Celebrating our Women Leaders on International Women’s Day

It’s no secret that the transportation and logistics industry includes more men than women. A 2016 survey by Gartner and AWESOME (Achieving Women’s Excellence in Supply Chain, Operations, Management and Education) found that women make up just 35% of the total supply chain workforce, compared to 56% across the general labor market.
Red Classic International women's day graphic

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we wanted to recognize just a few of the remarkable women leaders here at Red Classic who are making their mark on our company and industry.

Wendy Smith - Red Classic - international women's day

Wendy Smith, Regional Maintenance Manager

Wendy joined Red Classic in 2013. As Regional Maintenance Manager, she is responsible for 23 fleet maintenance shops and 110 diesel technicians across the Carolinas. Wendy got “bit by the maintenance bug” in college while working for a material-handling equipment dealer. While she later worked in transportation and distribution, she said maintenance is her “first love.”

 

Wendy loves the problem-solving aspect of her job. “You have to be really inventive and resourceful,” she said. “I like the challenge of solving a complicated problem and being able to fix something for a customer and make it right.” When asked what it takes to be successful in maintenance, Wendy said, “First, be knowledgeable. Second, be persistent. As a woman, you may have to work harder initially to prove yourself, but once you do, gender is not an issue.”

Though a woman in maintenance still raises eyebrows sometimes, Wendy is seeing more and more women choose maintenance as a career, whether it be in sales, service writing, parts procurement or even turning wrenches. “The tide is turning,” she said. “I see more women in maintenance than there were even 10 years ago. In the future, you’ll see even more women in this field.”

Callie Luba, Regional General Manager

After starting her career in logistics with another carrier, Callie joined Red Classic in 2015. “When I started at Red Classic, I was the only female broker in the regional branches,” she said. “The northeast was a new region for us, and our team was tasked with growing the business.” At the time, Red Classic didn’t have the Red Zone, its formal training program for new brokers. Instead, Callie just had to jump in and learn.

 

Now four years later, Callie serves as Regional General Manager, overseeing sales and operations for Red Classic’s northeast region. Today, this region generates millions of dollars of business for Red Classic, and the brokerage division as a whole is the company’s growth engine. The fast pace and innovation are what Callie likes best about the industry. “Once I got into transportation, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else,” she said.

When asked what advice she would give a younger female colleague in her field, she said, “Don’t assume your work will speak for itself. You have to make sure people know what you can do.” Since Callie joined Red Classic she has seen more women joining the industry and more women moving into leadership roles. “Now, there’s not just one woman per team, there are multiple women working together to drive change.”

Callie Luba - Red Classic - international women's day
Elbone Ivey - Red Classic - international women's day

Elbone Ivey, Sr. Regional Operations Manager of Managed Freight

After beginning her career in warehousing, Elbone joined the Red Crew in 2014 as a track and trace specialist. It didn’t take long for Elbone’s manager to notice she was extremely bright and had a high aptitude for process development. Elbone was promoted several times over the following years and today serves as Red Classic’s Sr. Regional Operations Manager of Managed Freight. In this role, Elbone manages all freight in the eastern region for Coca-Cola Consolidated, Red Classic’s parent company, and has improved in-stock percentages to their highest level to date.

 

Elbone said she likes the challenge of serving a complex customer like Coke Consolidated and also building and developing her team. “Getting to know my team members and their families and being able to rally around those who are going through tough times is very rewarding,” she said.

Though she admits women can have challenges moving up in this industry, her advice to other women includes a simple and valuable lesson she learned from her late parents – work hard. “Their example is the driving force in my life,” Elbone said. “Work hard – no matter what you are pursuing. Strive to be the best you can be. Learn and be willing to ask questions. When you work hard, you can always be confident in what you bring to the table.”

Erica Davis, Customer Service Manager

Erica joined Red Classic’s customer service team in 2014 before there was even a formal customer service department. Together, she and several colleagues built Red Classic’s customer service division into what is today – a team of 30 strong with responsibilities that go far beyond traditional customer service. In addition to managing the team, Erica manages customer score carding, implements performance improvement measures and collaborates with operations to bring on additional freight.

Erica’s background in army logistics and as a military contractor equipped her with excellent skills for her role at Red Classic. “I love the challenge of problem solving and pushing my team to provide solutions,” she said. Erica recently restructured the department to give her team more defined roles, a clearer path for promotion and a more accurate pay structure. “I love my team,” Erica said. “To see the development and potential in my team and to see how we’ve grown from just three people to what we are today – it’s so rewarding.”

Though she’s creating opportunities for her own team, Erica believes women still have challenges making it to the most senior roles in the logistics industry. “It’s hard for women to make it to a director level in this industry,” she said. “But there are companies out there that are breaking down barriers. Red Classic can be that type of company.”

Erica’s advice to women entering the business is, “Learn everything you can. Ask questions. No matter what level you are at, you have to keep learning.”
Erica Davis - Red Classic - international women's day
Jamie Heiker - professional driver - international women's day

Jamie Heiker, Professional Driver

Jamie joined the Red Crew in 2018 as an over-the-road driver out of Tallahassee, FL. Though most of Jamie’s career was spent in the medical and hospitality industries, her interest in trucking goes back to her teenage years. “When I first wanted to do this, I definitely got the naysayers,” Jamie said. “They said it’s not what women do and that it wasn’t ladylike.” So, it wasn’t until Jamie was in her mid-50s and looking for a steady income that she finally took the plunge to enroll in truck driving school.

 

“It was terrifying at first,” Jamie admits. “It’s one thing to have someone tell you how to drive a truck, it’s another to actually do it.” Now, with four years of experience under her belt, Jamie said she can’t imagine doing anything else. “Driving is meditation to me,” she said. “I enjoy the freedom and control that it gives.”

Though more women are becoming drivers, they still only make up about 5-6% of the industry’s driving force. As such, she still receives a mix of admiring looks and disapproving ones when she tells people she’s a professional driver or when people see her out on the road. Jamie said she doesn’t let it phase her. “You learn so much about yourself on the road,” she said. “I’ve learned it’s okay to be a strong person. I’ve taken the words ‘I can’t’ out of my vocabulary.”

Emily Goodman, Facility Manager

With a background in project management and continuous improvement, Emily was part of the early expansion of Red Classic as our first business strategy manager. Since joining the team in 2015, Emily has led several strategic and system transformation projects and helped create Red Classic’s first strategic plan. In 2018, Emily moved into operations, tasked with opening a Red Classic facility in a new region of the country.

Over the past year, she has grown the operation from four people to 40 and currently manages the drivers, dispatchers and staff operating five terminals in the Midwest. “I moved into operations because I wanted to understand what the people who are truly doing the work are doing,” she said. “How can I suggest improvements if I don’t understand what the people on the ground are experiencing?”

Her advice to women (and men) coming up in in the industry is to listen to those with more experience, understand your strengths and weaknesses and use your team to fill your gaps. “I promoted a driver to be a driver manager because he knows this industry inside and out,” Emily said. “I hired him because he knows the business and because knowing the business was something I needed to grow in.”

Emily said she doesn’t see a glass ceiling for women in the industry. “It doesn’t matter whether you are a man or woman, if you are passionate about this industry, you can be successful.”
Emily Goodman - Red Classic - International women's day