The Challenges Women Face in Male Dominated Industries

Statistics on women and work - Diezani Alison-Madueke

For centuries, misconceptions about women and their abilities were prevalent throughout the world. Women had no sense of individuality, entitlement or even a true sense of self. It was truly a man’s world and unfortunately, these notions have maintained their grip on society, refusing to let go. In our ever-changing world, women have fought for their place in society, earning their right to equality. However, the old negating roots run very deep, as the fight for equality continues. The degrading beliefs and pervasive stereotypes about a woman’s abilities stem from patriarchy. Unjustly stereotyped, women hold a long history of being denied access to many opportunities. Although, the role of a woman in society has gradually changed, as women gained more rights, around the world most women are still discriminated against in numerous ways. 

Today, a large portion of women make up the global workforce, owning businesses and taking on conventional and unconventional roles, that were once entirely secured by men. Approximately 47.7% of women account for the global workforce, making up nearly half of the economic trajectory. With societal expectations of what a woman’s role should be, taking a toll on many women, 69% of women reported feeling pressured by society to put their family ahead of a career. Working women are more prone to facing sexual harassment, discrimination and unequal pay in the workplace, resulting in higher stress and anxiety levels when compared to a man’s experience in the office. One of the main problems is the lack of mentoring along with a general paucity of tailored career development opportunities available to women. Whilst being fully capable, intellectually and physically, of excelling in male dominated industries, women are on the whole, rarely given the opportunity to do so. 

Steps to take in order to help women succeed in their work - Diezani Alison-Madueke

The evolution of a woman’s role in the work force dates back a few centuries and began alongside new ideas like socialism and nationalism. As such radical ideas began to transform the woman’s role in society, the Industrial Revolution was responsible for employing women throughout Europe and Western Civilizations. Across the globe, female labour in Africa and parts of Asia, has transformed even less, in terms of providing women with equal job opportunities. In comparison to women in western civilizations, many African and Asian women do a lot more housework and intensive manual labour. Although, female employment in these continents has slowly shifted out of agriculture, women still receive far less in terms of empowering job opportunities. 

Fortunately, there are plenty of action steps that can be taken to encourage women’s empowerment and participation in male dominated industries. Giving women equal access to educational opportunities that men receive; such as  greater participation in primary and secondary education and the provision of inclusive university programs. This would enable them to choose from a wider selection of professional fields, allowing them the opportunity to excel in any industry. Encouraging women to veer towards “unconventional female” concentrations such as STEM, Politics, IT, Construction, Engineering etc. would enable more women to succeed in such industries. Currently, only 35% of STEM students are women and in 20 years there has only been a 2% increase of women in the software engineering field. Statistics show that 48% of female STEM workers were discriminated against throughout the hiring process. Therefore, making high-skilled educational programs more accessible to female students would bring the world one step closer to being an inclusive workforce. 

Women in high profile positions within male driven industries, should also share their experiences and advise other women on how to successfully navigate the business world alongside men. Giving lectures, creating women-oriented organizations and movements, could help teach women better communications and networking skills, giving them more confidence to take a stance and have their voices heard. 

The digital era also benefits women by giving them online spaces to create interpersonal communities where women can support and mentor one another. This could be a powerful tool, especially for young female students and entrepreneurs around the world. 

Both men and women share indistinguishable traits such as leadership, intelligence, capacity for innovation and maturity. While women are still at a disadvantage when looking for employment, they steadily continue to break boundaries and prove their worthiness throughout the world. Women make excellent additions to the work force, bringing to the fore equally impressive qualities that add immeasurable value to businesses, such as relationship building and balanced empathy and communication skills. In comparison to men, women are socially considered to have excellent communication skills, which is a crucial aspect in running a successful business. Along with bringing different perspectives to the workplace, women tend to be more compassionate, creative, sensitive, intuitive and emotionally intelligent. Thus making up the key characteristics of a well-rounded workforce. 

Closing the gender gap by striving for equality in the business world is beneficial for both men and women. Being as intelligent and ambitious as men, women should be equal participants in the workforce. Although men and women are very different, they are just as capable of thriving in the business world and of bringing different but equally important skill sub-sets to the table. As successful women continue to break down societal norms and sit at the highest echelons of leadership in various sectors, it becomes even clearer that more action needs to be taken to ensure the rapid inclusion of women, in all spheres and at all levels of the work force.

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