It’s Not Just a Man’s World
Looking for a new career? 4 tips to help you buck stereotypes and excel in male-dominated industries.
Did you know that women make up more than half of the U.S. population, but are only 24% of engineers and scientists, 2.6% of construction workers and 13.2% of police officers? Only 11% of U.S. tech start-ups have female founders or CEOs and, of the Fortune 500 CEOs, only 20% are women. That’s not ok! And it’s up to us to change it.
We looked into why this is happening and made some interesting discoveries, which basically boiled down to the fact that women are just as capable as men (or more so!) but society’s oppressive gender roles that are holding women back. Nevertheless, breaking into a male-dominated field can seem like an incredibly uphill battle. But it isn’t impossible. With the availability of many certification programs, trade schools and associate degrees, more and more women are braving this so-called man’s world to make it their own. Staying in it is the real challenge. Here’s how you can increase your chances for success:
Reversing gender stereotypes
Try to avoid constantly comparing yourself to your male counterparts. Instead, focus your valuable time and energy on doing what is necessary to make it to the position you strive for. We’ve all been told that some careers, like those in the programming industry, are mostly male because men are just more interested in those particular fields. But that’s just a stereotype. The only thing separating you from the job is learning to code and making some samples (there are lots of non-profits who could use a volunteer programmer!)
The next time someone tells you, “men are just better at some things and women are better at others,” don’t fall for it.
Stereotypes are more of an excuse than a reason you can’t do something. According to the American Psychological Association, there are no proven cognitive differences between men and women. Cultural factors greatly influence the perceived differences in performance, but males and females have no advantages or disadvantages based solely on gender (if anything, women have the advantage!)
There’s power in numbers: Join a network!
Networking shouldn’t just be about making friends or connecting with those folks with whom you have common interests. Networking is about making connections with other influential women who can help advance your career. Focus on professional organizations as their members are more diverse. With any ethnic or gender minority organization, a place to discuss common ground and shared ideas is enriching and encouraging. If you don’t find an organization that is as inclusive as you’d like, start one yourself.
Articulate is the word
Speak up for yourself! The best way to get over any fears you might have is to be prepared and to be confident. Often women are timid or are afraid they won’t be taken seriously. If you develop your reputation as a credible expert, you’ll be more apt to jump into the mix and share your opinions. You can also try to make a list of all the things you like and dislike about your current situation and work closely with your boss to make improvements.
There are a few ways you can work on being more articulate every day, including:
- Increasing your vocabulary. Work on learning new words and trying them out in your daily life. It will make you more confident and verbose, not to mention you’ll always know the answer when someone asks, “What’s the word I’m looking for?”
- Increasing your comprehension. Filling your free time with news radio, science articles and current events will help you be on top of any conversation you may stumble upon. Don’t be afraid to interact in political debates or intense discussions.
Find a guide and keep learning
It can be tricky to track down a female mentor, so get creative! LinkedIn is a great tool to reach out to people in a similar career field or simply reach out to those you find inspiring. Be open to seeking out and learning from those who have experience, not just an existing business connection. Surround yourself with those who uplift you.
“I don’t mind living in a man’s world as long as I can be a woman in it.” — Marilyn Monroe
Incorporating learning into your everyday routine, like reading a book or attending an industry-specific conference, will help you further cultivate your passion. If you’re truly working towards something you find important, it drives you meet the expectations and goals that you’ve set for yourself and pushes you to overcome any obstacles.
Your new mantra: Anything a man can do, I can do better!
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