Truths for Women in a Male Dominated Workplace

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., 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


This article was written by: KarenMartin

“Integrity clears out the garbage in the transportation supply chain!”

  1. 10 Comments

    • C. Turner says:

      Im finding even the female driver mangers or dispatch are doing the same thing some times I think its no win crap deal, but I know how to talk to a man when I say I raised on a farm with all girls and daddy made us do what if he had boys.

    • Roni says:

      I’ve been in trucking for 13 years and both subtle and overt harassment does occur. I had to deal with it a lot when I first started driving. As a double minority, one of my biggest challenges was, like the quote said, ‘ to be twice as good as the guys’. Currently I face less and less of those challenges today.

      Being a woman in trucking I have actually had people stop me and give compliments. I recall one older lady in the passenger seat who was visible enthusiast about seeing a female driver a rig. It made me smile. I love my profession although I hate the politics associated with being female first and a driver last.

      My advice to the ladies is to do what you know you need to do out here and be self reliant. Keep it tight by not having the mentality or air that you are prowling for a man. One day I’ll have to tell you all about Tony because Tony unwittingly gave away all the trade secrets on me and women in trucking.

      Keep it safe ladies and have a great ride.

    • Autumn says:

      I’ve been interested in becoming a truck driver, but I’m truly discouraged by this. I can’t stand men that are intimidated by tough, hard working women. It’s times like this I wish I was more like my Mom. She’s one tough woman. I think this would be a cake walk if I were more like her. Is it better to stand up for yourself or just be submissive and just deal with it?

      • Hi Autumn,

        It is not okay to be submissive and “deal with it”, that is what crushes the spirit. Though it is not easy to always stand your ground, in the long run you will better about yourself if you learn to do it in a way the gets your point across without sinking to a low level while doing it. That part is hard. Your Mom may have made looking tough seem easy but I am sure had times where she wished she didn’t have to be so tough and just “be”. When you fight for your independence you have more choices but if you choose to be dependent on someone and be submissive to their demands when your desire is really to leave you are really making commentary on how hard you are willing to work to be free. I know I do a good job and I don’t let remarks by a few man who feel intimated by a woman bother me because it shows their weakness, if I was to let it bother me , they could see mine. It’s also a time waster to worry about what someone thinks or says. At the end of the day the only thing that matters is how you feel about yourself. Good Luck, DW

    • Duwana says:

      I’ve just been driving for three months now and I had to report sexual harassment from my first co driver and several other issues. They immediately took me off the truck but now I’m having issues with night driving. I don’t know why. I was just wondering if anyone could tell me where to go to for some help? I love driving but it’s interfering with my driving. Someone please help.

      • Hello Duwana,

        Without knowing much about your situation with the night driving I can only assume that you are having trouble staying awake. First I want to say that if you are sleepy you must put safety as your number one priority and pull over to sleep. If your company says you need to drive you need to write on the Qualcomm or other communication device (in writing only not verbal) “I am falling asleep and need to pull over because I feel unsafe to drive”. Some carriers will try to push you to drive when you are sleepy, when you use the magic sentence above you have created a document to protect yourself under the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) and the fatigued driver section of the FMCSA regulations.

        It takes a few weeks for your body to adjust to night driving , some never adjust. You must be disciplined to during sleep periods to make sure you sleep. The best way to do this is to re-create night time by closing your curtains to keep it very dark in the bunk and keep air temperature cool. Do not allow your mind to wander on the daylight outside and turn off your phone. NO EXCEPTIONS! , Turn off the Qualcomm volume as well, you must get at least 8 hours of sleep as undisturbed as possible or you will feel like crap about 4 hours down the road. The really hard part is at dawn. It is painfully hard some morning to stay awake as the morning comes which is the end of your shift. I have stopped for a brisk walk at a rest area when I am having trouble but if that does not do the trick I notify the carrier and take a nap.

        You should be doing your trip planning so that you do not have to do too much night driving, this is unless you are pulling a reefer (perishable food products) which are generally delivered at night.

