Being a woman in a male-dominant field can be intimidating. A women’s journey to succeed in a field that predominately men are full of obstacles in all shapes and sizes. You may feel like you are in the shadow of your male peers who “look the part” better than you might. As a woman in business, it may be difficult to see yourself as an asset if you aren’t getting the opportunities or recognition you deserve. It wasn’t until I started in the finance program that I noticed the majority of my classes are filled with young businessmen and taught by male professors. We can start by breaking down the stereotype and addressing the discrimination realities that hold us back from excelling in these predominantly male industries. For my fellow rising females that are experiencing unseen barriers, here are some ways to help you thrive in your male-dominated field.
Speak with confidence:
Being the only woman in the room can make you feel like an outcast but use it to your advantage. I know that when I am in a room full of educated people my anxiety skyrockets in the fear that I will say something wrong, or someone will challenge what I say. Public speaking used to be my biggest nightmare; I would practice for days when I would have to present something. However, I have realized with practice and experience it gets so much easier. Here are some ways that will make being the only woman in the room a little easier when you feel intimidated. Approach the topic of discussion with confidence. Use a strong poised tone and speak clearly, keep it professional and have your facts straight. You will want to display to your peers that you’re serious and looking to benefit from the conversation. Studies show that women are less likely than men to speak up or ask questions in meetings and in seminars even when the gender ratio is equal. It’s important we change that one woman at a time and takeover the boardroom or the classroom.
Know your worth
Self-worth is essential in order to succeed when you are the minority. People will always be quick to judge when they are intimidated by you or don’t feel confident about themselves. There are so many ways to cultivate confidence within yourself, use that to your ability. It’s important to not let gender expectations dictate your success whether it’s in the workplace, in the classroom, or just during your day-to-day experiences. Become more assertive and learn to say no. I find I spread myself too thin just to please those around me, but it’s okay to learn to put yourself first and only take on certain challenges. I know I’m a people-pleaser and will do just about anything so I can be the best friend, the hardworking employee, etc. It’s so much more than just wanting to be that person though. It’s about putting yourself first, acknowledging you don’t have time and finding alternative ways to allocate all the things on your to-do list without biting off more than you can chew.
Support other women
Women who support women accomplish amazing things. When women celebrate one another’s accomplishments, we build a sense of community and uplift each other. Giving other women the credit they deserve is one of the best ways to support others, especially if it’s in the workplace. Oftentimes, women’s professional goals or professional achievements get unacknowledged, not giving them the recognition they deserve. Try by creating a network of women with strong goals that will inspire you to pursue your own. A lot of majors or industries you may be pursuing can be competitive. It’s all about who can climb to the top first or who can get that internship first that half the class is striving for. However, that’s when you suddenly realize you’re pushing everyone else down around you when you could be supporting others while still pursuing your passions.
Find mentors that want you to succeed
What exactly is a mentor? A mentor is an experienced and trusted advisor that you can confide in during your professional endeavors. The right mentor will provide guidance, motivation, and emotional support. Anyone can benefit from a mentor no matter the stage in their career or even if they haven’t started it quite yet. Find a mentor with similar passions to yours, as well as experience that similarly relates to what your goals are. It’s important to find the perfect mentor, as you will be working with your mentor long-term and building a strong bond to mutually benefit one another by developing professional skills or expertise on the topic of interest. Once you have found your mentor, layout your goals and ambitions. Defining what you want to get out of your experience with them will make it easier for them to know exactly how to help you, whether it’s through networking, deciding a career path, or maybe even just through words of wisdom.