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.