Socialized ideas of “men’s work” versus “women’s work”, unconscious gender bias, and inadequate training are just some reasons it has taken women decades to permeate male-dominated industries. With diversity now one of the key criteria upon which employers attract talent and measure performance, employers are aiming to achieve greater gender diversity to increase organizational effectiveness. Here are some male-dominant industries in which women are blazing trails:
In construction, women are literally breaking ground. What is perhaps one of the most highly male-dominated industries, it has seen an impressive 94% spike in female leadership in the past decade. In industries like construction, the tightening labor market suggests women have an advantage on the horizon. Employers are looking beyond traditional recruits, prisoners and refugees, for example – which continues to broaden their perspective of the entire labor pool.
Nearly 1 in 3 construction companies promoted women to senior roles in 2018, working both on the job site and as administrative leaders. According to House Method, more women are becoming licensed contractors than ever before. This has become especially apparent as women become more involved in all aspects of home improvement as well.
What has enabled such advancement in an industry where women have long been disenfranchised? Nationally recognized groups such as the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) and Women in Operations provide mentorship, marketing and networking opportunities. Additionally, high schools and universities now provide greater learning opportunities and exposure to the field – alleviating a largely systemic issue of barring women from blue-collar work.
Finance is notorious for its working hours, which may easily total up to 60 hours per week. The nature of this industry has shaped sentiment around it. A Harvard Business School study surveyed finance professionals from a variety of fields – corporate finance, retail banking, venture capital, etc. – who revealed the idea that women are more likely to forgo a career in finance to avoid the working hours and raise a family. However, data shows that only 2% of women are willing to leave the workforce to raise a family – demonstrating the discrepancy in attitudes versus reality.
Women who have broken into the finance industry are being invited by clients to meetings by virtue of the fact that they are women. While the demands of client work may seem a deterrence of females from the field, female interviewees have mentioned that clients remark the lack of women on calls. They also remark, though the unwelcoming culture of finance institutions largely prevent women’s entry, women are welcomed by clients.
Aside from positive client perceptions, why make the case for more women in finance? Finance goes beyond the idea of making money, and is rather about creating impact through money management. Three-fourths of Americans report difficulty saving money, and several women have spoken to the opportunity to do good within the industry. For example, a female CEO of a small insurance company has begun offering free educational webinars to consumers. In this sense, women may assume a larger advisory role within finance and develop the industry’s prevailing culture and business initiatives.
Investment banking company Morgan Stanley can attest to the benefits of more females in finance. Research findings confirm that gender diversity, particularly in corporate settings, can translate to increased productivity, greater innovation, better decision-making, and higher employee retention and satisfaction.
While not exactly an industry, the world of entrepreneurship and startups has seen a steady increase in women over the past century. Typical barriers to business ownership for women include social expectations, access to funding, and work-life balance. But the millions of US-based female owned businesses demonstrate that the playing field is becoming more favorable.
The recent surge in Canadian female entrepreneurship suggests that a supportive national infrastructure can generate women’s economic empowerment. Critical skills are taught in business schools, reinforced by public and private organizations, and are evident in a large number of companies that provide a strong culture of mentorship. By definition, startups foster innovation through diversity of thought – therefore, it is critical to have diversity represented throughout the workforce.
Within healthcare, women represent 65% of customers and clinicians, only 13% of the C-suite (CEO). This imbalance may be attributed to societally-driven assumptions around family priorities and career ambitions, but these assumptions have a systemic impact on women’s performance and job recognition, which in turn, limit their opportunities to promote.
Trust is one of the top factors driving promotion to industry leadership, and perceptions around women’s leadership capabilities have made it more difficult for women to achieve trust in male-dominated decision making areas. However, there is strong evidence that having women in upper management and on corporate boards is associated with improved financial performance and enhanced accountability.
Women are effective at demonstrating participatory leadership, through which they can have a positive influence on the social motivations and achievement of organizations. They also demonstrate greater respect for the working environment and a commitment to operational ethics – which is essential to garnering trust within the healthcare industry. Leaders who are trusted are able to influence others and champion any vision successfully, which suggests that women may make more effective leaders within healthcare.
There is a long road ahead before women can achieve parity across male-dominated industries, but both genders are making strides. Through providing mentorship and network opportunities, opening up the talent pool for recruits, and serving as advocates within HR, organizations may create more gender-balanced environments where women can thrive.