By Erin Ducharme
International Women’s Day is a time to acknowledge and appreciate all that we can accomplish. I am proud to be a woman in the transportation field. I have been fortunate to grow up with several empowered female figures in my life. My mother and grandmother have taught me that a woman can be just as successful as any man. My gender does not drive or hinder me. I have learned that it is more about who you are as a person that defines a good leader and, ultimately, drives success.
When I first started at Bloom [Tour & Charter Services in Taunton, Mass.] I did not know anything about the bus business. I graduated college with a business degree and then went to work at Fidelity Investments. Leaving Fidelity to join a family owned transportation company was outside of my comfort zone. I started in the industry at the age of 25 as an assistant controller for our two companies, H&L Bloom, (school bus division) & Bloom’s Bus Lines (motorcoach division). Over the past 12 years, I have gained confidence through learning all aspects of the business. My roles have expanded to director of Finance and Accounting as well as head of our Customer Service, Marketing and Tour Division. Through these positions, I interact daily with all the departments within our organization from maintenance to operations to customer service. I was also able to obtain my MBA while continuing to work full time. I use the knowledge I gain from people and experiences to become a better leader and help others in the transportation business. Knowledge is power and is a gender equalizer.
I believe in pushing myself beyond my comfort zone to achieve the next level. Being a woman in a male-dominated industry has strengthened the person I am today. Several years ago, I was given the greatest piece of advice from Mark Bloom, the owner of my company. He told me that one of my greatest strengths was my voice and that I should not be afraid to use it. This notion has stayed with me over the years and has made me a better leader. I think it is important to be self-aware, listen to your inner voice, make decisions and remain confident in your abilities. I am no longer afraid to use my voice and state my opinion even if it goes against the grain.
I became a member of Women in Buses a few years ago and currently serve on the leadership team as vice chair of Membership. The council supports and empowers women in the industry. I am proud of what our team accomplishes and relish the opportunities to network with the members. In 2020, we have already grown our membership by 34 percent from the previous year. It is amazing to see the strength and presence that women have in the industry. I believe that the stigma of being a purely male-dominated transportation business is being erased. Through organizations such as Women in Buses, women are being recognized and celebrated for their achievements just as men are. Women are having a greater presence and taking on more leadership and ownership roles. I see the culture changing at Bloom. We now have the most women motorcoach operators that we have ever had.
My final thoughts are that success comes from within. It is that inner drive within all of us. We are not defined by our gender but rather by our willingness to go beyond the obstacles placed in front of us and achieve our goals. It is up to you to decide what you want and to use your greatest asset: your voice.
Erin Ducharme is the director of Accounting & Finance for Bloom Tour & Charter Services in Taunton, Mass. To contact Erin, email email@example.com. To learn more about ABA’s Women In Buses Council, visit https://www.buses.org/about/councils/WIB.