The Importance of Mentorship
by Women In Trucking Staff, on Jan 25, 2022 4:11:14 PM
A recent study from Northwestern University of 37,000 scientists and their mentees found “mentorship is indeed beneficial, especially when mentors pass down unwritten, intuitive forms of knowledge.
Amanda McLaurin says her mentor’s support “helped keep me going after my goal many times when I felt like giving up.” She is a student currently attending truck driving school in Pennsylvania and was named the WIT Member ofthe Month in July 2021 for her enthusiasm for trucking, her career aspirations, and her strong personal belief in the importance of mentorship. Like McLaurin, many workers across different industries benefit from mentoring relationships.
This prompts the question: What is a mentor? Debbie Sparks, WIT Vice President, describes a mentor as “a coach or champion” who helps his or her mentee progress and reach her goals. A mentor can help a new driver work through challenges, such as remaining safe on the road or managing her finances. In doing so, a mentor can accelerate the driver’s learning curve, Sparks adds.
Partnering with a mentor also offers a sense of community, which can be essential for women working within a male-dominated industry. “Many of us had to find our way to ‘fit in,’” says Laura Roan Hays, WIT Chairwoman and Branch Manager with Great Dane, a provider of transportation solutions. A mentor may have experienced something similar and can share her experience, enabling others to see how she worked through the issues, she adds.
“Mentors often believe in you long before you believe in yourself,” says Cynthia O’Neill, President of High Altitude Thinking Inc., and founder of LeadHerAlliance, a mentoring program. “Connecting with another woman who’s gone down the path you want to travel can be invaluable,” she adds.
While the benefits of mentorship to mentees may appear obvious, mentors themselves also gain from these relationships. “As women, it gives us a brilliant opportunity to reach back and bring someone else along,” O’Neill says. In addition, mentors often find they grow and learn along with their mentees. For instance, a mentor may look differently at a concept like resilience after discussing it with a mentee, she adds.
In addition, “helping others can bring you an immediate sense of joy,” Roan Hays says.
Mentoring partnerships also can benefit the trucking industry and even the overall community. As mentees build confidence and gain knowledge, they are more likely to remain on the job, helping to alleviate the current driver shortage, Sparks notes. Moreover, women tend to be capable and safe drivers.
For a mentor relationship to succeed, a solid match between mentor and mentee is key. Sarah Hilton, Program Director with LeadHERAlliance, strives to pair mentors and mentees whose personalities and goals are in sync. For instance, she might match a mentee who indicates an interest in eventually owning her own rig with a driver who’s accomplished this.
WIT’s Mentoring Opportunities
WIT offers several mentoring opportunities. Its Engage online community includes a mentoring component. WIT also is planning to build out its online mentoring piece, Sparks says. In addition, local WIT chapters are starting; one goal is to help women drivers meet and develop relationships.
WIT also is launching the LeadHerTrucking, a structured mentorship program that is part of LeadHerAlliance. The program is designed to help women drivers pursue their goals with greater knowledge and insight, while also building community.
The LeadHERtrucking program is structured around tens: it lasts for ten months, covers ten topics, and features ten experts providing insight. Between about twelve and fifteen mentor/mentee partnerships will make up each pod that participates in the program. The topics include many that aren’t discussed in training, such as personal money management and how to take calculated risks for career growth, O’Neill says. The goal is to tackle issues important to women’s professional and personal lives, she adds.
The programs are “uplifting and motivational,” Sparks says, adding they’re a “positive, fun experience.”
The experts deliver their insight virtually, so drivers can access the programs when it fits their schedules. Mentees also meet with their mentors on a schedule that works for both. The monthly program topics can be starting points to spark conversation.
WIT currently has one LeadHERtrucking pod up and running, and has commissioned five additional pods that will continue through 2022, Sparks says. The goal is to make the program available to any entry-level female driver within five years, she adds.
All mentees and mentors also become members of the broader LeadHerNetwork. “It’s a lifelong community and everyone has access to each other,” O’Neill says.
Interested in Participating in the LeadHERtrucking program?
We're currently welcoming mentors and mentees! Learn more and sign up today