JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — When Glenda Alexander started as a seasonal worker at UPS in Jacksonville after the military, it was 45 years ago. Since then she's become a trailblazer and is helping change the game for women in multiple ways.
"They told me that I would be the first Black female in Jacksonville, Florida to be a UPS delivery driver," Alexander said. "I'm like, 'Okay, now y'all got me feeling like I got to be successful.' So I took on the challenge. It was not easy. I drove that package car. I don't know if I cried more than I drove, but I didn't give up. I kept it going."
The truck driving industry is still short tens of thousands of drivers, according to industry estimates by the American Trucking Associations. One thing researchers say has helped the shortage is getting more women into the industry.
Although Alexander wasn't driving 18-wheelers, she became a mentor to women like her niece who did. To this day fewer than 14 percent of professional drivers are women, according to the Women In Trucking Association. It's safe to say Alexander has helped that number go up by becoming a mentor to her coworkers as well.
"She came up after me," Alexander said about a coworker. "And she would always tell me, 'Glenda, if it wasn't for you I don't think I'd hang in here with it.'"
Alexander's trailblazing can also be credited for helping whittle down the gender wage gap, which is even greater for Black women. Women are still overrepresented in lower-paying jobs, the largest contributing factor to the gender wage gap, according to a blog by the U.S. Department of Labor.
Black women make 64 percent of what a white man makes, the U.S. Census Bureau reports. According to Pew Research Center, the gender wage gap in the U.S. hasn't changed much in the last 20 years.
"Us being women in what was once considered male jobs, we can overcome all that," Alexander said. "It's no longer just a male's job; it's anybody's job. If you have a mindset to do it, you can do it."