Ellen Voie founded the Women In Trucking Association (WIT) in 2007 to spread a message. She wanted to show the world that there are amazing opportunities available for women in the trucking industry.
“Not only are there already women in the trucking industry,” she told Fast Forward, “but the industry wants and needs them.”
Ellen began her career in trucking as a freelance transportation consultant. At that time, fewer women than today were pursuing non-traditional (or traditionally male-dominated) careers.
“I was raised with the assurance that girls could do anything,” she said in an interview with A Celebration of Women. “This was during the seventies, when women were struggling to obtain a level playing field in education and the workforce. Instead of home economics, I decided to take shop class with the boys. Cooking and cleaning was something I could learn at home, but changing spark plugs and woodworking was a lot more fun and useful in my opinion."
Ellen became so successful with her consulting business that she was able to work from home and raise a family. She was also able to complete her college education at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. As part of her graduate research project, she studied the unique lives of women married to professional drivers. Ellen contributed to magazines and publications on the subject. In 2001, she published a book, “Marriage in the Long Run,” which focused on truck drivers and their families.
Over time, Ellen began to investigate the barriers that seemed to be preventing women from entering trucking. An industry which, as she had discovered, was bursting with opportunity for both men and women.
“It began to be clear to me that women did not realize there were great career opportunities in the trucking industry,” she told A Celebration of Women.
“Women who work in non-traditional careers make much more money than women who work in traditionally female careers,” she said in her interview with Fast Forward.
Ellen became an advocate for women in trucking and other non-traditional careers. She appeared in various interviews and magazine columns. In 2007, she formed the Women In Trucking Association. In doing so, she had three main goals: to increase the percentage of women in the trucking industry; to eliminate obstacles preventing women from succeeding in the industry; and to celebrate the women who were already forging ahead in trucking.
Soon, big companies like Frito-Lay and Walmart were sponsoring WIT and supporting Ellen’s message. Today, WIT has over 1,000 members and has become a voice for women in the industry. Thanks to pioneers like Ellen, more and more women are finding successful careers in the trucking industry.
“There are so many males and females in this industry who want to see more diversity, and they support our mission,” she told Fast Forward. “And Women In Trucking isn’t just about drivers. It’s about all women in the industry. … If you like marketing, instead of marketing cosmetics or clothes, come into the trucking industry and market an engine or a trailer, and maybe make a lot more money than doing something more traditional.”
Students who want to learn more about opportunities in the trucking industry should start by visiting the WIT website. There, they will find an abundance of information about trucking careers. WIT's mentoring program can also help connect students with real-world trucking industry professionals. The Women In Trucking Foundation even provides scholarship opportunities for young women pursuing trucking industry careers.
Above all, says Ellen, who skydives, has her pilot’s license, drives a motorcycle, and can drive a big rig, young women today should know that there are no limits to what they can achieve.
“I truly believe women can do anything,” Ellen says. “My motto is ‘life begins at the edge of your comfort zone’.”
Students can visit the WIT website at www.womenintrucking.org.