When we think about working women taking up jobs in a male-dominated environment we tend to conjure up images of women working in construction or as plumbers or electricians and whilst many women have gone on to forge good careers in these typically male oriented roles, even many white collar professions are still classed more as a domain for men more than women.
The good news, however, is that equality laws and campaign groups have helped more and more women into jobs and professions which would once have only been filled by their male counterparts. Thanks to gender discrimination legislation, women also have an avenue via which they can protest if they think they have been a victim of discrimination.
Most companies are aware that women have great skills, personal qualities and talent to bring to the mix and many companies also appreciate the importance of workplace diversity. Legislation also means that women know that they can take action if they feel unfairly treated.
Women however, are still largely unrepresented at board level not necessarily as a direct result of blatant discrimination, but perhaps of a mindset or attitude that may take a few more (read ‘many’) years to overcome.
That said, for women who are just starting out their careers in an area dominated by men, here are some good tips for ensuring that things run as smoothly as possible.
1. Be Yourself
‘Be yourself’ you don’t need to come across all ‘macho’ and manly nor should you play on your feminine side. You’ve basically been hired, just as the men have, on your skills and abilities to do the job. Use that as the basis to be the person you would like others to see – not your gender or trying to be ‘one of the lads’.
2. Speak Out at Injustices
It’s sad but true…men can sometimes behave in ‘packs’ indulging in shop-floor or office ‘banter’. What might have started out as playful teasing can sometimes lead to more serious gender discrimination.
Don’t be put off if a male colleague says or does something disparaging or distasteful. Simply pick your moment and be assertive, confronting the offender in a non-aggressive and professional manner telling them how their actions have made you feel and to refrain from them further. You’ll often find that your male colleagues will respect you more if you stand up for yourself.
3. Get Yourself a Mentor
You’ll probably find that you won’t be the only female within the company working in a similar role to you. If there is already a female colleague, seek them out and ask them for any advice and tips. They’ve been there longer than you have and will be a useful ally to you in terms of supporting you. They may even volunteer to mentor you but, at least, they should be available to provide you with support and answer any questions you may have.
Alternatively, if you are the only female working there, you might wish to do some research and look at networking possibilities to find women working for other companies who are in a similar position to yourself. This will enable you to bring up issues which you might feel uncomfortable raising within your own workplace.
Basically, as long as you can do the job and do it well and are friendly to approach and willing to mix, you should find that, in this day and age, being a woman working in a so-called ‘man’s world’ presents few problems, if any. Sure, the guys might invite you down to the pub on a Friday afternoon to ‘sink a few pints’ and, whilst this is likely to be a good way of establishing a good relationship with your male colleagues, you shouldn’t feel a compulsion to go – simply because they’ve asked you to if it’s not your thing. After all, you’ve been hired upon merit – not gender and whether you go to the pub or not will have no bearing on how you do your job or on the way your male colleagues interact with you.