Only 33.8% of C-suite executives in transportation companies are women, according to Women in Trucking.
Though female representation in the industry has increased this year, transportation and logistics companies are still predominantly owned, led and managed by men.
At Armstrong, we strive to prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion at every level of our national supply chain, which includes elevating women’s voices in the C-suite.
Armstrong – Huntsville is a woman-owned enterprise certified by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). For more than a decade, it has provided socially-responsible moving and logistics solutions to customers and clients across the country.
In the following Q&A, we chat with Armstrong – Huntsville’s CEO Jenny Johnson about her entry into the industry, her biggest challenges, her greatest successes and her advice to the next generation of women in leadership. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: How did you get into the transportation and logistics space?
Johnson: I came here in 2004 after spending 11 years in the hospitality industry. I worked in management in the hotel business. I like to tell people that I was in the industry for 11 years, and it was about 10 1/2 years too long. Believe it or not, it’s actually crazier than the moving industry. When I came here, I started as the office manager. As I had free time, I would go to my predecessor and say, ‘Hey, I’m caught up. Is there something else I can help with in the office?’ I wanted to learn as much as I could about the business.
After a few years with Armstrong, I left for a short while to pursue another project. In 2014, my Armstrong predecessors called me and wanted to go to lunch. They asked me if I would consider coming back to the transportation and logistics industry. At first, I thought, ‘I don’t know if I want to do that’ — but I did. Shortly afterwards, my predecessor retired, and upon her retirement, I had the opportunity to become the woman-owned partner here in Huntsville.
Q: What are some challenges you face as a woman in leadership in such a male-dominated industry?
Johnson: There are several things, but I think the biggest challenge is earning respect. While I am very aware of my skillsets — things I’m good at versus things I’m not — I’ve earned respect in my field by leading by example. For me, the best way to earn respect is to give them respect. One way I’ve done that is through actions. I’m no expert on packing boxes or loading trucks, but I’ve gone out on jobs and done that, which shows my team that I’m not too good to push a dolly, or I’m capable of packing and loading boxes. Respect for me is a two-way street and I know every attempt that I make to show them what I’m capable of and how I value them earns their respect.
Q: Tell us about some of the professional successes you’re particularly proud of.
Johnson: Brad Murphy and I took over this office January 1, 2016, and we are very proud of the fact that since taking over, we have had several record-setting years here in Huntsville. Under our leadership, 2019 became our largest year to date, and every other year we’ve been at the helm — aside from the first year we took over — has been a near-record year for this office. In 2019, we won the Service Business of the Year Award for Huntsville from the local Chamber of Commerce. It was a big deal for us to win that, so that would be one of my proudest accomplishments.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring female leaders in this space?
Johnson: Don’t be afraid to tackle the hard things. You don’t have to have all the answers. You just have to get in there with grit and determination. And the one thing I have found about being a woman in really any role is that people tend to assume that you can’t do anything — you have to prove that you can. So don’t be afraid to make mistakes. I make them all day, every day. Instead of being worried about making mistakes, I focus on just getting in there and going for it.