. The thing that's really – that stat is wrong. I'm sorry. It’s about 32%. So I've overstated a little bit.
Okay. That’s all right.
But still significant, nearly a third.
I round up that much for my sales too.
But the thing that – so as I said, we're seeing growth there. But another highlight that I want to make thinking about that statistic is Forbes this year just said that women hold 10% of all roles, all C-suite roles in Fortune 500 companies. So that's the first time that that's been in double digits.
Really? Okay. That was going to be my – first, I was to say that sounds impressive. What is it in relevance to? But that's awesome. So we're seeing trends in the right direction then within that kind of equality or really kind of diversifying the market there.
Yes. No. Within that are – and this is a question I probably could have asked earlier. But as you spoke, it made me think of it. You're not solely – are you member-based? I guess this is the first question.
Sure. We are. Yes.
Okay. So you're member-based, and your members aren't solely just those driving the truck. It's everywhere that touches the industry. As you're talking about HR and CEOs and technicians, that becomes apparent to me. But I think that just on the surface, my initial thought was it's just those people driving the trucks. But it's touching a lot more places than that.
It really is. It is. Yes. We’ve got – we're sort of an interesting organization. We are a trade association, but we're a bit of a hybrid where we do have individual members. So we have student memberships. We have individual driver memberships. Then we have company memberships. So some of our members, Walmart and J.B. Hunt and Penske and Daimler, those are some of our larger members. Those are also leaders on our board. But they have company memberships, and that allows multiple people from their community to participate with Women In Trucking.
That's got to be – and that kind of was going to lead me to where my next question is. We've had a driver shortage. So I can imagine that a lot of these big companies that might have these company memberships not only would want to push the agenda of getting more women in the industry. But from a self-fulfilling or self-servicing way is you got to find drivers to fill up those ranks and for all the people that are either leaving or decided that during the COVID years that they didn't want to do this anymore. What – are you guys grabbing young women to get into trucking? Or are you trying to grab women in other industries to bring into transportation? What does that look like from an outreach or kind of opening up your demographic numbers?
Sure. So one of the things that we do, we try to educate as many people as possible about the trucking profession. That starts with young children and particularly girls. So we have programs. We have a Girl Scout patch program, where girls within Girl Scouts can earn a patch and –
They just have to do a full two loads with the 18 wheeler by themselves, right?
Right. That's exactly right. Yes.
They got to get those cookies there somehow. It’s just –
Yes. Delivering the cookies, right? But we have a program for Girl Scouts to educate Girl Scouts.
Yes. It is really cool. We have something that we call WITney, which is an educational trailer. That trailer is taken throughout the country, and we try to focus on events with young girls, Girl Scouts, school events, as young as elementary school, high school, community colleges, that kind of thing, where we take WITney, and we allow folks to walk through WITney. We've got interactive exhibits and information on what it looks like to be a truck driver, what the experience is of a truck driver. Then sort of the crème de la crème is a simulator, where folks can sit down for a few minutes and experience what it feels like to drive a truck.
I would wreck one in a simulator. I'm pretty sure. I'm pretty –
No. It’s really the first time I experienced it. I thought, wow, this is remarkable, and it just gave me – I have a respect for any woman, any person who drives a truck but a whole new experience and whole new respect after experiencing that simulator.
I've had to put some jet skis in the water from a trailer, and I can't. I hate it. I hate it so much. I can't imagine being on the highway with the whole rig. Yes, my utmost respect for anybody that has to put up with that, has to manipulate and get that around people that maybe not as paying as much attention on the road, plus you're on the time crunch. Yes. No. I couldn't do it. I could not do it, and I have the utmost respect for anyone who does. That's awesome, and it sounds like I want to go hang out in WITney, the truck there.
Great. You're welcome anytime.
