The following article from Georgia Angell, Cartwright’s Director of Agent Relations, was prominently featured in the latest IAM Portal magazine (May/June 2012).  The focus of this edition of the magazine was “Rising Stars… Women Influencing the Industry”.  The magazine included a message from IAM President Terry Head who had some great insights into this topic.

It has been a decade since the The Portal last focused on our female members in the January/February 2002 issue.  Of the 10 women who were profiled back in 2002, eight of them are still active in the industry and are very highly respected by their peers, both female and male. Several of them have maintained or since achieved leadership roles within the Association and the organizations they represent.

What’s different 10 years on?  First, there are considerably more women employed in our industry than ever before. Moreover, women have taken on roles not previously associated with their gender.  In years past, most females were found in the accounting department or other clerical positions. Today, we see women driving over-the-road rigs, and many working as packers and in other operations-oriented positions. Females now seem to be prevalent in sales and customer relations functions of most companies. Nonetheless, the most telling factor is the rise of women in the management and ownership ranks of IAM member companies, the associations who advocate for this industry, and the customers and accounts we all serve.

The View from the Top
By Georgia Angell

I was very excited to see this issue as a focus in The Portal for our industry. It is true that this industry has been male-dominated, but over the years, things are clearly changing.

The moving industry once was definitely an “old boys” type network. I benefited from following in the footsteps of women who broke down that barrier, and I am grateful to those in this industry who gained the respect of the men who dominated the business. Many years ago, I saw few women at the Annual Meeting, but those who were involved were very strong.

There was a groundbreaking aspect of being the first woman to head the IAM Executive Committee. I worked hard on the issues during my time on the board and I believe that my knowledge and passion was a driving force, and that I was not necessarily hindered by my gender.  I had a tremendous amount of support from my male and female colleagues. The challenges I encountered were no different from those other recent chairmen had faced, but I always felt compelled to work harder to squelch any concerns about being a woman in that position.

I perceived that the challenge of being chair was compounded by my not only being female, but also one of the younger people in the industry at that level.  I’ve been in this business since I was 17. Do the math-I’m as old as the Association! I held demanding positions at several different companies; it was solid experience, but I was very much aware that some might question my qualifications. I thoroughly enjoyed being chair, jumped in with both feet, and was very passionate about my responsibilities.

My emphasis during my tenure was communication. It didn’t do us any good to work on issues if we didn’t share the information with our members. And this is an area where women just might have a slight edge over men. Women are typically more communicative-yes, we like to talk. So while some joke about women always chatting, it can be beneficial in business as long as you stay on track.

Personally, I have always enjoyed sharing the knowledge that I have with others. It allows everyone to grow. Perhaps the nurturing tendency of women has a basis for that choice. Women can be more emotional; this can be a benefit in developing teamwork, but it can also be a handicap when dealing with hard issues.

In terms of actually performing the tasks that come with the job, I have found my male colleagues to be cooperative and supportive. Men and women share equal intelligence and skill level, but how does a woman in this industry navigate tricky issues involving male social bonding and camaraderie? How do you join chats about the latest sports scores and news? How do you handle the inside jokes? What about those few men who choose to look at you in a way that isn’t business-appropriate? For the most part, we have wonderful gentlemen in this industry and I am proud to be working with these men. But you do have to be on your toes and ready with a well-placed comment or a joke and turn the tables in any situation. And do your homework; it can’t hurt to learn something about the latest sports match-up-you don’t have to be an expert, and I’ve always found that when I ask questions, men generally are more than willing to share their enthusiasm.

Not only is this an issue for women; it can also be a bit daunting for men to learn to deal with women in this business. How are they supposed to handle the social discussions that typically occur between women-the shopping, the clothes, the kids? Do you open the door? Do you pull out the chair at dinner? Does commenting on how nice a lady looks cross the social/business boundary? I actually think being a woman in this industry might be easier than being a man!

Our international relations in this industry brings a new twist to the interaction between men and women. In some countries, women are not held as equals and it can be challenging to gain the respect and support in order to move forward with business dealings. But the hard fact remains that in many cases, a woman may be the one who makes the decision or negotiates the rates and companies doing business in a male-dominant culture learn quickly that they must adapt.

But outside the business meetings and social networking functions-well, it can be a different story with men from certain countries. The fact that a woman might have a drink and share a conversation does not mean…well, something else!

I believe the biggest challenge for women in any industry is to how to successfully balance their career and home life. It is a fact that even in an increasingly enlightened age, most women are their children’s primary caregiver. They have to juggle their job and home responsibilities. This causes an internal tug of war at times in order to give their best to both job and home. My husband is chief engineer on a ship for at least six months a year, so coordinating travel and children is challenging. Developing a strong network of people to assist at home has been crucial throughout my career.

I joined this industry by chance and have enjoyed learning and dealing with the different situations that can arise each day. You certainly cannot learn the idiosyncrasies of this industry from any classroom. Although most of my bosses were men, all encouraged me to learn and grow. I never felt that I was held back due to my gender. In fact, one of the best mentors I had 30 years ago certainly fell into the “old boys’ network category, yet Bob Patton provided me with guidance and strength and helped me focus on a higher goal than I thought was possible. I have been honored to have encountered many others since him who understand and respect the unique strengths that women bring to this industry.