Trucking and Affirmative Action!
When you’re a professional driver, the steering wheel doesn’t know if you’re a man or a woman. That’s something my friend Ingrid reminds me of when I talk about the benefits of being a woman in the trucking industry. You’re paid the same regardless of your gender. Once upon a time women made about 60 cents for every dollar made by a man. A recent report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research claims that occupations with the highest median income still show a disparity between the earnings for women.
For example, a female physician or surgeon earns (on average) only 71 percent of their male counterparts’ salary. The same is true for chief executives, as women earn only 72 percent of what male CEOs earn. Food preparation and servers, especially in fast food restaurants, provide a better income for women than men, as women earn 112 percent of what men earn in the same positions. Now all lower paying jobs favour women, as agricultural work provides women with 84 percent of the income men earn in the field. Female cooks still earn slightly less than males (95 percent) and female home health care aides receive 98 percent of what their male peers earn. If you look at recruiting ads for professional drivers you will often see the starting pay right in the ad. There’s no asterisk that says, “This pay rate is for men only.” Not only is that illegal, it would be foolish for a carrier to differentiate pay when the level of service is not dependent on the gender of the person behind the wheel.
Does this mean that companies still discriminate in some careers when it comes to gender? Not necessarily, as “correlation is not causation” states Thomas Sowell, professor of economics at Cornell University. In Economic Facts and Fallacies, Sowell reminds us that historically, women have worked in areas that did not require the physical strength that was valued in a more industrial and agricultural-based era. This was especially evident in countries that valued boys over girls and would even kill newborn girls who were seen as less capable of supporting the family’s economic needs. As our nation progressed toward a more technology-based infrastructure, the need for physical strength and stamina was diminished and gender-based hiring became less significant. However, on average, women still earned less than men while working in the same occupations.
Is the pay difference due to discrimination? Again, not necessarily true according to Diana Furchtgott-Roth and Christine Stolba in Women’s Figures: An Illustrated Guide to the Economic Progress of Women In America. The authors site statistics to show that the pay disparity is not due to hiring or salary practices on the part of employers. It’s due to societal issues related to childbearing. In fact, women often earn more than men when they choose to remain childless and pursue a comparable career path. No one is suggesting that women should earn less because they are capable of having children; the reality is that women often choose occupations that allow them the flexibility to raise a family. As Sowell states, women often make career choices that allow them to take time to withdraw from full time work or lessen their hours in order to devote time to raising children.
Since women still have the greater responsibility in the home, the ability to put in overtime and work nights and weekends is limited. A Harvard Business Review survey (December 2006) found that women hold less than 20 percent of high-pressure jobs. Women spend less time pursuing a career when they decide to raise a family. Men have the same dilemma, but the reality is that child rearing is still the primary responsibility for women today. Many women who have chosen to become professional drivers have dealt with the issue of raising children or caring for other family members. It’s a sacrifice to leave them in order to earn a living behind the wheel. Fortunately, in this industry, the pay discrepancy is minimal and carriers hire and pay for your ability to move their freight in a safe manner.
Remember, the steering wheel doesn’t know if the hands guiding it are male or female. Driving a truck is one of the few professions that is truly gender neutral in pay and career choices and will offer even greater opportunities for women in the coming years.
Much, much more in the print addition of Auto Atlantic.
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