Complacency from Women in Male-Dominated Industries

Posted April 25, 2012 by Marcy Twete in Career Moves

I spent a lot of time networking with women. Luncheons, happy hours, 1:1 networking meetings. In my networking, I meet women from all industries and walks of life, but what’s interesting to me is this. I rarely meet women from some of the most male dominated industries and jobs. I rarely meet women who work in engineering or math. I rarely meet female chefs. I rarely meet women who work in construction or architecture. In case you’re wondering, these industries are some of the most male dominated. And this lack of female architects, engineers, chefs, etc. at networking events is a trend I’ve recently begun to notice.

Where have all the engineers gone, I wondered? Then I ran into a pretty phenomenal (in a sad way) infographic that specifically outlines the rise and fall of young women entering careers focused on math and science. I sampled a piece of it above – if you are in a room with 25 engineers, 3 will be women. And with this, I stopped wondering where have all the engineers gone? I realized….they’re just trying to blend in!
When women enter male dominated industries, unfortunately they are often expected to become mirror images of their male counterparts. Screaming, “But I’m a girl!” doesn’t exactly bode well for their careers. The same goes for chefs, architects, construction workers, etc. Their success comes most often when they are able to become “one of the guys” and assimilate to their surroundings.

So the question then becomes, what is holding these women back from becoming strongly female in their careers? And what holds them back from networking strategically with other women? Is it complacency? Are they simply confident in their own place in their male dominated field they don’t feel the need to reach out? Or is it lack of knowledge of what networking might do for them? It could be many of these things.

As a Board member for an organization that supports the career-minded development of teenage girls, I can tell women in these fields that there are girls everywhere who dream of becoming engineers, architects, chefs. These girls haven’t yet been told this is a “male dominated industry” and they don’t understand why they might be discouraged from pursuing it. These girls need women like you – they need women who are in these commonly male dominated industries to step forward and mentor, guide, lead in these industries.

This article is a call to action – for the three female engineers in that room of 25, be willing to stand up and yell, “Girl power” (perhaps proverbially) every now and again. Get into the community, network, and start to make your presence known. It might just get you ahead in your career.

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is the author of "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works" and a career expert who believes in order to be empowered in your career, you must be surrounded with resources and a network that both supports and challenges you. Marcy began her own networking journey as a professional fundraiser in the nonprofit industry, honed those skills as a fundraising consultant, and in 2012 networked her way to nearly 1 million readers as the CEO of the professional development website Career Girl Network.


    Judy Morris

    I admit I’m still very confused about all the hoopla and outrage here. First of all – I do not deny that there are stereotypes and deep not-fully-conscious biases in play. But I don’t see how screaming “I’m a girl” helps anyone at all. In fact, screaming “I’m a girl” and “girl power” seems to completely detract from the important point which is that any of these occupations is done by PEOPLE with certain interests and skills. Not men, not women, definitely not “girls”. People. With specific interests and skills.

    “I realized….they’re just trying to blend in!
    When women enter male dominated industries, unfortunately they are often expected to become mirror images of their male counterparts.” No, I don’t feel a need to pretend to be male, to try to “blend in” in that way. I just am. I am a person, who is also a woman, and also a professional, doing my job. I do not need to walk into every meeting saying “I’m female”. I do not need to put at the top of my resume “I’m female”. I do not need to seek out female managers and ask them specifically for jobs because I think I’ll have a better chance with them. I do my job the best I can – not because I’m female, but because I’m a person, and a professional.

    Women who are interested in tech should go into tech. And women who are interested in teaching or nursing should go into those fields. And to the extent that I am in a position to do any mentoring, I will mentor interested newcomers who show spark and aptitude equally – male or female. I just really don’t get the sense of how “my sex doesn’t matter, I can do the job as well as anyone else” (true) leads to “pay attention to me because I’m a girl in a man-dominated field” (pointless drama).

    From the above article “These girls haven’t yet been told this is a “male dominated industry” and they don’t understand why they might be discouraged from pursuing it.” So why do we have this insistence on shouting this message everywhere? If they are interested, they should pursue it. Really. What’s the fuss about?


      Thanks for your comment, Judy. I completely hear your argument and we’ll have to agree to disagree on this issue. I’ve heard from many many women who were discouraged in high school and college from pursuing science or math related fields, and didn’t understand why. Admitting that there are more challenges for women in male dominated fields can be a step towards helping to get more women in these fields.

      I appreciate your perspective!

    Nqabakazi Tetyana

    Dear Macy,

    I appreciate your article.

    I am preparing for a conference and searching the net for tips on how to attract and retain women in the mining industry.

    Do you have a website where I can read more about your work with girls?

    I am in South Africa.

Leave a Response