That's awesome. Now, and we had mentioned talking about kind of the driver shortage, some of the company members, and kind of pulling new drivers in there for some of these bigger companies for the numbers. We just had Yellow go down, and that's a big impact on the entire industry. I'm sure you're keeping a check on the pulse there. How has that affected you guys? Or what are your thoughts on that? Or what does that look like for where your agenda hits for those members that might have been involved?
Sure. So, yes, I mean this whole situation is just absolutely sad and unfortunate and for a variety of different reasons and, primarily, the number of folks that have lost their jobs. Thousands and thousands of folks that have lost their jobs. It's hard to imagine that number. So that's something that we're certainly unhappy about and just reaching out to all those folks’ support.
But Yellow provided a lot of different resources for women, and they were really active in honoring women and recognizing women and championing women through their various programs. They were active involved in Women In Trucking. They had in 2002. In fact, Peggy Arnold was our WIT Driver of the Year. She's been with Yellow. She was with Yellow for a number of years. As I said, they really put in a great structure in place through their employee resource groups and had a particular one dedicated toward women and women within the trucking profession. So it was their women's inclusion network.
We've tried to support Yellow employees as much as we can. We've reached out to many of those, and have had conversations with Yellow members, and have extended membership and other resources [inaudible 00:22:19] to just make sure. If nothing else, to make sure that they are connected at this time because job loss is hard, and a change like this of such significance is hard to navigate. Certainly, from the practical point but from the emotional point as well.
Yes. It makes sense because I spoke to a few of the Yellow players or at least one of them in the podcast I think last year before any of this happened. They were talking about really trying to find, I don't know, creative ways to get more drivers. They had mentioned partnering with – really trying to get more women into the field. Who – are you going to any of the other organizations and being like, “Hey, we kind of lost our champion in Yellow.” Look at what this can bring in for your – to get more truck drivers, to get more of these support roles filled. Because I'm sure just like everywhere else in the industry, there are still open position that we – everybody's wearing two or three hats, doing two or three jobs because the cubicle left to us, and the car next to us is empty.
Yes. So we – as part of our – this is just part of our overall mission. It’s what we do on a regular basis. I think the situation with Yellow has created some – opportunities probably isn't the right word, but interest, I think, from a number of different organizations, trade associations, and companies to figure out how to support Yellow in this particular time. But also, if this happens again and with another company, how can we provide the support that's needed at that particular time?
We have webinars that we issue, and we've got a job bank. So we've got resources that we've been trying to direct people to. But the other thing that we have coming up, and it's still a little bit of time away in November, is our annual conference. Really hoping to use that time for networking and certainly folks that are looking for jobs at any point of any place in the sector can use that time as networking. We have education sessions. So there's a lot of areas that we introduce people to who may not know what can be involved or what sort of careers are available in the trucking space.
Yes. You say it's coming up in November. Where's it at? Get it out there. Get the word out. People got to start making plans now, right?
Sure. Yes, yes. Thanks, Patrick. Yes. So folks, another plug for a Women In Trucking event. But also, folks can go to our website, womenintrucking.org, and read all about. It’s called Accelerate Conference and Expo. It’s November 5th through 8th in Dallas at the Hilton Anatole. As I said, we do have extensive opportunities for networking. We have a trade show. We have six tracks covering a range of positions, concepts, and sectors within trucking. We have 180 speakers.
Also opportunities for folks to interact with truck exhibits too. So WITney will be there.
Yes, and some other Wreaths Across America. Other organizations that support Women In Trucking are there as well, so really an exciting time. We expect over 2,000 people there. I had the opportunity to go last year, actually before I started with Women In Trucking. The energy of that show is beyond anything that I have ever seen, so I'm excited about it, excited to return, and just excited about our program that we have prepared.
