Before you read the title and jump to a conclusion, I want to start by saying that I hope you agree that we are all different. It’s not just about gender, it encompasses so much more such as age, ethnicity, and both mental and physical attributes. I would like you to think about why we sometimes continue to treat everyone the same by avoiding conversations that showcase our differences.
Let’s talk about trucking! Studies have proven there are physical and psychological differences between men and women. From stature (the average height of men in the US is 5 feet 9 inches (1.77 meters) and the average woman in the US is 5 feet 4 inches (1.63 meters.) Canadian males are slightly taller as men average 5 feet 10 inches (1.78 meters) but the women are the same as Americans at five feet 4 inches (1.64 meters).
For years, truck cab manufacturers designed trucks for men. They didn’t think about the shorter arms and legs that are more typical for women (and short statured men!) Talk to some of the women who have driven for decades, and they’ll share stories about putting blocks on the pedals or sitting on pillows so they could see over the dash of the truck. Fortunately, that is changing as the manufacturers are focusing more on adaptability around ergonomics. It’s not about designing trucks for women; it’s about creating an ergonomic cab that allows every driver to be comfortable while driving.
In addition to stature, there are other physical qualities that separate us. The most important is estrogen versus testosterone in our bodies. Men in their forties have testosterone levels around 600 and, women typically have less than five percent of that in their bloodstream. What is testosterone? It is a hormone that encourages a focus on winning and demonstrating power. The World Health Organization cited masculinity as being a major factor in risky driving. A recent study in the United Kingdom found that men are more dangerous drivers than women, due to the levels of testosterone in their systems.
The term to focus on is risk. Women are driven by estrogen which encourages bonding and connection, which means a more collaborative and team focused environment. Relationships are important! It’s not about winning as much as it’s about sharing our experiences and bonding with our sisters and co-workers. We’ve also found that women value their relationships with their carriers and dispatchers much higher than male drivers.
The goal here isn’t to claim that men are NOT good commercial drivers. But it is important to note that, due to physical characteristics, women are naturally more risk averse and, someone who avoids risk is someone we should want behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler. In fact, the American Transportation Research Institute found that male commercial drivers are twenty percent more likely to be involved in a crash than women commercial drivers.
Before you think that this article is all about featuring women as the ideal driver, there are also studies that have revealed female drivers are more spatially challenged (defined as: in a way that relates to the position, area, and size of things). This means women have a harder time reading a map and backing into a loading dock. Again, I am not claiming that women cannot do this. I am stating that research has proven men have more connections between the left and right hemispheres of their brains, which is associated with spatial ability. Unfortunately, our spatial ability also declines with age, so for those of you in your senior years, we are all experiencing the same challenges, regardless of our gender.
Often, people feel uncomfortable when you point out gender (or other physical) characteristics. Wouldn’t it make more sense to try to understand what motivates and challenges people, especially when it can help us create a more inclusive environment?
If you want to believe that we’re all the same, go ahead. But if you embrace diversity and inclusion, then take the time to understand and appreciate our differences.
Women In Trucking Association, Inc. is a nonprofit association established to encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry, promote their accomplishments and minimize obstacles faced by women working in the trucking industry. Membership is not limited to women, as 17 percent of its members are men who support the mission. Women In Trucking is supported by its members and the generosity of Gold Level Partners: Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems, Daimler Trucks North America, BMO Transportation Finance, Great Dane, J.B. Hunt Transport, Ryder System, Inc., U.S. Xpress, and Walmart. Follow WIT on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. For more information, visit http://www.womenintrucking.org
Ellen Voie founded the Women In Trucking Association in March of 2007, and currently serves as the nonprofit organization’s President/CEO.