3 Lessons from the 2017 WIT Accelerate Conference


The phrase “women’s empowerment” is a term we hear quite frequently – from the nightly news to award show acceptance speeches. But what does that term really mean? A quick Google search will tell you that there are plenty of quotes about it, but there is actually no definitive definition of women’s empowerment.

Well, there may not be a definition, but I had the distinct pleasure of witnessing women empowering other women to be better leaders, better employees and all around better people this week at the 2017 Women in Trucking Accelerate Conference & Expo. While there were many excellent speakers, the best part was getting to meet and hear the stories of regular women who are making a difference and paving a way for women to have careers in this traditionally male-dominated industry.

I came away with my own definition of what women’s empowerment means. Below are the three biggest lessons I learned while attending the 2017 Women in Trucking Accelerate Conference & Expo.


1. Find a Mentor, Be a Mentor

This was one of the tips that Annette Sandberg, former Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), gave in her presentation “Succeeding in a Male-Dominated Industry,” and it was also something I got to witness firsthand through one of my fellow Great Dane employees at the conference.

Laura Roan Hays is a Branch Manager for Great Dane and has worked in the industry for many years. The stories she tells and the knowledge she has about the industry are fascinating. Throughout the conference, I watched Laura provide guidance and tips to one of our new salespeople who is just getting her start. I also watched her act as a cheerleader to women she had just met who expressed frustration about their careers. Laura has been an active member of Women in Trucking for several years and she truly exemplifies the organization’s mission to empower women in the industry.

“Women in Trucking is trying to find ways to eliminate the obstacles that get in the way of women trying to break into this industry,” Laura said. “It’s an honor to see Great Dane take a lead in the industry from a trailer standpoint and support women on this journey.”


2. Shipping is an Emotional Business

Women are often labeled as “overly-emotional” and told that there is no place for emotion in business. However, shipping is an emotional business. Angie Davids, Director of Marketing for YRC Freight, stressed the fact that, to the customer, shipments are often more than just freight; shipments are their business and their livelihood. Emotions run high when shipments are late or goods get damaged. The best way to temper those emotions is to establish a trusting relationship with your customers.

“Never lie to your clients,” Laura said. “At the end of the day, they will be much happier if you are upfront and honest about any issues than if you tell them to expect something and then fail to deliver.”


3. Workplace Happiness is a Two-Way Street

In the closing keynote, Valerie Alexander, founder of Goalkeeper Media, discussed how to create happiness and productivity in the workplace. She gave tips for how leaders can create a happier environment for their employees and how employees can create a better environment for themselves.

According to Valerie, the keys to having happy employees are leading with appreciation, giving clear direction and expressing confidence in your employees. She suggests setting attainable goals for employees and then providing tangible rewards that serve as reminders for employees of what they did to improve the state of the company. She also encourages leaders to take a little extra time to explain tasks to employees and the importance of those tasks. Finally, she says that leaders should allow their employees to have autonomy over their tasks by trusting that they will complete the assigned tasks without micro-management.

Valerie also gave suggestions for how employees can create their own happiness at work. For example, she suggests starting each day by writing down one task that you will complete that day on a piece of paper and placing the paper where you can see it. Once you complete the task, move it to another area of your desk designated for “completed tasks.” At the end of the day, throw the paper away to signal the end of your work day. According to Valerie, having tangible evidence that you’ve completed something each day will give you a sense of accomplishment.


Ellen Voie, President & CEO of Women in Trucking, set a goal to double the size of the Accelerate conference next year and I hope to see that happen. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to attend this year and I’m proud to work for a company that supports an organization that is doing so much to empower women in the transportation industry. This was my first time attending the Accelerate conference and I am positive it will not be my last.