That sounds great. That sounds very exciting. Accelerate sounds like a kind of good name for what seems to sound like a high-energy type positive conference or networking event, whatever event in general that you might put the term on. Going back to one of the points kind of with Yellow and talking to other organizations, as you're going there, talking to these organizations, I'm sure you have kind of a pitch and a slide deck. It's like what are the key – why would an organization want to put in programs or push for more women in their space if they're in the, not industrial, the logistics space? What are the pluses? What are the pros other than just you fill a position? There's got to be more to it, more that you're selling on that that really gets the buy-in? Why would an organization really go in on one of these programs to get more women in their organization?
Sure. So I think from the very basic level, we all do better when we're in a diverse environment. So that just –
Very basic level, having people around us who are different and offer different perspectives and different backgrounds, that adds to the strength of us.
Can't be surrounded by someone telling you that you're yes, yes, yes and by the exact same situation that you're in with the exact same, yes, opinions. No. Great point to start with. Yes.
Yes. So that's just the very basic level there. But there's – talking about drivers specifically as an example, there's research out there that women are safer drivers. ATRI has done some research on that. Part of that is because women are better decision makers overall. They're more careful in situations. So adding that to your team, to your driver base, that helps your bottom line. That helps the safety of your company.
Then in other ways, we're looking at just enhancing the overall perspective and the ideas that women bring. Women have a higher emotional intelligence. So that's something that brings a sense of, again, diversity to the conversation but a different perspective than a man. That’s just a natural sort of thing and an innate thing. So those are just a couple of reasons. But again, we're all better if we can have a diverse environment. We can have the perspectives of others around us that are not the same as us.
That's awesome. I like everything I'm hearing. It sounds like you guys are really on – it's a good mission to have and one which kind of everybody benefits from that partakes in it. I didn't have any more questions, but what I do like to offer at this point is I give everybody that I talk to. I get this pseudo soapbox here for all seven listeners out there. But to anybody that might be listening, whether it's from just you to the world or you as president of Women In Trucking, this is your kind of chance. I want to give you kind of a final statement or just here's an opportunity to talk through my channel about whatever you want to. What do have to say to the world?
Sure. Well, that's – I hope it's more than seven people, and I expect it is, Patrick, but –
I like to say humble. I don't – I – yes. If I look, then I can't let it go to my head. It's already a big, giant, shiny head. It would take up most of the screen. I keep it low. That way, I can't be disappointed.
Sure. No. Understood, understood. No. I just want to say thank you. Thank you for the opportunity. I would just encourage folks. When I first started with Women In Trucking, I spoke at a conference with a gentleman who owned a small company. He said, “Live in a rural area. All of my employees are white men. I don't know how to – I don't know what to do to attract women. I don't know what to do to attract women of color, people of color to my company. I want that, but I don't know where to start.” I said that I appreciate this conversation. Take a look at our website. We have so many different resources and programs. We're happy to talk to people about where they want to go with their company to provide resources.
That's really kind of the crux of it all for us and really to meet our mission of increasing gender diversity in transportation. We want to be resourceful. We want to provide a road map to help others achieve those goals. So I would just say that's really kind of the final statement. Sometimes, it's just that first step, and people may not necessarily know where to go. But it's taking that first step and then opening, being open to the opportunities that are ahead of you.
That's awesome, and here we go. Where's that first step? What's the website again for –
So there you go, womenintrucking.org. Jennifer Hedrick on everything within the logistics industry, why women should be a part of it, where it's growing. Just November 5th, Accelerate. Go join them there and do the truck simulator in the back of WITney. Jennifer, this has been a great experience for me. Thank you so much for the talk. Thank you for the information that you guys have out there on social media.
Like I said, when I first came into the industry, I was just reading the LinkedIn post, and it was helping me familiarize myself because I came from IT and printers. Let me tell you what, trucks and logistics are a lot more interesting. Please don't make me talk about copier. But, no, thank you so much for the time. I really appreciate the conversation. If there's anything you need from me or Banyan, please let us know.
Everybody listening, keep following us. Tune in for the next episode of another Tire Tracks Banyan Podcast. Happy to have you and bye, Jennifer. Thanks again.
Bye, Patrick. Thank you so much.