A woman entering a male-dominated industry may experience quite a lot of opposition, or at the very least comments. Women engineers or lorry drivers stand out because they are a minority; that may change in time but is still rare enough to cause comment. So what can you do to smooth your path into a traditionally male occupation? Here are some tips on what to do if you're working in a male-dominated industry …
1. Expect Opposition
When you enter a male-dominated industry, you are very likely to encounter a fair amount of opposition in one way or another. Attitudes change slowly, and older people in particular are used to very defined gender roles. Men - and women - may assume that you can't do any physical aspects of the job.
2. Prove Yourself
It's up to you to show that you are perfectly capable of doing your job as well as, maybe even better than your male co-workers. When you show your efficiency and capability, people will see that a woman can do the job, and do it well. Eventually your gender will become less of a factor - and maybe pave the way for other women to enter the same profession.
3. Speak up
If people treat you differently because you're a woman, speak up. Don't accept any unequal treatment, and make it clear that you are not going to tolerate any unacceptable behaviour. The more that you allow people to treat you differently, the more they will see that they can get away with it.
Progressing in your career is often about networking - you need to make contacts in your field. Get to know as many people as you can by attending conferences and networking events, and join professional associations. The more people that know about you, the more likely it is that you will hear about opportunities.
5. Demand Equality
You want to be treated equally? Yes, you should be able to expect that automatically, but in traditionally male professions you may have to insist upon it. Are your male co-workers paid more for doing the same job? Or are you given less to do because you're female? Put forward a case for why you should be treated equally, based on your legal rights and your abilities.
6. Know Your Rights
Find out what your legal rights are. Even if the law protects you against sex discrimination, it may be difficult to enforce those rights. But if you know what you are entitled to, it gives you a basis for pursuing your rights.
7. Acquire Knowledge
To do well in your career, you should keep your skills and knowledge up to date. Take courses and read journals so that you know about new developments in your field. This will help you to show that you are enthusiastic about your career and that you have the motivation and skills to advance.
It's not just women that are rarely found in certain professions. Think of how a man is treated if he wants to become a child-carer or midwife. There are a lot of male nurses but midwifery is still seen as a female profession. But hopefully one day there won't be such a thing as 'male' or 'female' professions, and people will get jobs on merit. Have you been told there are jobs that women shouldn't do?