Jul 31, 2017

By:

Omnitracs

Jackie Christmas knows trucking. She’s been in the industry for almost 30 years, entering at a time when seeing a female behind the wheel was something worth noting. While she’s moved from the driver’s seat, she still loves trucking. And as a sales person for Omnitracs Sylectus, she’s still very plugged into what’s happening.

As we begin to look at diversity in the industry, Jackie has a valuable perspective. That’s why we wanted to get her thoughts on women in trucking and how we can recruit more of them to careers in the field. 

Was trucking something you always wanted to do, or did you just fall into it?

Jackie:  I sort of fell into it. I was very young. I was working at a mine. One of the guys said he had a trucking company, and he came in and complained that his male drivers were not reliable. I jokingly said, "You train me, and I'll do it." That's how it all started. I started operating heavy equipment. I did everything from snow removal, trench digging, to demolition. 

Then I moved on from there. I moved to a small town in Ontario and started working for a trucking company with a dedicated run with a large, straight reefer truck. That's how I really found my passion for being in the trucking industry. I loved bringing the products to the stores, knowing that they needed it. When I brought produce to a hospital customer, everything had to be extremely fresh so it was important to get there on time. You had to be a very devoted, dedicated worker to do that job. I loved it and that's why I stayed in the trucking industry. 

What was the industry like for women then, and what's it like now?

Jackie: Back then, it was difficult working in the trucking industry. The stereotyping was unbelievable. A common reaction was "Oh yeah. Right. Sure she's a driver. Sure she can do this." I had to prove myself. It was definitely very hard back then.

I kept up with the guys, though. I carried the 50 pound bags of potatoes down the flight of stairs because that's what we had to do. And that's when I gained respect.

Now it seems to be easier than it was to be in the trucking industry. But I still have a couple of guys who will say "What do you know?” This one guy said, for example, "Whatcha know about flatbeds?" So, I said, "Well, there's double dog, step decks… ” this, that; I was just naming them all off; “expandables…,” and he goes, "Okay, you're a veteran." But I still had to prove my point. That was the only time in the last few years, so it's a lot easier. 

I think a lot of men are not stereotyping women nowadays because they see a lot more women in the industry, and I believe that's how it should be.

Are you seeing more women show an interest early on in their career and trying to get into the industry?

Jackie: I see a lot of women trying to get into the industry, especially on social media. Especially when they're married to a man and he's the driver and she starts dispatching. I have a lot of customers who grew into really understanding and loving the industry from basically knowing nothing about it. 

That's one thing that's great about trucking: the diversity of the industry and also the growth. A woman can come in as a dispatcher. One day she makes operations manager; the next day compliance director; and finally she's a business owner. So there's a lot of room for growth for women. I do feel that it's becoming more and more visible for the women, although I wish there was more advertising. I wish there was more publicity about it. 

What made you want to make the switch from trucking to working in trucking technology?

Jackie: I had a computer company in Chicago, so I did everything from custom builds, new builds, repairs, data and Internet security solutions, networking. I had nine technicians working for me.

This is an industry that is never going away. Everything gets transported in some sort of fashion. So when moved back to Canada and I met up with Sylectus, I now have the best of both worlds. I have the technology side, and I'm combining it with my transportation experience and knowledge. So it was the perfect fit. 

In your opinion, what needs to be done to make women aware of careers in the industry?

Jackie: Whatever we need to do to make those mental wheels turn. It's not just about driving; it's everything on the back side. Making other people realize that all of these other jobs are what makes that truck even move. 

The truck actually moving is just the final step in a process. And no one knows about that. So more social media, definitely. Advertising: having more advertising aimed at women so they can see that this is a great job, that this is a great industry to be in. It's an industry that will never go away because from the beginning of time, everything was transported. It was horse, carriage, boat. Everything is transported some sort of way. But now we have the technology and we have what it takes to move it effectively and efficiently.

In the end, why is it important that we try to bring more women into the industry? 

Jackie: As we keep moving, I think we will see more women in the industry. That means more moms will be examples for their daughters. They can show them “We did it!” You guys can do it, too, and keep that momentum going. 

My kids know that you can do anything you put your mind to; you can be a female and you can be a truck driver. Keeping the evolution wheel going and keep the women in the trucking industry.

One thing that I find is very important is when a mother can show to her daughter, "I support my family on this.” My kids know that they, too, can do this and support their family. 
 

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