Being the only woman, or one of only a few women, in a male-dominated workplace can be extremely challenging; there are more likely to be cases of sexism, fewer people to look up to as role models, and generally an atmosphere of exclusion towards women.
You should be incredibly proud of yourself for breaking into a male-dominated business or industry, but this shouldn’t have to be the way it is. At Aspiring to Include, we believe in gender equality on all levels across all workplaces. We believe that no woman should have to be the only one in her office, and it is the responsibility of those in charge to change that. However, if you are one of these women, we want to provide some helpful tips on surviving and thriving!
Surviving in a male-dominated company
- Staff networks
Staff networks are a support system and vehicle for change for those in the minority within their workplace. If you are one of only a few women in your team or the whole company, try and get together to support each other through a staff network. Having other women who have a similar experience to you will be hugely helpful when dealing with the masculine culture of your workplace. You can also put together policies and plans for improving gender equality in the workplace. For example, you might visit schools and universities to show other young women that they can aspire to work in your industry.
- Put pressure on your managers to hire more women.
It shouldn’t be your responsibility to enforce equality and inclusivity in your workplace; however, sometimes it takes one person highlighting a problem that others haven’t realised for change to be made. Tell your bosses how unfair it is that the company is dominated by men and show them the improvements to the business by actively seeking more female employees. You could also offer to join the interview process to provide a more diverse recruitment panel. This may result in a significant number of female employees.
- Find women in other companies for mentoring and support.
If you are in the minority in your own company, you might want to look slighter further afield to find avenues for support. Networking is a great way to meet new people and find new work opportunities; one of those might be getting involved in a mentoring programme with other women in other organisations. Having a mentor can help you to build confidence, speak to somebody who understands your world, and navigate the challenges of a male-dominated industry with someone in the same boat.
- Find male allies in your workplace.
As well as finding other women who can support you, it can be beneficial to find male allies in your office who support gender equality and recognise the struggle of working in such a masculine atmosphere. Having somebody who can stand up for you, and support you and your cause, is essential for any person of any gender. Still, it is especially important when you are going against the grain and trying to make structural change. There will be men in your workplace that also disagree with the lack of female staff and will want to help create an equal workplace for all.
To find out more information on improving gender equality and women’s rights in the workplace, have a read of our guide to supporting women at work.