MISSISSAUGA, Ont. – Angela Splinter, the chief executive officer of Trucking HR Canada, didn’t begin by talking about cancer. When she took to the podium of the organization’s annual Women with Drive leadership summit, she focused specifically on human resources challenges.
The labor shortage in trucking is real, she said, referring to an intensifying capacity crunch. “There is a limited supply of quality talent available.” But where 48% of Canada’s workforce includes women, they represent around 3% of drivers and technicians.
Across the entire transportation sector, including every mode of transportation, women account for just 27% of workers, and just 18% of those are senior managers. In trucking and logistics, just 11% of women are in management roles. The ultimate goal is gender equality, she said. A day when it’s normal for a young girl to say she wants to be a truck driver when she grows up, or the chief executive officer of a fleet.
But returning to her role after months-long treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Splinter sees related lessons that apply to the human resources challenge — especially when it comes to themes of working together, and realizing how cancer itself will affect many workplaces.
Splinter’s doctor had offered 65% odds that they could get all the cancer through 12 treatments of aggressive chemotherapy. Half way through, however, she stopped looking at cancer as a fight or battle, and found the change in mindset made the treatment more tolerable.
“It is not a fight or a battle, but a journey. It’s not an us-versus-them situation. It’s everyone working towards the same goal, understanding there will be bumps along the way,” she said. Colleagues stepped forward to guide Trucking HR Canada in her absence. Family and friends stocked her fridge and freezer. Medical teams, including guidance from “less conventional practitioners” worked together on treatments and managing side effects.
“They were not trying to say big pharma is out to get me,” she said of the naturopath and acupuncturist. Her doctor was open to it, and they all had full access to her file. They all checked egos at the door.
“Just like here today. This is not an us-and-them issue. It’s not women versus men, or women versus employers. It certainly should not be women versus women. Everyone needs to be a part of this journey, whether they are men, women, employers, or employees. Because, at the end of the day, getting more women to choose the trucking and logistics industry is not only the right thing to do. It is a business imperative,” she said.
“I know I am not the first person to get cancer. I am also not the only person in this room to have gone through cancer treatment. Cancer has affected everyone in this room in some way,” Splinter added. She wasn’t even in a risk group for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and lived a healthy lifestyle. But it happens.
“Nearly one in two Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. That is significant. And it makes me think that cancer in the workplace is an evolving reality,” she told the crowd. “Chances are high that your employees can be diagnosed, or one of their loved ones. Survivor rates are going up, too. How employers manage this will become increasingly important – from employees taking leave to impacts on workplace productivity, to transitioning back to work.
“In an industry where the average worker is aging at a higher rate than the average Canadian worker, and where talent is scarce, managing cancer, other illnesses, and disabilities in the workplace will become more of a concern for employers.”
She’s back on the job to help address challenges like that.