Women in a male dominated work place may benefit from learning a couple of truths. One is, expected gender role and co-worker biases may be more influential to a woman’s job success than their skill and ability. Another is, the company harassment policy may not resolve a harassment issue. Understanding these truths can help women develop strategy to deal with possible hostile workplace issues.
In truck driving, women assume if they shift the truck perfectly, follow safety rules, follow the hours of service rules, keep the truck clean, and develop truck operating skills that are equal to, or if not better than their male counterparts, they will fit in, this is not true.
Women truckers who want to get the job done must be aware of the biases of their male co-drivers.
Quote: Idella Hansen ~ 46 Year veteran driver “A female truck driver must be twice as good as the Men to be considered the bottom of the pile.”
In more than one study, and specifically in an article by P. Y. Martin regarding practicing gender at work, a woman’s job performance is not considered by her male counterpart. The article goes on to point out, no matter how well a woman performs the work of her male counterpart, if she is not “doing gender” appropriately to the likes of her male counterpart, she is likely to face scrutiny. If a male co-driver is from a cultural background where women are looked upon as caretakers or possessions to be controlled, then he will feel threatened by a woman working in his environment. Often, the end result is the woman being harassed into leaving her job, or submitting to act out, unwillingly in a gender role to her co-driver.
Trucking companies say that they have policies in place to protect women from being harassed on the job but this is not always true. Most truck company policies are punitive and have not developed a procedure for resolving harassment complaints. In many instances the trucking company personnel are not trained to assist a woman who perceives a harassment situation developing. She is often told to confront the offending co-driver which does not work and can be a contributing factor to an explosive incident.
Research, from the University of Minnesota, shows that harassment behavior is about control and domination to equalize the woman’s authority level so the woman is no longer a threat. By confronting a male co-driver to stop harassment may be like throwing gasoline on a fire. This is especially true in isolated and unsupervised training carriers and co-driving team driver operations. The female will be perceived as more of a threat once she has rejected sexual advances and intimidation tactics. This causes increased control attempts taken by the male co-driver in order to equalize or diminish her authority in the situation. These situations can also occur in same gender co-driving situations where proper sexual misconduct training is absent.
Unfortunate as it is, trucking company harassment policies and male co-driver bias may determine a woman trucker’s success in the trucking industry, instead of ability or skill. To get to the truth, a woman trucker entering the industry may want to develop a list of questions to ask her male co-driver. Find out what he thinks about women in general; what he was brought up to believe about women, and how women should behave. If the answer is in contrast to your beliefs and will interfere with your work, ask for another co-driver and be aware that many men will not reveal their true opinions until you are isolated on them truck with them with few options to remove yourself from the situation.
Ask if the trucking company you work for has an exit strategy in a harassment situation. If they don’t, have one in place, make sure a friend, family member or other source who can give you the means to exit the situation immediately. Keep enough emergency money for yourself that you can easily access it to remove yourself from a harassment situation. Understand that some carriers will ruin your DAC report for getting off of a truck that is under a load and that you must document the unsafe situation to protect yourself from unethical carriers.
1. http://carlsonschool.mn.edu/assets/160274.pdf.N.P., 3 Oct. 2009
2. Martin, Patricia Yancey, 2003 “‘Said and Done’ Versus ‘Saying and Doing’: Gendering Practices, Practicing Gender at Work.” Gender & Society 17:342-66