Decades after James Brown first crooned that “this is a man’s world,” the words still hold impact. In many ways, the world was designed for men to experience the least amount of resistance in life, including in their professional careers.

While the gender gap in the modern workforce has lessened, comprising 57.4% women and 69.2% men, many women still work in male-dominated settings. Read on to learn more about the challenges of working in a male-dominated environment and how to overcome them.

Being a Woman in a Male-Dominated Workplace

Looking at the numbers, male-dominated occupations are those comprising 25% or fewer women. Some of the most male-dominated fields according to the U.S. Department of Labor include:

  • Plumbing 
  • Electricians 
  • Carpenters
  • Automotive Tech
  • Construction
  • Mechanics

By these standards, it’s estimated that only 6.5% of women work full-time in male-dominated occupations.

However, this doesn’t account for the representation, or lack thereof, of women in other occupations and roles. For instance, recent studies found that women made up only 5% of the CEOs appointed in 2020 globally, and, at the CEO level, men outnumber women by approximately 17 to one.

Women also continue to be underrepresented in industries such as science, technology, and engineering. While there’s no solid number to rely on, it can be estimated that there are millions of women in male-dominated workplaces. 

Challenges of Working in a Male-Dominated Environment

Women in the workplace face unique challenges every day, but they can be compounded in a male-dominated environment. Research shows that women working in occupations where they are a small minority are especially vulnerable to sexual harassment and assault at work. 

Women working in male-dominated industries and positions must also contend with gender bias and the persistent pay gap that favors their male counterparts. Female professionals may also feel undermined in their position or like it’s difficult to speak up and have their ideas heard or taken seriously.

Thriving as a Female Professional in a Man’s World

Regardless of the challenges women face, 77% agree that the biggest obstacle to gender equity in the workplace is the lack of information on how to advance. Here are some things you can do to not only get by in a male-dominated environment but thrive.

Overcome the Stigma of Success

Too often, there’s a stigma associated with success for women. Women in leadership positions or who go after what they want are viewed as selfish or cold while their male colleagues are lauded as go-getters.

It’s important for women to never let this stigma stop them, and, more importantly, actively work against it. Remain confident in your capabilities, foster strong relationships, and take credit for your accomplishments.

Be confident in the work you do

When entering a male-dominated work environment, it’s important not to be afraid of failure or rejection. You need to be confident in yourself and the work you do. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed; don’t be afraid to take risks, and don’t be afraid to speak up if something isn’t right!

Finally, never forget that as you grow as a leader, so will your compensation and salary increase. So if there is something wrong at work that needs fixing (or even just addressing), never hesitate to speak out about it–the worst thing they can say is no…and then maybe yes!

Be aware of unconscious bias

Unconscious bias is a natural part of the human brain. It’s not your fault if you’re biased, but it is important to know that you are and what biases exist in order to correct them. Unconscious bias can affect hiring decisions, performance evaluations and raises, promotions, or other aspects of an employee’s job experience.

If you’re an executive looking for ways to improve your leadership skills or advance in your career while working with a male-dominated workforce—or simply want to be proactive about your progressive workplace policies—it’s critical that you understand how unconscious bias works so that you can learn how to work against its effects on female executives like yourself.

Seek Mentorship Opportunities

Finding mentors throughout your career is also important for overcoming these challenges. Role models, especially other women in your industry, can provide sound advice and relate to your situation.

You should also seek out male allies at your workplace. Men who want to be allies in the workplace can help break down the boy club mentality while helping you create a supportive network.

Create a Strong Support Network

Speaking of a support network, make sure to surround yourself with individuals who uplift you at work. A strong support group of women and men at work can help amplify your ideas, vocalize your accomplishments, and provide a safe space for sharing advice.

Watch our free masterclass to learn more about how to balance your personal and professional life.