Embrace Your Femininity in Male-Dominant Workplaces

Women have made incredible progress in the work world over the last half-century. Women complete bachelor’s degrees at higher rates than men. In 2019, 

According to a 2019 report from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Many have discussed how values that are associated with gender in certain cultures affect how people choose career paths. In the US, for example, young men are often praised for their leadership potential. This feedback may impact their eventual decision to pursue a career in business or politics. Similarly, girls are often described as caring, so a job as a nurse may sound fulfilling to them. But as the achievement gap has started to close, young women are looking beyond gendered career stereotypes. The bigger issue to tackle now is the predominance of masculine work culture.

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Women are getting the certifications to work in underrepresented fields. But during the hiring process, many organizations prefer that women emphasize their masculine-like traits rather than their feminine ones. 

When women get into organizations in male-dominated fields, they may also find that masculine work cultures do not address the needs or preferences of female employees. Aspects of the culture may also deter entry-level, female employees from pursuing some career paths altogether. 

Workplace cultures that value masculine traits send subtle messages to prospective and current female employees that femininity is “bad”. Women are guaranteed to feel less valued by organizations if they have to hide their opinions and personalities. And if women have to act more like men to succeed in their workplaces, organizations cannot utilize diverse perspectives and opinions to help grow. 

Women must work from the inside to galvanize organizational change. If male-dominated workplaces truly recognize the contributions of women, they will institute changes that make female employees feel more comfortable and supported.


So what should women do to seek change within their organizations? Three things:

1. Be present and speak up

Women must ensure that they are at the table when important, organizational decisions are made. There should be female representation in all facets of an organization — from the HR department to the executive suite to the budget office. Female representation not only helps create a culture that caters to women’s needs but also generates more diversity of thought at all levels. Women should push back on practices that are subtly or obviously sexist — even reframe organizations’ institutional values. And they must advocate for their skill sets and traits among male counterparts. These actions sounds daunting, but by speaking up, women are helping to break the glass ceiling for their female counterparts and the women that follow them.

Want to make the language recruiters use more gender-neutral? Volunteer to brief recruiters on how to modify their presentations. Want your company’s headquarters to include more services to accommodate working mothers? Set up a lactation room. We must tackle the common challenges women face in the workplace so we can be better champions of women.

2. 

By collaborating as a group, women in an organization can identify which issues in the workplace culture are unfavorable to their continued success and productivity. This network can also serve as a larger support system for each of the group’s members. If women need advice, particularly about a workplace culture issue, they can ask a colleague how they would address it. This helps create some institutional memory within the organization about how to respond to issues when they arise. Women’s concerns are also more likely to considered by organizational management if they are presented from a collective vantage point.

3. 

If the above strategies are not working perfectly, women must, above all, use their power to amplify others’ voices. If women are hearing others propose good ideas that are not being acknowledged, they should bring the ideas back up again and credit the women who came up with them. Even in predominantly female workplaces, women are often ignored or interrupted during meetings. We must empower everyone to speak up. 


Although there is much work to be done to promote gender equity in workplaces, we are closer than ever to achieving equality. We must encourage our colleagues to embrace female leadership and perspectives. If we truly want to be part of diverse, innovative organizations, we need to create environments where women can reach their full potential.