How women can make their way in male-dominated fields

Women have made great strides in various industries over the first two decades of the 21st century. Highly publicized pursuits of gender equality, such as the ongoing gender discrimination lawsuit by the United States Women’s National Team against the U.S. Soccer Federation, have done much to further the cause for women in a great number of industries. But the fight for equality is far from over, as evidenced by the array of fields that remain predominantly male.

In 2017, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics tracked the percentages of women in a variety of professions, ultimately finding that many professions are male-dominated. For example, the BLS found that only 20 percent of software developers were female, while roughly 63 percent of financial analysts are male. Each of those fields can be lucrative, suggesting women can benefit greatly from making inroads into these professions and others in which they are underrepresented.

Women may face an uphill battle as they look to establish themselves and subsequently thrive in male-dominated fields. That challenge can be overcome by employing various strategies.

• Build your network. Networking is essential for modern professionals. According to a global survey of nearly 16,000 LinkedIn members across 17 countries, 79 percent of professionals agree that networking is valuable for career progression. Networking also can make it easier for women to thrive in male-dominated fields, as they can seek advice from professional colleagues, male and female, about hurdles they can expect. In addition, professional networks can serve as support networks as well. That can be invaluable as women face the challenge of establishing themselves in male-dominated fields.

• Work with professional women’s organizations. Many professional organizations now cater exclusively to women within certain professions. Working with these groups places women in direct contact with peers with varying levels of experience. That means women will have access to people who have faced and overcome challenges at various phases of their careers.

• Work with your employer. Wage gaps have narrowed in many professions, but that’s not the only way industries have become more accommodating to women. Many businesses now recognize the need to change not just their pay structures, but also their working environments to make them more accommodating to women. Women who encounter problems at work, such as routine resistance to their ideas and input, should discuss such frustrations with their employers.

Women working in male-dominated fields face many challenges. But such challenges can be overcome in various ways.

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