The WIT Index: Tracking Women's Influence at Publicly Held Carriers

A recent USA Today article focused on the under-representation of women as board members of publicly traded companies. In the United States, women make up 19.2 percent of director positions, which is slightly less than the 20.8 percent of seats filled by women in Canada.

While Norway leads the world in diversity initiatives, it reported that only 35.5 percent of board seats are held by women, despite a national mandate for public companies to have four out of ten seats held by women. Japan’s publicly traded companies include only 3.1 percent female directors, trailing Portugal (7.9 percent), and India (9.5 percent.)

In an effort to better understand the make up of board members in the trucking industry, Women In Trucking Association (WIT) partnered with University of Memphis students, under the direction of Dr. Stephanie Ivey.

“The results were not surprising, considering the predominance of men employed in transportation careers,” said Dr. Ivey. “The findings provide a baseline for carriers to consider when looking at diversity initiatives in the boardroom and the corporate office.”

There are fifteen carriers listed as publicly traded companies according to Bloomberg LP. Of the fifteen carriers, seven, or nearly half, have no women serving on their boards of directors. Ten of the fifteen show no women in the executive suite.

ArcBest Corporation, led by President/CEO Judy McReynolds, and member of Women In Trucking Association, Inc. takes the lead in promoting women with a 27.3 percent representation on the ArcBest board of directors and 25 percent of women at the corporate level.

Con-way has a close second place in including women in the boardroom with 23.1 percent women in this leadership role. Celadon holds the third highest level of women as directors with 20 percent. J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc. follows with 18.2 percent women serving on their board of directors. These companies are all members of WIT at the corporate level.

The visibility of women in executive positions is important in attracting women to carriers. J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc. has made efforts to increase the presence of women in C-level positions with their “Growing and Retaining Outstanding Women” (G.R.O.W.) Initiative and support for Women In Trucking as a Gold Level Partner. These efforts are reflected in their 20 percent representation of women holding executive positions at the carrier.

Swift Transportation has the third highest level of female executives at 16.7 percent and Celadon holds the number four slot with 14.3 percent.

“The results, while disappointing, prove that we have a long way to go to find equity in the board rooms and C-Suites of America’s carriers,” said WIT’s President/CEO, Ellen Voie. “Carriers without women serving as directors or executives should make greater efforts to create a more diverse leadership team. If you’re looking for more female drivers for your fleet, you will need to create an environment where women are visibly leading these initiatives.”

WIT and the University of Memphis are currently working on a WIT Index, which will begin the process of tracking the percentage of women as leaders and as drivers for carriers in the United States.