LITTLE ROCK — When CalArk CEO Rochelle Bartholomew Gorman received trucking’s first annual Influential Woman of the Year award recently, she made a passionate plea to industry stakeholders to reach out to younger women and tell them about the career opportunities in what she called “a fantastic industry.”
Indeed, Bartholomew Gorman isn’t shy about proclaiming the attributes of the industry or her personal mission to recruit women into all aspects of it, be it driver, manager, president, dispatcher or some other position.
“I want to see all transportation executives recognize the potential of women and be committed to developing their potential. The first step is to take women seriously from the top level of business,” she told The Trucker recently.
Gorman practices what she preaches: More than 50 percent of management at Mabelvale, Ark.-based CalArk are women. And, she said, “All of them have proven themselves to be deserving.”
She serves on the dean’s executive advisory board at the Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas where she said, “We have the opportunity to advise the college on ways to better prepare students for the business world. There are also times when we interact with students one-on-one and in small groups.”
Bartholomew Gorman’s work reaching out to the community on behalf of trucking and her efforts to help worthy women join the industry are part of what won her the first annual Influential Woman of the Year award, which was presented by Women In Trucking Inc. and Navistar Inc. at the Truckload Carriers Association’s annual convention last month.
The award “is designed to shine a spotlight on the great leadership demonstrated by women in the trucking industry,” said Anne Belec, vice president and chief marketing officer of Navistar.
As one of the judges for the award, Belec said she was impressed at how passionate and enthusiastic the person was who nominated Bartholomew Gorman, and she was even more impressed with Bartholomew Gorman’s “story,” which involves trucking from the very beginning.
The daughter of Tom and Rosie Bartholomew, she grew up hanging around CalArk, the company her parents founded in 1975. “My parents were in the trucking business,” she told The Trucker in 2006. “Little by little it gets into your nature and the first thing you know it’s a part of you.”
Her father, she said, “still advises us on strategic planning.”
“She really is walking the talk,” said Belec. “We check the facts [for the award]. She exemplifies everything we’re trying to convey about the industry, what the possibilities are, and she gives, she gives back to the industry. Plus she’s beautiful, she’s a mother and she balances all these things with grace.”
Belec sees this annual award as a way to put women like Bartholomew Gorman before the public and focus attention on the career avenues open to women.
“We want people to read and hear about this particular initiative,” Belec said, noting that she had grown up in the automotive industry where “there were no female mentors. I had wonderful male mentors but female role models were not as visible.
“Getting women out there for people to see really helps the next generation to identify trucking as a field they want to participate in.”
She said the company has been connected to Women In Trucking “almost from the beginning” of the group because of Navistar’s belief that “diversity brings a competitive advantage. We want the best and brightest from a diverse pool of talent.”
And it follows, she said, that it’s important for Navistar and other industry stakeholders to “communicate to a much broader spectrum on what is a good career and a very diverse career” to get into.
“One thing we looked for with Influential Woman of the Year was how the nominees performed as role models in supporting other women and attracting other women to the industry.”
And they found such a person in Bartholomew Gorman, who practices what she preaches at home as well as in work and public arenas.
She said her two daughters, one a teenager and the other a pre-teen, are “definitely interested” in trucking as a career.
“I am encouraging them to keep an open mind and choose a career that they are passionate about pursuing,” she said.