It is no secret that even after all these years there are still major gender discrepancies in our workplaces. Numerous fields — particularly those in trades and STEM career paths — are still male-dominated and successful women feel few and far between. In some of these fields, men may outnumber women nearly 10-to-1.
Though this has been a reality for a long time, it is slowly starting to change. Today, more women are entering fields that have been previously dominated by men. As they do, more women are inspired to follow in their footsteps. Such inspiration is highly valuable to their success.
Being one of the first to break into an industry is never easy, though. Many women struggle to reach their career goals, and once there also struggle to feel as though they deserve their hard-won position. Finding support and work-life balance are essential components to long-term success.
Breaking Into the Industry
Doing the work to gain the skills is the first step in reaching career goals in any industry. But this is especially true for women in male-dominated fields. Many women recognize that regardless of how unfair it is, they may be held to higher standards than their male counterparts. This means it is critical to be at the top of the game and know the ins and outs of the job to qualify.
This also means brushing up on soft skills such as willingness to be collaborative and adaptive to new situations. A strong focus on emotional intelligence doesn’t hurt either. This is true for nearly every industry and corporation. Even on an international job front, these skills are imperative.
Unsurprisingly, gender stereotypes have received a great deal of attention and critique, but they still exist even in today’s workforce. There are differences in philosophy of how these should be addressed and how women’s empowerment should be played out. Some groups act as though men are a target to be beaten, while others focus on breaking down barriers and giving women tools to compete on equal footing with their male counterparts.
For those women who have ‘made it’ in their chosen fields, many still have lingering feelings of self-doubt and struggles with confidence in their leadership roles. Breaking down barriers and closing the gender gap is not easy. Studies in STEM fields have indicated that work environments and negative stereotypes about women can abound in these fields and that there often are not female mentors that can offer support to newer women who are struggling.
A lack of self-confidence is often cited as a leading reason as to why women don’t pursue promotions or recognition for the hard work they are doing. Building a strong support network can be critical in addressing this issue. Things such as searching for a strong female mentor, collaborating with other women in the field, and evaluating how certain actions and words can be interpreted by coworkers/striving to be authentic can make a huge difference.
Experts also recommend a handful of thought exercises that can help build confidence and battle inner demons that may be holding women back. For instance, focusing on the positive things that happen every day such as giving a great presentation, helping a coworker solve a problem, or reaching out to management with new ideas can help. Working towards making your voice heard and always asking directly for what you want can also make a difference over time.
For many women, having a career is just a piece of the things they do in their lives. Many women also have families to come home to or a group of great friends to catch up with. Finding balance and support outside of work can be a profound means of helping succeed in a male-dominated workplace.
The fact of the matter is people can work only so hard to get ahead in their jobs. Without finding a work-life balance, eventually, things will start to unravel. Multiple studies have indicated that having a mental break from work and a full life outside of the workplace can actually make employees less stressed, more creative, and ultimately far more productive.
Work-life balance can mean many things for different people. Some women find that working a full day and then going home and not thinking about work at all for the evening is the way to be. Others find that taking a long lunch to exercise really helps them avoid burning out. Still others achieve work-life balance by saving up vacation hours and taking a lot of time off work all at once.
Becoming a successful woman in a male-dominated field is tough. It requires being prepared and developing skills that will help women thrive in a career path. Managing the stresses and doubt that can come with being in the position through mentorship and support is also valuable. Finally, achieving a quality work-life balance can be the pillar of success to strive towards and ultimately lead to the greatest success.
Noah Rue is a journalist and content writer, fascinated with the intersection between global health, personal wellness, and modern technology. When he isn’t searching out his next great writing opportunity, Noah likes to shut off his devices and head to the mountains to disconnect.