Tips for Breaking Into a Male-Dominated Industry

Being in an industry dominated by a particular gender can be innately tough. It all usually begins when you go to class and look around to see you’re one of the only females there. Before you know it, plans are being made in bathroom stalls that you can’t go into and you are feeling left out. You feel like you are the sole representation of your entire gender and that inhibits you from being able to speak up. You fear that you will say something wrong and instantly lose all of the credibility you have worked so hard to build up. That being said, trends are changing and people are more open-minded than ever. But that doesn’t mean it is any less difficult to break into an industry that does not appear to be on your side. Having been in this situation nearly my entire life, here is what I have learned.

Sometimes it’s all in your head

One of the most important lessons I have learned is to differentiate between when you are imagining yourself being pushed out from when you actually are. If you go in with a mentality that people are not going to respect you or listen to you right off the bat, then that is exactly how you’re going to perceive things. Learning to check your own biases and preconceptions will help you identify when you should stand up for yourself and when you should let it go.

Talk about it with your male counterparts

Discussing the blatant discrepancy with your male counterparts and even being able to crack some jokes about it will allow them to join you in conversation. This will do two things: it will open the line of communication between the two of you and it will allow your male counterparts to understand and sympathize with your point of view. Letting them in will help you get into conversations and will subsequently help you feel more comfortable in your situation, as you’ll feel as though you have allies. You are not alone in this situation. You have people who believe in you as much as you do, let them be a part of the process.

Don’t be afraid of being smart

I cannot count the number of times my female friends and I have gone over homework together, gone to class and have not once raised our hands when we knew the answers. Do not be afraid to state your opinion or answer questions in a public setting. This one takes a lot of practice to get over as speaking up is hard on its own. Add the pressure of trying to make a good impression and the anxiety can be debilitating. I guarantee that the best way to gain respect is to be confident in your abilities and to be able to interject your opinions into conversation. You’re good at what you do, that’s why you are where you are. Don’t lose sight of that.

As a female working in a male-dominated industry, it is easy to be intimidated. But with the right mindset you can dominate your workplace with intelligence and grace.