Panel at Motive Summit Tells Women to Be Persistent

‘Driving Women Forward’ Lineup Provides Inspiration in Male-Dominated Industry
Women's panel
Left to right: Jeanne Nitschke, Kate Woelffer, Clarissa Rankin and Christine Estes. (Motive)

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A panel of women who have achieved success in trucking have some words of advice for women wanting to break into and move up the ladder in the historically male-dominated industry: Be determined, persist and stay the course.

All three of the women who spoke during the “Driving Women Forward” session at fleet management technology supplier Motive’s Vision 24 Innovation Summit conceded it wasn’t easy to get a foot in the door, but said the path got a little less bumpy once their male associates realized they couldn’t be intimidated. Panelists for the April 10 session included a truck driver, a safety director and a sales executive.

“The biggest challenge for me is the discussions I have with men in the industry — not feeling if I’m overstepping or overbearing with those individuals,” said Christine Estes, director of safety and recruitment for Usher Transport Inc. “I’m not saying I’m better than men or anything like that. But it’s hard to have a conversation with someone you feel is looking down at you.”

She added, “That is one of the struggles that I have with the industry. But it’s also been my biggest victory.”

Estes said it was her father, a truck driver, who inspired her to “break barriers.”

“My advice would be just have conversations that are impactful,” Estes stressed. “Because I think conversation is how you grow. Be open, and be willing to learn, but have perseverance and determination. Those are two things that give you the power to overcome any situation.”

“My goal has always been to lead, to be in an executive position,” said Kate Woelffer, area vice president for Motive enterprise sales. Woelffer grew up in Michigan, “where everyone works for the auto industry,” she quipped, and stressed to the crowd composed mostly of women that she’d always wanted a role where her name was on the door. In pursuit of that goal, she recounted some lessons she learned along the way.

“Early in my career I had this picture of what you are supposed to be in the workplace: Be super professional, always on, never show your personality,” Woelffer said. But she heard feedback from someone early in her career who told her that leaders should show their personality. “That’s when people get to know you, when people get to understand what you’re about. It’s tough to do in a male-dominated industry.”

With years now under her belt, she believes women should show their true personalities, and “go out of your way to look for opportunities,” she said.

“Just be your authentic self,” added truck driver Clarissa Rankin. “As soon as you try to be somebody else they’re going to shy away from you.”

Staying true to herself has paid off for Rankin. “I’m one of the most famous women truck drivers in the world,” she said. “I’ve been seen all over the world — CBS, CNN, Business Insider — and I have 1.8 million Twitter followers.” Rankin also is the owner of R&K Training Academy.

How does she support women in the industry?

“Always remember to be the motivator, the mentor, the inspirer and encourager,” Rankin said. “I’m always trying to be open to try new things.”

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