Logistics and transportation are both industries run predominantly by men. In the logistics industry for example, only 35% of graduates are women, the lowest of any business field.
There are several historic reasons why the disparity exists, but a major one that continues to this day is the problem of perception.
Transportation, and in particular trucking—is typically seen as ‘man’s work’. The stereotype of a trucker being a 6’’ burly man with tattoos, potbelly and unkempt beard is common in a lot of media. The truth is that most truckers are every day people, looking like anyone you’d see on a commute. There’s nothing that the job requires that couldn’t be done by a woman. Shamim Akhtar proves it.
Pakistan’s First Female Truck Driver
In 2015, several news articles were published online talking about Shamim Akhtar, Pakistan’s first female truck driver.
Akhtar’s story is inspiring. At the age of 53, she became the country’s first female truck driver. It may seem like a strange career decision to take at that age, but she had no other choice. You see, she needed money to support her two underage sons and pay for the weddings of her three adult daughters. She is also a widow; her husband having passed a few years prior.
She already knew how to drive. So, she decided to take the next logical step and acquired a special licence for driving trucks and trailers. To say this is unusual would be an understatement. You see, even being a working woman in Pakistan is uncommon as only around 24% of women have jobs.
Being the country’s first female truck drivers hasn’t given her a free pass however. Akhtar’s job has her sometimes transporting 7,000 bricks over 200 kilometers.
Oh yes, she also operates a successful driving school. Talk about a motivated person.
Female Truckers in North America
Akhtar’s drive to pursue a career in trucking is an inspiration for women everywhere. This is good, because the transportation, trucking and shipping industry in North America desperately needs more female drivers.
It’s estimated that 48,000 new drivers need to be added to the driver pool, and soon. Female drivers could fill that void.
As it stands, there are currently around 2 million people working in trucking. Of that number, only around a tenth are female. What’s worse is that the number actually shrank by 10% between 2011-2015. The reason is a lack of perceived career viability for women, creating a shortage of interest.
While the numbers don’t look too promising now, there’s still a lot of confidence that the industry will turn things around. The driver shortage, and stories like that of Shamim Akhtar inspire women to at least think about a career in transportation.
“Women, try to do something all the time, don’t make yourselves lazy or believe that you are weak and can’t achieve such milestones. We can do everything. We are capable enough, by the grace of God.”—Shamim Akhtar