Breaking Barriers: Succeeding In A Male Dominated Industry

With the emergence of the #MeToo movement, you’d be forgiven for thinking that things were changing rapidly, not only in Hollywood, but across the world of business too. While equality is high up on the agenda, shifts in attitude are hard to measure. Women remain woefully few and far between in many industries such as engineering and the sciences. The image of two individuals, one male and one female, competing for the same role with equal experience and qualifications will often still see the man win out due to the employer’s fear that the woman will swan off to give birth to a child. This outdated, neanderthal attitude still exists today no matter how much lip service companies pay to the notion of equality in the workplace for all.

For women to truly break barriers throughout their career, they need to realize the need to compete more, work harder and put in mammoth amounts of effort compared to their male counterparts. For a woman in a male dominated industry, there may not be the incessant cat calling and whistles of decades gone by, but there may still be an implicit sexism underlying every decision that an employer makes. There is a reason why a woman with the same qualifications and experience as a man will be paid less: sexism. The pay gap has been present since the dawn of humankind, and while it is narrowing, it is not equal. So how can a woman compete and be successful in a male dominated industry?

Be Proactive

Although the need for females to work a little bit harder than their male counterparts to be recognized isn’t fair, it is a reality and something that women across engineering, science, and medical industries know all too well. It’s vital that you work to get your voice heard. The male testosterone within a room of corporate silverbacks can be challenging to compete with, however, you must try to hold your own. Don’t fall into the trap of waffling, blowing hot air and jargon. When you speak up during meetings, make people listen. Use a confident tone, speak meaningfully and offer something new to the table. With a cacophony of booming male voices, it can be tricky to hold your own but be forceful and be heard. Don’t apologize for interrupting others, challenge viewpoints and you will be seen as a credible professional worthy of being listened to.

Get Skilled Up

As a woman in a male dominated industry, you need to excel and be head and shoulders above your male counterparts. While they go about beating their chests, ensure that you have the qualifications and experience to back up your achievements. If you work in the transport industry, look for a postgraduate qualification that will enhance your leadership prowess. If you are an engineering expert within your field, enhance your standing by enrolling in an online electrical engineering degree to help you specialize in your chosen industry. Self-improvement will not only enable you to apply for better roles with greater pay, but it will also enable your confidence to grow. Becoming an industry expert, especially in a niche area, will help others see you in a different light within the workplace. Others will come to you for advice, ask your opinion more readily and be eager to impress you.

Studying online and in your own time shows any employer, male or female, that you have a commitment to lifelong learning and continually improving your skill set. Keep abreast of the latest technological developments and working methodologies within your industry sector, and you will be able to compete.

Universities and colleges are even more eager, since the emergence of the #MeToo movement, to attract the brightest female minds onto their sciences, technology and engineering courses. This vast swathes of untapped talent is now ready to be tapped. Imagine if the nation utilized the finest female minds. GDP for the country would go through the roof as prejudices were broken down and equality was achieved. For the moment, this is still a pipe dream. However, by improving yourself and acting as an inspiration for fellow females within your industry, you will be doing your part.

Ask For A Raise

Men do it all the time. They will head to a meeting with their boss, lay all of their achievements out on the table and do their best to try and convince their boss of their worth in the effort to get a raise. This is the way the world of business works. You don’t simply have to wait to be offered a bonus or a menial yearly increase in your pay packet.

Don’t blast into your employer’s office all guns blazing demanding a pay rise but at the same time don’t shy away from your quest for more pay and be meek and timid. You need to find the perfect balance. If you have been working in your current role for a while and you have a list of achievements and can show the positive impact you have had within the company, make a list, collate the data and present it to your boss. Be assertive, set out your expectations and explain your reasoning. While you might not achieve the pay rise you initially request, the chances are that you will be able to negotiate a pay rise with your employer. No boss wants to lose a valuable asset – especially one who has brought revenue to the company.

Cultural Change

In the twenty first century, it’s imperative that you choose to lead by example and don’t turn a blind eye to the unacceptable past norms now be weeded out of the workplace. If you are the victim of sexual harassment or unwanted attention at work, call it out. There should be a whistleblowing policy within your workplace to enable the cultural change that is growing within society to take place in your office.

As the #MeToo movement has taken off, we mustn’t forget that younger men in particular, also find stories of harassment, abuse and bullying based on gender absolutely abhorrent and they are allies to the cause. This isn’t a women vs. men battle. This is a society vs. sexists battle. Together you can shift attitudes at work and help your peers see women at work in a different light. As more and more women enroll in STEM based courses at university, excel in their chosen fields of study and enter the once male dominated industries of the past, a natural equilibrium may be reached. For now, you will have to set the example, get your voice heard and work just that little bit harder to compete with your male counterparts.

It is not impossible for women to become leaders within their chosen fields. Mary Barra is the CEO of General Motors, Indra Nooyi is the CEO of PepsiCo, and Ginni Rometty is the President of IBM. These women have excelled within their industries and utilized their skills and talents to get where they are today. These women are icons, influential and inspirational for those girls heading to university and entering the corporate world today.

While breaking down barriers within male-dominated industries may not happen overnight, if you put your name to the cause and commit to aiding the shift in culture change in your own place of work, equality will be achieved. While you may have to be more proactive and work a little harder to be heard, you can succeed in a male-dominated industry and reach the pinnacle of your chosen career.

Published in Business
Founder & Editor | Website

Emily Sprinkle, also known as Emma Loggins, is a designer, marketer, blogger, and speaker. She is the Editor-In-Chief for Women's Business Daily where she pulls from her experience as the CEO and Director of Strategy for Excite Creative Studios, where she specializes in web development, UI/UX design, social media marketing, and overall strategy for her clients.

Emily has also written for CNN, Autotrader, The Guardian, and is also the Editor-In-Chief for the geek lifestyle site