Waging Battle

Women Are Flexing Their Muscles As Truck Drivers, Earning More Than Male Counterparts

By Paul Scott Abbott

Women are reaching earnings goals behind the big rig wheel faster than on the soccer pitch – while male counterparts continue to typically make more money than females in transportation and logistics sectors beyond trucking.

At a time when the World Cup-winning U.S. women’s national soccer team is grabbing headlines with shouts of “equal pay” in efforts to bridge the gender compensation gap, trade groups are seeking earnings parity in the supply chain. However, meaningful progress remains elusive.

Indeed, in the U.S, where a president demeaningly rates women on a 1-to-10 scale, significant advancement of female workers on the pay scale may be quite challenging to attain.

Ellen Voie, president and CEO of the Wisconsin-based Women In Trucking Association, proudly pointed to the earnings success of highly productive female truck drivers, but she said she does not expect advancement anytime soon of formal measures such as the UK’s pay gap reporting mandate – at least not under the Trump administration.

“I don’t see the United States adopting a formal pay gap reporting requirement under this administration,” Voie told Breakbulk. “Many of the offices that were in place in the Obama years are gone, such as the initiatives to explore issues regarding women’s rights and violence concerns.”

Maggie Walsh, who chairs the board of directors of WTS International, founded in 1977 as the Women’s Transportation Seminar, also questioned whether such reporting requirements might be implemented in the U.S., saying instead that WTS remains focused on education and professional development programs for its 8,000 members in 60 chapters throughout North America.

“The gender pay gap is an ongoing and important conversation throughout the entire transportation industry,” Walsh said.

Walsh cited numerous mentoring and leadership programs, roundtables, a virtual career fair, online recruitment resources and the annual WTS International conference among her group’s endeavors. But those are centered more on “young, mid-career and executive-level women and men in the transportation industry,” as defined by Walsh, as opposed to rank-and-file female workers.

Arguably, having more women in the higher positions may help toward achieving gender pay equality across the board, but it is hard to find statistical backing for that theory.

Males Dominate
A July 2019 report from leading U.S. industrial staffing firm EmployBridge, billed as encompassing the largest-ever survey of the U.S. hourly workforce, with more than 18,500 manufacturing and logistics workers surveyed, does not home in on the gender pay gap. However, it does indicate male domination and suggests it be combated through recruitment of more females.

Men hold three-quarters of the 13 million U.S. jobs requiring only a high school diploma and paying at least US$35,000 a year, according to the EmployBridge report, which notes the jobless rate for women with just a high school education is 4.7 percent, more than the 3.5 percent for such men.

“Some of the problem can be attributed to the supply chain and logistics workforce itself, which has been historically male dominated, with women making up only 37 percent of its labor pool,” according to the EmployBridge report.

To create a more inclusive workforce, the report recommends flexible work schedules, personal time off to accommodate juggling of parental and professional responsibilities, creation of a line of female uniforms and career-pathing across all workforce segments.

For the women who do work in the supply chain, pay continues to lag behind that of male counterparts.
According to a March 2019 report from Glassdoor Economic Research, an arm of job and recruiting website operator Glassdoor, men in transportation and logistics jobs on average earn (or at least get paychecks for) 5.5 percent more than women in similar positions. Across all industry sectors for the 2016-2018 study period, the Glassdoor report showed a comparatively smaller U.S. average adjusted gender pay gap, with men being paid 4.9 percent more than women.

The same Glassdoor report noted the pay gap in transportation and logistics improving marginally over the past decade or so, as the 5.5 percent figure for 2016-2018 is down from 6.7 percent for the 2006-2015 period looked at in Glassdoor’s preceding study.

Backing the assertion of Women In Trucking’s Voie, the latest Glassdoor report showed women in driver occupations earning 11.7 percent more than men during the 2016-2018 study period. In fact, driving is the only logistics-specific job group with females making more than 10 percent above males.

Why women tend to earn more behind the wheel than men comes down to their ability to outperform male drivers.

“For drivers,” Voie said, “there is no gender pay gap, as carriers pay by the mile, load or hour regardless of the age, race or gender of the driver. However, women actually earn more than their male counterparts because they outperform them. Omnitracs found that women run more miles than men, so they essentially are earning more.”

Voie said driver retention analytics firm Stay Metrics has found female drivers are more satisfied in their careers, are less likely to think about leaving the business, tend to stay with a carrier longer, have likely driven for fewer carriers and have a turnover rate of 12.13 percent compared with 17.24 percent for men. Those findings could point to a future preference for female truckers at a time of severe driver shortages, as, according to the American Trucking Associations, the industry has a current shortfall of 60,000 drivers, with the number growing as more retire.

Currently, according to the Women In Trucking Association Index, women make up 7.89 percent of the commercial driver workforce, an overall labor contingent pulling down a mean annual wage of US$45,570, based upon latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers.

At the same time, Voie said, women constitute only 23.75 percent of trucking company management and only 75 percent of motor carriers have women on their board.

Women Valued
“Progress in regard to advancing women in transportation is due to our efforts to introduce more women to these careers, but it is also due to the industry realizing the value women bring to their bottom line,” Voie said. “The more diverse the leadership team, the higher the profits.

“Women lead differently and are more collaborative, which increases employee engagement and retention,” Voie continued. “Women also are more risk-averse and are less likely to jump into an unexplored area without doing additional research.”

The benefits of a diversified supply chain workforce have become an increasingly popular topic for industry events, one example being the Retail Industry Leaders Association’s LINK 2019 conference held last February in Orlando.

The RILA supply chain event agenda overflowed with messages of diversity and inclusion, including a luncheon presentation from now-retired soccer star Abby Wambach, whose U.S. teams captured Olympic gold in 2008 and 2012.

Wambach urged a human approach to the workforce, looking at individuals to a greater extent than statistics to achieve a greater goal. “We’ve got to get back to making people more important than numbers,” Wambach said. “Focus on people and the numbers will come.”  

A professional journalist for nearly 50 years, U.S.-based Paul Scott Abbott has focused on transportation topics since the late 1980s.

Image credit: Women in Trucking Association