While women are continuing to rise the ranks in traditionally, often formerly, male-dominated industries — those in which men not only represent a larger percentage of the workforce but also enjoy a higher number of leadership positions and have greater influence — there are several industries that remain stubbornly unbalanced.
McKinsey Global Institute’s 2019 Women in the Workplace report explains how, across industries, women are often prevented from reaching C-suite positions, with women of color advancing to the top rung at the lowest rate. Overall, only 72 women are promoted for every 100 men, with the numbers much lower for black women and even lower for Latina women.
But the report also finds that companies with gender and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to outperform their industry averages than others. So, which industries need the most overhaul? And how can we make it happen? Here are 10 industries that remain male-dominated, the challenges women face in them and what we can do about it.
Unfortunately, there are still many male-dominated industries in the United States — and around the world. Below are just some of the professions that have persistent gender gaps.
In a story entitled “Why There Aren't More Female Pilots,” Conde Nast Traveller reports that women comprise just 4-5% of all pilots in North America. They point to the cost of training as one barrier, while Stephanie Wallach, the 10th female airline pilot in the United States, notes, “When you’re a pilot, your primary relationship is with a machine—a piece of equipment. And growing up, many women aren’t taught to work on cars or machines, or to take apart a toaster and think about how things work. But you can feel a real affinity for an airplane.”
While the number of women in agriculture is rising, few hold leadership positions in the industry. In Crop Science, Adrian Percy notes, “Even today, there are relatively few women who are invited to give talks in conferences and there are far too few women occupying senior positions in most companies or on company boards. Less than 10 percent of women occupy leadership positions in agriculture and that has got to change.”
The New York Times reported that women make up half of all architecture students but only 26% of the actual field. The Times cites the gender pay gap, sexual harassment and discrimination as some of the top reasons why.
A 2010 Faith Communities Today survey of 11,000 congregations in the U.S. found that only 12% had women as their senior or only ordained leader. This varies across faiths and denominations; some religious and denominations never ordain women as clergy at all.
Historically, construction was thought to be a male-dominated industry because the work was physically demanding. While more women are entering the field, only 7.4% of construction managers in the U.S. are women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
A majority of women reported facing different obstacles from those of their male counterparts in a 2013 Mergis Group Women in Finance survey, with less than half of female respondents saying that they were satisfied with their careers. There are few women in top positions in several areas of finance such as venture capital and other niches; barriers to advancement could be a contributing factor to this dissatisfaction.
In the paper “Balancing Professional Prototypes Increases the Valuation of Women in Male-Dominated Professions,” Felix Danbold and UCLA Anderson’s Corinne Bendersky suggest that traits thought to be “feminine,” like empathy, should be emphasized to promote the idea of women as firefighters, who represented just 7% of all firefighters in 2017, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
The U.S. lags far behind other countries in terms of the percentage of tech positions held by women. The IT sector is representative of this trend — a report by Open University found that in India, women occupy 35% of IT positions, in contrast to the only 20% held by women across the tech sector, as per Small Business Trends in 2018. In the study “The changing career trajectories of new parents in STEM,” Erin A. Cech and Mary Blair-Loy suggest that caregiving duties may impact women’s employment in STEM fields in general.
Associated with heavy manual labor and long hours, manufacturing has a huge gender gap. According to a survey conducted by Women in Manufacturing, 68% of women would not consider entering the field, with many respondents saying that they didn’t believe women would have the opportunity to advance in the industry.
Although a HackerRank survey found improvements in the representation of women in software development, only 2,000 of the 14,000 developers surveyed were women. The harassment and sexism women frequently face in Silicon Valley could account for at least part of the problem.
There are different challenges women face in male-dominated industries depending on the specific field, but some common, pervasive difficulties include:
• A lack of support and resources for women to advance in their careers, such as mentoring
• Sexual harassment (often more so than in non-male-dominated industries)
• Sexism and the belief that women aren’t capable of doing the same work as men
• Stereotypes about women’s roles (e.g. the belief that they belong at home)
• Gender pay gaps and disparities
• Inequalities in terms of opportunities
• A lack of opportunity to contribute or articulate concerns
What can businesses, industries and women themselves do to help women achieve in male-dominated professions? Here are a few ideas.
1. Seek out opportunities for growth within your organization.
2. Find a mentor (of any gender) and male allies.
3. Speak up in meetings.
4. Ask for raises and promotions.
5. Network, network, network.
6. Join industry organizations and associations, especially those established for women.
1. Establish a gender and diversity task force.
2. Actively seek talented female candidates for leadership and other positions.
3. Create mentoring and other opportunities for women within the company.
4. Build employee resource groups (ERGs).
5. Ask employees what they need and want to feel included.
6. Evaluate how you’re doing through employee surveys and other data.