On the Outside Looking In: Navigating and Changing the Gender-Dominated Workplace

When deciding what industry to recruit for, I was told “Go into banking! It’s all guys that work there so you will be bound to get a job!” It got me thinking – could I thrive in a male-dominated workforce? How would I hold up in banking, where only 18% of executive positions are held by women? (SPOILER: I would not, not because of any sort of gender bias, but because my ability to run a DCF is mediocre at best.) Perhaps industries such as public relations would be best suited to me, because they are statistically more female dominated. I would probably have more like-minded peers, always a plus, right? I could have awesome, relatable conversations with my female friends at work all the time.

This is all silly, of course. In a perfect world, when deciding on a career path you should choose something you are passionate about, regardless of what is in your co worker's’ pants. However, It can be tough to fit in if you don’t share similar interests with your coworkers and it can be even tougher if these interests are aligned with a gender you don’t identify with. While I don’t consider myself to be particularly “girly,” the thought of golfing with my male coworkers somehow bores and terrifies me at the same time. This can lead to workplace alienation and stagnation in one’s career path. n a world where promotions and hires rely just as much on who you know as what you know, having a good relationship with all of your coworkers is very important.

Establishing yourself in a professional setting as a gender minority is scary. For women, psychotherapist Amy Morin advises actively challenging gender stereotypes associated with women in the workplace. She does not tell women to completely change how they act, but to make small changes to level the office playing field. For example, only 45% of women will ask for a raise compared to 61% of men; if you want to negotiate your salary, ask! She also recommends speaking up in meetings and using direct communication, especially in male-dominated contexts. More of her advice can be found here. For men, Laura Jerpi suggests more open communication over not just work, but thoughts and ideas as well. Toning down loud and boisterous behavior has also been shown to help males advance in a female-dominated environment.

So you have scaled the rungs of your industry and are making it rain, but when you look at your team you realize your firm is still extremely gender dominated. What now? Now is when you have the power to make changes to your firm as a whole. This is where being proactive and mindful is key. Career coach Lisa Quast recommends in this article ways for managers to actively reduce workplace gender segregation with policies and procedures, such as promoting more flexible work schedules to accommodate maternity and paternity leave as well as promoting a Results-Only work environment. However, this can be a ways away and can be dealt with at lower levels too. Say one of your analyst socials is a sports-focused pub night that is attended by all of your male co-workers, and very few of the females. Actively pushing for a more inclusive activity that is of interest to everybody so that all of your coworkers can bond with each other and have an equal chance to expand their business network. By ensuring that your workplace systemically aims to be gender neutral, employees will feel comfortable in your firm and can be themselves.

Sometimes, when trying to create a gender-neutral workplace you may make a mistake, whether you are a lowly analyst or a fancy managing director. That is okay, as long as mistakes are acknowledged and amended. Stacey Cole explains in this article that sometimes gender attitudes exist in the workplace, but as long as you do not try to overcompensate or really overkill the gender-neutral workplace movement, you are moving yourself and your firm in the right direction. Awareness of the gender bias and dominance in your industry and proactiveness in trying to make change is the key to success in trying to achieve gender-neutrality in the workplace, adding one less factor to be concerned with in your job. And for the HBA Class of 2030, perhaps that will not be something they have to concern themselves with. Because in 10 years, summer recruiting will still be hard enough.

Written by Katie McKenna


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Quast, Lisa. "How To Reduce Workplace Gender Segregation And Help Women Obtain Higher Paying Jobs." Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 05 Nov. 2012. Web. 27 Mar. 2017. https://www.forbes.com/sites/lisaquast/2012/11/05/how-to-reduce-workplace-gender-segregation-and-help-women-obtain-higher-paying-jobs/#61b3be8b2be4.