How To Excel In A Male-Dominated Industry

How to excel in a male-dominated industry

woman in a male-dominated industry

Despite the distance we’ve covered thus far, women are still expanding into the working world. There remain a number of largely unchartered male-dominated fields. Consider engineering, manufacturing and construction: you likely don’t picture women dominating these fields. In fact, you probably picture the masculine imageries that have been painted for us by society, the ones only showing men and their heavy machinery, certainly not fit for a ‘delicate’ woman.

Take construction, for example. You likely picture something like this, right?

But what about women like Cindy Krisko of Cleveland Brothers? It’s not often we picture a successful woman in the construction industry.

Cleveland Brothers

This perpetuated image of male-only industries often creates obstacles for professional women entering these fields. Whether it’s earning the respect of male counterparts or being judged for having succeeded as a woman – there are often hurdles to jump.

That’s not to say it’s impossible to carve a place for yourself in these industries. It’s not; it’s just sometimes more challenging. But you can do it. Carry yourself confidently, putting forth these actionable tips, in order to excel in your male-dominated work world:

1. Make Yourself Heard

Women are stereotypically the more silent gender – quiet, accepting, passive. While men gallivant around, making demands and openly stating their desires, women are generally more reserved and less vocal.

Don’t play into this generalisation. Articulate your opinions confidently. Even though many people feel rattled when challenged, it’s better to be heard than to disappear into the shadows. You can’t expect anyone to know what you’re thinking, so if you stay silent, you will rarely get the things you want.

2. Don’t Make Excuses

If misogynists are going to make an argument against female workers, it’s that they have trouble balancing work and family, or that they’re too weak or emotional. Obviously this is a sweeping generalisation, and we need to demonstrate its lack of truth. We can’t take time off work any more than anyone else. We can’t play the female card when requesting sick days. We have to be strong, avoid excuses and take our job responsibilities by the balls.

3. Dress the Part

Just because you’re the only employee who can wear a skirt does not mean you should. In fact, de-feminizing your wardrobe may be the best thing you could do for yourself in a male-dominated practice. Don’t subject yourself to judgments or invite wandering eyes. Dress conservatively, even masculine, while still maintaining an aura of professionalism.

4. Don’t be a Doormat

Women have traditionally held jobs like ‘secretary’ and ‘receptionist’ – jobs that cater to male ‘superiors’. It’s critical to shake that perspective. If male co-workers aim to treat you as an inferior, vocally and confidently set them straight. Don’t be afraid to reject their requests. No, you won’t go get them coffee. Hell no, you won’t run out and grab lunch for everybody. You won’t do these things, unless, of course, everyone (males and females alike) takes a turn doing them.

5. Utilise Your Strengths

Excelling in any job – whether you’re surrounded by all women or all men – requires knowing and using your strengths. In male-dominated industries, women should be particularly mindful of their ‘masculine’ strengths – such as assertiveness and boldness.

While tapping into these areas, and also demonstrating ‘feminine’ characteristics (communicative, team-oriented, nurturing, etc.), a female employee can show that she’s the whole package and then some.

6. Find a Mentor

It’s a sad reality that, no matter how well you do your job, some may still view you as an underdog. Find someone within the leadership team who appreciates your work, and add them to your team. Perhaps it’s a man who wants to support you, someone who can provide a useful, masculine perspective. It could be a woman who has stood where you’re standing. Seek such guidance and allow them to help you find footing in the industry.

7. Join the Bonding

Whether it’s in or out of the office, don’t shy away from exchanges between your male counterparts. Read up on football, understand the rules of golf and, sure, throw back a cold one if you want. Prepare to dive in and show that, in addition to rocking your workload, you can engage in social exchanges as well. Fearlessly join in because 1) you never know what you might miss and 2) having friends at work is beneficial in many ways.

8. Check Your Attitude

Regardless how you may feel about your co-workers, keep your attitude positive. It’s hard to earn anyone’s respect when you’re unpleasant and negative all the time – no matter how well you do your job. Keep your chin up and don’t let the haters get you down – that’s key in any job, really.

9. Keep Learning New Things

Closing off – refusing to listen to and understand others – is an easy way to segregate yourself from the males around you. Your mind should be open, ready to soak up new information and better your work performance on a constant basis. As you’re working to improve, take the words of others into consideration. This will help you become a more important part of the workplace team.

10. Be Smart

When making decisions at work, be firm, but also make sure you know what you’re talking about. Don’t jump to conclusions or be rash; when you’re calculated and knowledgeable, you leave no room for anyone to doubt you. Being on top of what you stand for is key in excelling in any industry. When you’re the only woman in a room full of men, it’s more than key. It’s necessary.

They’ve done it before: women have succeeded in male-dominated roles. They’ve done it before and they’ll do it again. Join the success stories and proudly represent your gender as a female leader in the workplace.

Sarah Landrum

Sarah Landrum recently graduated from Penn State with degrees in Marketing and PR. Now, she's a freelance writer and career blogger sharing advice on navigating the work world and achieving happiness and success in your career. You can find her tweeting on her coffee breaks @SarahLandrum