These are the stories of four South Asian women who through pure grit and determination achieved great success in their careers.
Training the mindset
As the eldest of four siblings, Geetu Mahajan had no choice but to take responsibility for her family when her father passed away suddenly 20 years ago.
“I had to start work 18 days after my father’s demise,” Mahajan recalled in an interview with Road Today.
That early start instilled a sense of confidence and independence in her.
Today, Mahajan is the CEO of Compliance Mentorz, a commercial safety consulting company based in Brampton, Ont., which provides risk management solutions to trucking companies.
She is also a National Safety Code (NSC) auditor for the Government of Alberta. Considered the gold standard in compliance, the NSC comprises 16 safety requirements for commercial vehicles and drivers.
“I am very blessed. I am the only woman from our community (to have this accreditation),” she said.
Mahajan’s company also offers risk management training to the trucking industry as well as to other businesses.
“People need to be trained and retrained. It is not only training for the profession, but training the mindset.”
Mahajan said it would be great to have more women in trucking because she thinks they are usually excellent at work.
“I believe women have more empathy and better coordination and administration skills. We need more women.”
Asked about workplace harassment, Mahajan warned that our readers might not like her answer.
“I believe nobody can be abused until you want to be abused,” she said.
“We are in such a good country that has given us equal rights.”
Her advice to avoid workplace harassment: Don’t mix emotions with your profession.
Trucker, for now
As a young girl growing up in India, Jassimran Sidhu dreamt of becoming a pilot.
“In the near future, I am planning to go to a flying school,” she said.
For now, though, she has settled for the job of a truck driver – still a major accomplishment as she is just one of two South Asian women working as truck drivers in Ontario.
Sidhu came to Canada in 2015 as an international student pursuing studies in biotechnology, but she changed her mind and switched to office administration.
She soon realized that an office job was not for her.
“I wanted to do something different. I wanted to stand out, and I have always had a passion for having different job experiences and challenges,” she said.
That passion took her to trucking, and she has been a driver since 2017.
“When I started the job, I was supported by my family but I wasn’t supported by the society at all. They said, ‘That is a stupid job for a girl.’”
On the contrary, she believes it is an interesting career. She loves the freedom and flexibility it offers.
“It is really nice, and you don’t have to work under somebody.”
Also, she enjoys traveling and meeting people, and one day she hopes to meet her future (truck driver) husband.
“Yes, I will be marrying a truck driver because nobody else would understand what being a truck driver actually means,” Sidhu told Road Today.
Cop to CEO
Sukhdeep Kang is a woman of many hats.
The CEO of Armour Insurance Brokers of Mississauga, Ont., she is also a member of various trucking and insurance organizations.
Kang immigrated to Canada in 2001. Within two years, she became the second South Asian woman to be selected as an officer with the Peel Regional Police.
In 2006, she was nominated to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board (CICB), a provincial tribunal, which assesses financial compensation in violent crimes committed in Ontario.
Kang said it was her interaction with people from various backgrounds that led to a career in insurance.
Soon she launched her own business.
“I became the first South Asian woman in North America to own an independent insurance brokerage in 2010,” she said.
“I enjoy accepting challenges to tailor solutions for my client’s insurance requirements, especially in specialty risks. It gives me lot of satisfaction to educate my customers on the importance of adequate and proper coverages.”
As CEO, Kang said, she grooms and empowers her staff so that they can make the right decisions.
Her efforts have been recognized by business groups. In 2019, Kang was named the Female Entrepreneur of the Year by the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce (ICCC).
“Armour’s motto is women and youth empowerment, and I have mentored more than 45 women,” Kang said, adding that 90% her employees are women.
She believes one way of attracting more women to the trucking industry is giving them more training in safety and dispatch management.
Even more important is public acceptance, Kang said.
“Communities must accept women. Today there is an increasing number of couples in the trucking industry. A lot of young women are joining as well.”
Jaspreet Sodhi is a perennial learner, always seeking to master new skills.
She has held various roles since joining the Roadies Group of Cos., a mid-size fleet based in Mississauga.
“Right now, I am the most senior employee at Roadies,” she said.
Sodhi started as a receptionist, but she was convinced she was capable of doing something better, and started learning how payroll and dispatch work.
“And, then slowly I started doing accounts receivables and payables. I am working with that team right now.”
Jaspreet moved to Canada in 2010.
She had a bachelor’s degree in computer applications, but she knew Canadian credentials are needed to get a job.
So, she joined the Humber College certification program in business administration.
Several jobs followed.
Sodhi worked as a teacher’s assistant, security guard at a distribution center and an agent at a call center before being hired by Roadies six years ago.
“I wanted to work for a company that was growing, and I wanted to grow with it. I don’t believe in changing companies,” she said.
It looks like everything is happening the way Jaspreet wanted.
“I am superhappy,” she said.
Jaspreet has, however, no plans to become a truck driver.
“No. I am a mother of two kids. I would rather stay where I am.”
Superhappy, of course.
By Abdul Latheef