As the new year continues to roll by, we welcome March and the wonderful celebrations that come with it – including Women’s History Month. Throughout its history, women have impacted the logistics industry and are gaining more extensive representation in the traditionally male-dominated space every year.
While we always aim to celebrate women in trucking, now is the perfect time to shine a light on the powerful women who have been and continue to be leaders in the logistics world. Though women are still a minority in this field, they’ve made their mark on the industry throughout the years and continue to impact it every day. From truck drivers to supply chain management executives, women succeed in a variety of roles across the supply chain and help advance the industry forward.
An Uphill Battle in the Transportation Industry
Transportation and logistics have been around since the late 19th century but gained steam with women towards the end of World War I. In the early 1900s, only 20% of women worked outside the home, and only 5% of those were married. The logistics industry was not the place most women looked for work. In fact, much of where and when women worked, in general, was regulated at this time.
As the war continued, women began to shift their career fields due to the necessity and need to fill these roles. As men left to fight overseas, women increasingly took on industrial jobs, including warehouse work. World War I gave many women an opportunity to prove their capabilities in roles they were previously considered unsuitable.
In 2019 the Senate introduced the Promoting Women in Trucking Workforce Act, which aims to increase female representation in the trucking industry. Data released by the American Trucking Association shows that women make up 47% of the total workforce but just 6.6% of drivers and 12.5% of all trucking industry workers.
Today, the advancements of women in the trucking and transportation industry are more apparent but still not equal – especially in leadership roles. According to the US Census Bureau, Despite owning only 10 percent of trucking companies, female-owned firms have higher annual revenues than male-owned firms by a 27.4 percent margin.
One of our favorite leaders in trucking also happens to be one of our favorite women: Ruth Williams.
Meet Ruth Williams
A Widow. A Single Mother. An Elementary School Teacher in Weaver, Alabama.
Those three descriptions aren’t what you usually find as the qualifications for the President of a Trucking Company, but they are the very strengths that Mrs. Ruth Williams had in operating BR Williams.
In July of 1958, Billy R. Williams established the trucking company known today as BR Williams. He experienced all the issues and growing pains of owning a new business, but after only five years of operation, a trucking terminal fire took his life.
Ruth was advised to walk away from the business because of all the damage that the fire caused. She knew there would be many obstacles to face as a female in the trucking business, but in 1965, she retired from teaching and became the owner and President of BR Williams.
In 2023, BR Williams will celebrate our 65th year of business, and we forever respect the strength of Mrs. Ruth Williams and the sacrifices she made to continue her husband’s business.
We will never know just how hard the days were for Ruth as a female trucking owner in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, but we will always honor her legacy because she didn’t take the easy road – she made her own.
“Looking back over BR Williams history, we would not be the company we are today without the strength, determination and faith of an amazing woman, Ruth Williams. After the unfortunate and untimely death of her husband, a school teacher was left with 2 young daughters and a trucking company. With the will to keep her husband’s dream alive and undeterred by setbacks, she learned the ropes of running a trucking company as a woman in a man’s world. Without her leadership, we wouldn’t be the company we are today. Today we have women in all areas of our company – OTR and local drivers, transportation maintenance, clerical support staff, and leadership teams. And yes, women are well represented on our Executive team. I can confidently say that without strong women in transportation, BR Williams would not be the growing company we are today.”
Tammy Thornburg | CFO and VP
Supporting Women in Trucking
Fortunately, organizations like BR Williams are actively pursuing the goal of inviting more women into logistics and supporting these women to help them achieve their professional goals.
We encourage women – both young and tenured in their careers – to join the trucking industry and pursue a fulfilling career in logistics.
Our company offers flexible hours to meet the needs of our employees, including being a “mom” or caregiver. We employ women in all areas of our company, including drivers, the truck shop, the warehouse, and administration. Our executive team is 30% female.
“When you pass a truck on the highway, and you take a glance at who is behind the wheel you may begin to notice more women in the driver seat. While the industry is still male dominated, we are seeing a shift with more female drivers entering the industry, which is a necessary shift for the crucial expansion of the candidate pool to help ease the burdens of the supply chain issues that have been a hot topic since the beginning of the pandemic.
We have seen a positive impact by encouraging women to enter the transportation industry. Female drivers tend to be more risk averse, typically resulting in better safety records. Additionally, female drivers tend to have longer tenure, which leads to lower turnover rates among women. In 2022, B.R. Williams had less than a 9% turnover rate among female drivers and was proud to acknowledge more female drivers than ever who have reached a safe driving milestone in a single year. B.R. Williams recognizes the value of expanding our fleets to accommodate all safe and eligible professional drivers by providing an incredible work-life balance and a culture that thrives on family values and a safety-first mentality. We are beyond excited for the future. We hope you are, too.”
Shannon Butler, Esq., VP of Human Resources | In-House Counsel
Recognizing Women This Month and Always
While Women’s History Month is a great time to reflect on the journey women have faced getting here today, it’s also essential that we consider the road ahead for them, too. In the logistics industry, it’s time to consider how women can continue to advance this field and how logistics companies can benefit from greater gender equality. There’s no doubt that women have come a long way in logistics, but there’s still a long way to go.
We are thankful for the women in this industry who fearlessly lead and represent an entire group. As women continue to grow in logistics and positively influence this field, we commend them for paving the way for future generations.
BR Williams is proud to advocate for women in the trucking industry. We aim to honor the past and support the future this month and always. To learn more about our history, you can read here.
About BR Williams Trucking & Logistics
BR Williams, a family-owned Trucking, Warehousing, Fulfillment & Logistics Company has been serving customers since 1958. We specialize in removing the supply chain frustrations our customers have by developing custom-made solutions. We offer nationwide transportation services through our fleet and logistics division. Our multiple fulfillment and distribution warehouses in Alabama span over 1.7 million square feet. Our core values are HONESTY, INTEGRITY, SERVICE. We still serve our first customer that was established in 1958.