Being a woman in a male-dominated field is challenging, but definitely not impossible. Yes, there are gender biases and office politics, but with motivation and confidence you can not only break into the field, but stay in it and succeed.
In my experience, the biggest difficulty women face in the workplace is not being taken seriously. This happens more often at the entry- and medium-level. Sometimes, you feel like you are being patted on the back and sent your way, even when you are making a valid contribution. If you are the only female in office, you will be asked to speak for the entire female population. It gets annoying, but there are ways to turn this into an advantage and use it to get ahead.
Here are some tips which will help you succeed in fields traditionally dominated by men – like engineering, technology or construction.
Be assertive and vocal
Do not be afraid to speak up in meetings and be assertive. As a woman, you might find yourself asked to take on tasks unrelated to your work. Some men tend to think of you as their assistant or helper. Being helpful is perfectly fine, but do not allow yourself to be bossed around by everyone.
Nothing makes more of an impact than confidence. Every word you speak, every action you take should be full of confidence. Performing your work flawlessly can be a big confidence boost and help make people take your word seriously.
Grab any chance to take on roles where you can demonstrate your skills. Don’t refrain from asking for help when needed. Put in your best effort and try to exceed your personal goals, in addition to what is expected of you.
Network to succeed
The Old Boy’s Club is very real and it is not going anywhere and if you can’t beat them, join them. Business networking is very essential in order to move up the career ladder. Identify and join professional organisations in your field and make it a point to attend the meetings. LinkedIn and other similar services are very useful in order to build contacts in your field.
Choose a mentor
It is sometimes difficult to find women in the same field who can offer both advice and support. But having a mentor who has faced the same challenges and succeeded in the same journey is very useful to bounce off ideas and get inspired. If you cannot find anyone in the same field, it is okay to reach out to individuals with experience in a different field. And once you are in a good position, be sure to pay it forward.
Focus on work
While asserting your personality and communicating well are important, your work should speak for itself. Always make that your primary focus and work on your organisational and decision-making skills. If you wish to take on a leadership role eventually, work on your personality traits and modify them accordingly.
Some women try to be invisible and hide their gender. But no matter how inconspicuously you dress, you will still be perceived as a woman. So embrace it and don’t be afraid of standing out. Use appropriate make-up and dress tastefully.
The most important thing is to believe in yourself and work hard. You are talented and have the required skills; otherwise you wouldn’t be in this position. Let no one tell you otherwise.