For Southland woman Pip Swain, it was the desire to be out and about, and not in an office, that prompted her to be a truck driver at Fonterra.
The female truckies driving stereotypes away
Fonterra tanker driver Pip Swain at the Edendale plant. Swain is one of the 21 female drivers out of a team of 223 in the Southern region. CHE BAKER / THE SOUTHLAND TIMES

Not being stuck in an office can be a great motivator.

For Southland woman Pip Swain, it was the desire to be out and about, and not in an office, that prompted her to be a truck driver at Fonterra.

“I immediately relished the freedom it gave me,” Swain said.

“I have the best office in the world. I get to explore the beauty of New Zealand, while ensuring the safe delivery of the milk to our Edendale Fonterra site.”

Swain was one of 21 female drivers in the Southern region, out of a team of 223. That had quadrupled from when she started about five years ago, she said.

Swain said she was aware of a social stigma and subconscious bias associated with being a female truck driver, and strove to overcome them as she pursued a career in trucking for Fonterra, which she said was a supportive work environment and had equitable pay.

Despite the challenges, Swain said she believed that with encouragement and support, more women could take up and thrive in roles that were thought to be male-dominated.

She and her co-worker Dana Van Petegem-Gorrie wanted to mark International Women’s Day on Friday with a message to women, to ignore the stereotypes. “You can do it.

“I have two daughters and I am teaching them they can do anything they want to do. International Women’s Day to me is a day for everyone to recognise and celebrate all the strong, amazing wāhine in the world who break down the stigma and limitations put on women.”

Van Petegem-Gorrie, a truck driver from Southland but working from the company’s Darfield depot, said despite “outdated beliefs” people had of and within the transport industry, she had support in her colleagues who valued inclusivity.

She also credited part of her motivation to having strong female role models.

“I wouldn’t be anywhere if I didn’t have my mum’s support and encouragement through my working career. Growing up she always worked so hard to give us a life we can be proud of.

“My truck driving role model is Casuarina Jayne from Australia. She has never let her gender or size stand in the way in of chasing her dreams,” Van Petegem-Gorrie said.

Both women said they believed in embracing work-life balance, and pursued various activities outside of work.

Swain used to do horse racing and volunteered for Hato Hone St John, while Van Petegem-Gorrie had a background in horse riding.

– The Southland Times

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