Though the event was intended only for our 5 board members to discuss 2015 objectives, a day of learning was scheduled that was open to other lady truckers who might like to attend.
We did not promote this event widely because it was our first time doing it.
This inaugural event was a way we could test the waters to gauge response and needs. We all learned something new and I learned that there is so much more we can do to help one another in the future.
Since I entered the trucking industry I have been perplexed about the public misconceptions about the kind of truckers I come have come to know and admire. This is especially true of the under recognized women of trucking.
The public fear of truck drivers seems to have been born from media and organizations that have the power to limit what imagery of professional drivers the public is allowed to see.
Few working drivers have the time to refute negative and offensive stereotypes such as this image to the left. A sexy women trucker? Yes, there are many, but the image, tagline and the movie this poster promoted is the often re-told story of a women trucker who operates a cat house on wheels.
This is what sells in mainstream media and too often our own industry helps encourage this belief. It is also true that there are women who enter trucking for the wrong reasons believing this stereotype and that trucking will accommodate them even if they are not qualified to perform the job function. This is not the image we wish to promote.
Seasoned drivers who are out on the road pulling freight, often for decades have not had any opportunity to learn basic computer skills that could help them with their business as well as improve communication to the world outside of the trucking bubble. These are the faces of the unseen , and unappreciated. They carry with them the real stories of the deterioration of an industry , the driver shortage myth and the work conditions that require a higher standard of students than the ones graduating from the CDL mills of today.
In order to capture the true experiences of the seasoned female driver population our organization has begun to introduce learning sessions that are free of charge. The first one was held at the Bienes Museum of the Modern Book ceremonial room in Ft. Lauderdale. We thank them for their gracious hospitality.
Split into four sessions, we covered Microsoft Word ®, Microsoft Excel ®, Facebook and Twitter.
The first obstacle was finding out that not everyone had Microsoft Office properly loaded on their computers. Often we make assumptions that everyone that has a computer or a tablet knows how to utilize the features it offers. Our learning sessions uncovered very quickly that some of us did not know that we had some very powerful tools at our fingertips that we really never knew were there.
Computers that we use primarily to visit on Facebook and play games have the power to communicate our words and pictures to the public and send a representation of professional drivers that has rarely been given exposure.
One of the exercises in our morning learning session was to use the computer application Microsoft Word® to practice writing letters and creating documents. After practicing some of the basic skills to create and save documents a short essay exercise was assigned that asked participants to do the following:
“Write a few paragraphs explaining to a non-trucker what it was like the first time you drove solo. Do not worry about misspelled words or grammar. Just think about your memory of that first solo run and how you felt and write it now. Start your story with: I remember the first time I drove a big rig solo …“
It was an awe-inspiring moment for me to see eyes light up in the class when these seasoned female drivers were given a few basic skills that could help them express how they feel about something they love and cherish.
I have uploaded the PDF links for our Microsoft Basic Word ® for REAL Women Truckers and Microsoft Excel ® for REAL Women Truckers learning sessions to our blog to be used as a self-help tool for those who wish to use them.
As we move toward 2015, our goal is to develop more virtual learning classes and schedule another face to face learning event with a variety of other topics so that we can develop as an organization and bond with one another. We hope to attract more like-kind women truckers that have a desire to improve themselves and the imagery the public perceives as the person behind the wheel of the big rigs.
As always, we welcome your thoughts and comments as we move into the next chapter of our grassroots driver movement.
Our mission is to empower the women of trucking and those entering the industry through outreach programs, continuing education, advocacy, mentoring, networking, and ongoing support to promote retention, encouragement, and unity between both new and seasoned female drivers.