        Once your body adjusts to a night schedule and then you change it you will make it hard on yourself to get back in the swing of it again so try to keep your pattern. We occasionally have a night call of ladies who are driving and want someone to talk to. You can sign up for text alerts for WTN calls with this link. Women Truckers Network (WTN) Text Alerts Tonight we have our blog talk radio program , we will be talking about students who are leaving industry due to misperceptions about what the job and lifestyle requires. You can listen to the show by calling 646-200-0616 at 7:30 PM eastern. You may also call us direct to talk to someone privately my cell is 561-232-9170 Hope that helps. Desiree

    • Duwana says:

      I wasn’t really having problems because I was sleepy I’m having problems because I’m so terrified that I’m going to do something wrong. My previous co driver terrified me so badly that it’s affecting my driving. I switched back to day driving and I’m doing fine but once it starts getting dark I have to stop. I know this is just some kind of mental block but I’m afraid to ask my company for help because I don’t want to lose my job. I’ve gotten a new co driver but he seems to be interested in only one thing and it’s not work. I don’t understand why men want to act like this and I know all men aren’t that way. I just want to be able to do my job without harassment of any kind. I need help but I’m just about to give up totally! I shouldn’t have to work with someone who’s calling me a b…. I shouldn’t have to work with someone who wants to intimidate me and control me. I’m just at a total loss as to what to do anymore.

      • Hi Duwana:

        I apologize, I did not get a message that you had replied a second time. I hope you are still hanging in there. You should not have to be enduring this during your training. I myself was yelled at a lot by my 1st trainer and berated. In any other circumstance I would have handled her differently but because I need to keep my job I had to sit and take it along with her other unprofessional manners. I would still hear her yelling some 2 months later. I felt like I was a 5 year old child being yelled at by an irrational parent for some ridiculous matter that was merely for her to show me who was the boss on the truck. It should go away in time but probably not until you are on your own and can allow yourself to settle into your truck. You can call me or us if you like. I posted my cell in my last message. Hang Tough and do not stay on a truck with a guy badgering you for sex because eventually he is going to have a temper tantrum when you reject him and these situations turn ugly fast. Desiree

    • dale says:

      I wonder when the University of Minnesota will do a study on how women treat men in the nursing field. Or when HR depts are going to address the things women do on the job? I guess sexual harrassment, and sexism, and glass ceilings only exist for women. I guess I make more than female nurses because they make me lift the heavy patients…wait, I don’t make more, in fact my chances of promotion are pretty much the same percentages as men in the nursing field, less than 5%. I wonder when colleges will lower GPA’s to get more men in nursing, and offer “men only” scholarships? When is the Oprah show going to address false accusations by women against their male counterparts (that’s how women bully on the job).

      Sexual harrassment or any harassment is wrong on the job, I know this is your forum to vent about discrimination, but your stories aren’t hidden, they are put on the news every day, 24/7 by a media that has an agenda. When is the last time you heard about a man getting harrassed and winning a lawsuit? Is that because it doesn’t happen, or do companies not have the infrastructure set up to deal with discrimination against men?

      I know, I’m a whiner, but if someone was to say that women were whining they’d be called “insensitive”, or sexist. Next time you think men have it so good, talk to your son who didn’t get accepted to a college so they could accept someone with lower grades. Or your brother, uncle or husband. Next time you have a male in your family get fired on false accusations, think about how that affects him. The next company you work for and they show you an HR film, look at who the perps of the harassment are in EVERY scenario..let me make it short for you..he’s a he, he’s a straight and he’s white. He is the sexist, he’s a homophobe and he’s a racist..why do you think they do that in the HR films? Maybe because the straight white male is the least apt to make a big stink about being profiled like that.

      Just some food for thought.

      Now I have to get back to my job where I make a dollar to my female co-workers 70 cents…NOT.

      • Dear Dale,

        I agree with you on many of your points. BY the way, her is a Male Sex Harassment Case that is recent against an Illinois Gubernatorial candidate. It’s a Male on Male Harassment Case and there are indeed a growing number of Male on Female cases but Men are less likely to file suits. The overall problem is that we live in a culture with a good many people that do not have a clue on what is appropriate to discuss at their place of business, both Men and Women. Without effective leadership I doubt this will ever change.