December 2015 | Commentary | Smart Moves

Attracting More Women to the Transportation Profession

Tags: Education & Careers, Transportation, Logistics, Careers, Supply Chain

Cheryl Citrone is Partner and Director, Logistics and Operations, Vaco Logistics, 901-333-2250

More than 13 million Americans comprise the transportation workforce, and nearly half of them are eligible for retirement within the next 10 years, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Not only is this particular workforce an older population, it's also male dominated, as women account for as little as 13 percent of transportation occupations nationally, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

These numbers have generated discussion about how to increase awareness of career opportunities to boost the future of the transportation sector, and especially how to utilize the untapped pool of female talent.

Developing the Workforce

One initiative providing a strategic approach to transportation workforce development is the National Network for Transportation Workforce (NNTW), sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration. The network is comprised of five regional centers hosted by the University of Memphis, the University of Vermont, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Montana State University, and California State University Long Beach.

The network coordinates regionally based programs that ensure students and individuals seeking workforce reentry, career transition, or career advancement are made aware of opportunities, required education, skills training, and ladders to success.

Additionally, the NNTW is partnering with 100 transportation-related organizations nationally through these five regional centers to help advance its ability to identify solutions for the industry's growing talent challenges. Vaco Logistics is one of the first of these 100 strategic partnerships and is working closely with the Southeast Transportation Workforce Center, housed within the University of Memphis, to provide a national focus on attracting women to the profession.

Women make up 47 percent of the workforce but have a low representation in transportation occupations nationally. This gap represents a great opportunity because by filling traditionally male-dominated roles, like those in transportation, women can earn up to 30 percent more than they would in a traditionally female-dominated role.

Young professional women are a key target as they bring a solid foundation in emerging technologies, a skill unique to the millennial generation. Transportation professionals must take action to increase awareness of opportunities in transportation. They must also highlight the societal impact that transportation professionals have in our communities to frame the industry in a way that is more attractive to women.

Laying the Groundwork

As companies lend time and expertise in talent management to the regional transportation network, we are able to help coordinate successful practices and resources at all levels across the transportation education, workforce, and labor communities. This groundwork and collaboration is vital to developing solutions to the industry's workforce challenges.

As more organizations from all corners of the transportation industry partner with the NNTW's five regional centers, we will be able to gather meaningful and measurable goal-oriented research, as well as be able to reach more young professional women.