KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Women can excel in the trucking industry — and any workplace — by accepting risk and embracing confident language, according to Valerie Alexander, CEO of Goalkeeper Media.
Alexander spoke at the Women In Trucking Association’s Accelerate conference Nov. 6.
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“In your own industry, if you have to supervise the unloading of two trucks and someone asks you for their capacity, tell them. That is risk, because you might be wrong. But if you are wrong, figure out what was wrong and fix it,” Alexander said. “If you’re pretty sure you’re right, give the answer. Then go look it up. If you’re a woman and you’re 80% sure you’re right, you’re right.”
Alexander, who started her career as a lawyer and now works primarily as an author and speaker, urged women not to fall into the trap of second-guessing themselves. She recounted the story of how as a young law student she was dismissed from a job because she would look up answers to questions she was unsure of, while her male counterpart would answer people immediately, whether he knew the answer or not.
She also encouraged women to abandon the practice of self-deprecation, and said women berate themselves too frequently for mistakes that are not their fault or admonish themselves for not knowing how to complete a task.
As it relates to trucking, she noted that the foundations of the systems of commerce were developed by men 20,000 years ago. As a result, she said many businesses today still are designed with men’s biological strengths — such as risk-taking and aggressiveness — in mind.
“If you design a system, it’s going to reward your natural instincts,” Alexander said. “Things that reward your natural instincts are going to be much easier for you. The workplace was designed to reward someone else’s natural instinct, which means you are always swimming against the current.
“If we’re going to present ourselves, change the language of success. If you want to contribute something, say ‘Here’s what I think.’ If you’re always swimming against the current, you’re becoming much stronger.”
Strength in one’s convictions also can benefit those who rise through the ranks, she said.
Alexander cautioned women in oversight roles to teach their subordinates, rather than perform their tasks for them to save time.
She said female managers who step in to do the work of people beneath them will create vacancies that will be noticed by their own managers.
“Own your own place in the hierarchy,” Alexander said. “Women take on work that is not our job because it’s easier than having to fight with the people doing it. Do not step in to do their jobs for them just to get the job done.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women made up 39.2% of the 17 million people in management positions in 2015.
The Women In Trucking Association, which was founded in 2007, offers resources to broaden the understanding of women’s issues in transportation. WIT President Ellen Voie said some recent initiatives include a transportation patch for Girl Scouts, a truck driver doll which will be released in the spring and an upcoming show on SiriusXM radio. Voie earned her undergraduate degree in broadcast journalism.
Voie expressed the value of many voices in the trucking industry.
“Diversity is very important to all of us,” Voie said.