Business of Men

Changing times: Succeeding in a male-dominated industry


The tides are turning, the see-saw of inequality is starting to level out and the age of women is glowing on the horizon like the first sign of dawn. We’re not there yet, but the movements are massive, unstoppable and careering along the tracks so fast that anything in its way will be tossed into the abyss.

For some women, this has seen them start to get the same pay as their male colleagues. For others, it has seen them start to climb the corporate ladder without having to worry about the horrendous hoops women before  had to leap through. And, for a growing section of girl boss’, they have taken it upon themselves to be successful in male-dominated industries.

Wall Street. The entertainment industry. Construction. Fire and water damage restoration. Investor relations and capital markets. Agriculture. These are all male-dominated industries no matter which door you walk through or which direction you point your gaze.

The good news is: the statistics are fast-changing. However, us women are still in the minority in these games, and that means it’s much harder for us to have our voices heard. That’s why we are here, writing this article. It’s to help women looking to excel in male-dominated industries.

So, without further ado, here are some tips and tricks that will help you make your professionals dreams a reality, no matter how one-sided the scale may be right now:

1. We all have an opinion. Share it.

If you’ve ever been a meeting with loads of guys sat around a table, then you will know that men aren’t shy about sharing their opinions on a matter. They say what is on their mind. Well, you should too. We know that it’s easier – and safer – to wait until everyone else has spoken and you’ve taken on all the information possible, but waiting too long can see you miss your opportunity. None of us complete. We all have gaps in our knowledge, less experience than the person next to us and we all have a particular set of skills; accept this, get used to it and stop letting it get in the way of your progress.

2. Don’t lose sight of you

Working in a male-dominated industry, especially one that’s still rife with stereotypes, can see you start to lose sight of who you are and start to mimic the behaviours and characteristics of those around you. Don’t let this happen. Stay true to yourself. This is your best asset. If you tend to be more naturally collaborative, then celebrate this by working with others. If you have always like to ask questions, even the “silly” ones, then ask questions. If you’re super-passionate about a particular thing, then be passionate about it, own it, make it yours. The reason for this is actually pretty simple: the more you cultivate your way of doing business, the more others will buy into it. The world is changing, you’ve just got to use that to your advantage.

3. Think ahead of the game

One of your biggest advantages is being on the outside of the stereotypes, which means you can think with a fresh approach, instead of being locked into the thought processes that came before. As such, think ahead of the game. Look for problems and then put forward your solutions. Look for the issues and then disrupt the thinking. If you work in the construction industry, where buy equipment happens often and a lot, don’t just accept you need to use the same supplier; look for new ways to buy your heavy equipment –  a new supplier, a new manufacturer, auction, whatever. If you work in fire and water damage restoration and you’re tired on the blank stare you get when knocking on doors to take mold tests, approach your colleagues about addressing this stereotype with your marketing – not only will this improve productivity, it will see your company get a jump on competitors. It’s all about thinking ahead of the game.

4. Be quick & emphatic with your points

We know this may seem odd and trivial and, dare we say, unnecessary, but being able to get your points across in a succinct and pertinent way is a skill you should underestimate. Not only will it give you floor space and put the spotlight on you (especially during meetings where everyone is trying to get a word in), you’ll be able to get the kind of airtime that you want. Think of it in terms of newspapers and internet searches; 89% of people read the headlines but only 14% go on to read the actual content. That’s what makes this a skill. It’s about making any interruptions seamless, important and relevant, and making your own chances instead of just waiting for them.

5. Go get yourself a mentor

There is so much value to be had in associating yourself with a mentor, especially when you are battling against the current in a male-dominated industry. But of all the benefits, it is having a sounding board to rely on that is most important. Of course, your mentor can be female or male, but there is something priceless and invaluable about finding a female mentor that can be by your side, lend you an ear and give you advice when you need it. Empathy and understanding are two of the most undervalued qualities in business and yet they’re both something you will find in a female mentor. They become the people that unlock your full potential; your best teacher and, more often than not, a great friend too.

6. Link up with more women

The whole reason we’re writing this article and you’re reading it is because we work in industries where we’re the minority. That is why you need to be actively trying to create your own strength in numbers by linking up with other women that work in your industry. See what communities are out there, sign up to online networks and pop along to Facebook and LinkedIn to see if there are any social channels that will help you expand your network. It doesn’t even have to be linking up with women in your industry, per se. Just going along to met ups with women in business is a great way to give yourself ongoing support, better understanding and opportunities. What’s more, it probably won’t just remain in the realm of business because you’ll find yourself making great friends too.

7. Forget the fear of asking for more

One of the most overlooked issues for women working in male-dominated industries is the matter of asking for more. We feel intimidated by the very prospect, especially if those in management above us are male. It could be that you feel you deserve a promotion or a raise, it doesn’t matter, that suffocating feel of intimidation sets in and we start to shy away from the very idea. Don’t let this happen. Now, we know this sounds easier than it is, but there are certain ways to approach this conversation that will make it easier, and the best of the bunch is arming yourself with information that demonstrates your worth. After all, your boss probably got to where he is by weighing up the facts and figures and coming to a logical conclusion. So, using this philosophy, approach any conversation on this front with clear expectations of what you want and don’t be scared about explaining why you believe you deserve what you’re asking for. Remember, it’ll be worth swallowing your fear and biting the bullet. It always is.

Like we’ve mentioned a couple of times throughout this article, the world is changing and equality is starting to sweep across every area of life and business like a gorgeous swarm of locusts. And if there is one thing this movement is bringing with it, it’s the fact: if you can do the job, then you will be given a chance. Right now, it is harder for women to make that point known, but the key to success is still the same for both men and women, so do not be afraid to go out there and get it. Do not be afraid to exude confidence, showcase your strengths, clear your throat and offer strong and calculated opinions and, most of all, do not be afraid to stay true to who you are. Right now, that is your best asset. It’s your best weapon.

Of course, to keep the momentum going and really push your chances of success against the odds, what we need to be doing is supporting and empowering each other. After all, we’re all building personal success-stories that make up the bigger picture, and that is exactly what ensures these industries won’t always been ruled by men or subjected to stereotypes. We are a force to be reckoned with and by doing what we are doing, we’re fast getting the respect and recognition we deserve.

Sure, people may still ask us why we chose the career we have, and not ask our male colleagues the same, but we’ll get there.

About Business Woman Media

Our women don’t want to settle for anything but the best. They understand that success is a journey involving personal growth, savvy optimism and the tenacity to be the best. We believe in pragmatism, having fun, hard-work and sharing inspiration. LinkedIn

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