How women can excel in male-dominated industries

Credit: Getty Images/Paperkites
Credit: Getty Images/Paperkites
Being the only, or one of the only, women in a room can be intimidating. But here’s how you can thrive in a male-dominated industry, no matter what

Male-dominated occupations are those comprised of 25% of women or less – industries such as finance, construction, manufacturing and engineering may spring to mind. 

However, women are typically more vulnerable in male-dominated sectors, as they are usually less focused on diminishing toxic behaviours and creating inclusive environments. So much so, only 6.5% of women in the US work full-time in male dominated industries.

What challenges do women face in the workplace?

According to research, women face a number of challenges in male-dominated sectors, such as: 

However, it’s important that we address these challenges, and learn ways in which they can be overcome. 

Know what you want and stick to it

Research the industry to understand what you’re getting into. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in construction, for example, you’ll need to know that only 14% of construction workers are women. You will therefore be more likely to face adversity over other career paths, such as teaching, which is 70% women. Once you have come to terms with these statistics, focus on your career goals and do not let others deter you from achieving them. 

Create a woman’s network

Chances are, you won’t be the only woman in the business, so if you’re feeling isolated, they will be too. Joining a women’s network is an easy way in which you can build rapport with other women, while also creating a safe space for you to discuss challenges, successes and changes you’d like to see within the organisation. According to Catalyst (2017), internal women’s networks can help to address the gender challenges women face within a corporate environment, while reducing issues of isolation and exclusion.

Find and use your voice

You won’t excel in any industry if you sit on the sidelines, but for women in male-dominated careers, it’s even more crucial to know and say exactly what you want. Speaking up can be difficult, especially if you feel like an outsider, however we have a useful guide here. Misspeaking and making mistakes is a common part of daily life, especially in the workplace, so it’s vitally important that you become comfortable with speaking your opinion, even if it’s not what others want to hear. In fact, this study found that participants that shared their opinions more produced higher-quality work.

Don’t try to fit in

This may seem like a difficult concept to get your head around, but the bottom line is to just be yourself – don’t go out of your way to bond and create friendships with male colleagues. By resisting the urge to ‘become one of the guys’, you’ll be able to attract authentic relationships, while staying true to yourself. Trying to become someone you’re not, will not only be exhausting, but others will likely spot it, too. 

Learn how to say ‘no’

Being a “yes” woman may make fitting in a little easier, but it won’t earn your respect amongst your peers. According to Dr. Emily Anhalt, many of us avoid saying no because we don’t want to come across as difficult - but in business, it doesn't work like that. It’s easy to get swept away saying ‘yes’ to coffee runs, working late or extra projects because we think it's a way of building rapport, but alas, standing up for yourself will prove to be much more beneficial in the long run. To learn more about the benefits of saying no, click here.


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