EDMONTON, Alta. – A panel of women from the trucking and engineering sectors are sending a message to other women looking to break into any male-dominated industry – believe in yourself and anything is possible.
Lorri Christensen of Precision Truck Lines said a can-do attitude is often cultivated at an early age during one’s upbringing, and is largely dependent on the people you surround yourself with.
Growing up, Christensen’s mother used to tell her that she was either going to be part of the problem or part of the solution. Her father would not give her any passes for being a woman either, expecting as much from her as he did from his brother or son.
Christensen’s childhood instilled an outlook on life where she knew she could find success in the trucking industry despite not always being the “biggest or the strongest” person in the room.
She also believes women need to stop being afraid to ask for help.
“Surround yourself with people you love and respect…with people you feel comfortable calling and asking ‘what should I do now?’” said Christensen. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the guy next to you or the girl.”
Christensen was part of an all-female panel put on by Trucking HR Canada and hosted by Rosenau Transport yesterday in Edmonton, Alta. The panel, part of the Women with Drive Hits the Roads cross-Canada tour, also included Diane Wunder, engineering and environmental sciences manager of Western Canada for Pario, which helps carriers determine causes of motor vehicle incidents.
Wunder agreed that a person’s upbringing has a huge impact on the way they view themselves and others when they enter the workplace.
“My dad was my mentor, and to this day still is,” said Wunder. “It doesn’t matter who you are, how big you are, or how old you are, we can all do the job.”
Wunder grew up always believing she could do anything she wanted, and said her family is the reason she has always had this confidence.
“If we want to feel suppressed, then we feel suppressed,” she said, adding that she is getting tired of hearing about it now being the woman’s time to succeed in the wake of the #MeToo movement, and that confidence in one’s own worth is what truly matters. “Nothing replaces hard work.”
Wunder also believes Alberta is the perfect place for women, and men, looking for work, saying the province has more to offer than any other in the country.
April Naugle certainly took advantage of the opportunities Alberta has to offer.
Wanting to be a truck driver for many years but never recognizing how to make her dream a reality, Naugle became a graduate of Women Building Futures’ eight-week professional Class 1 driver training program.
“It was a great experience, bouncing ideas off of everyone,” Naugle said of her time in the course.
After graduating, Naugle was offered a job with Rosenau, one of five program sponsors (Caron Transportation Systems, Trimac Transportation, Watt and Stewart, and Westcan Bulk Transport) that not only hire graduates, but also provide funding to the women for tuition costs.
Naugle, whose grandfather was a truck driver, admits she is stubborn, saying if someone tells her she can’t do something, she immediately tries to prove them wrong.
To continue luring women into trucking, Naugle would like to see the industry reach out to students at both the elementary and high school levels to educate young people about the industry.
Christensen echoed the sentiment, saying though the driver shortage has been a well-publicized issue, several positions within the industry are in need of workers.
“Trucking is not just driving up and down the road,” she said, adding that drivers are the backbone of the industry. “There is diversification inside these walls.”
Christensen would also like to see the public’s respect for the truck driving profession return to the way it used to be when she was a student.
“Years ago, being a truck driver was the best job in the world,” she said. “Every guy in my class wanted to be a truck driver, now all of a sudden it’s not, and I don’t know why.”
Part of the issue could be how some drivers perceive themselves, with Christensen saying many believe they are just “a dumb truck driver.”
“That will nearly get you get fired,” she said. “If you don’t love what you’re doing, then get the hell out.”