How to Get More Women Into Industrial Roles
November 15, 2017
Gender-based discrimination — where women are limited in their economic, social and political rights — has decreased in the Western world over the last 100 years. But there are still many male-dominated fields where having equal rights does not translate into sufficient participation and leadership by women. In this blog post we’re going to look at some of these industries and see how the change towards a more balanced gender representation could come about.
The “hard” sectors like construction, mining, forestry, industrial production, transportation, repair, and maintenance are the first areas that come to mind when one thinks of male-dominated industries. And it must be said they have stayed this way even in countries with high indicators of gender equality. For instance, according to Catalyst data only 15.8% of the Australian mining industry is made up of women, of whom 15.3 % are in management roles, and only 2.5 % as CEOs.
And you shouldn’t think this issue only applies to sectors that have traditionally involved hard manual work. According to PayScale, the global technology industry is also male-dominated at all levels: from individual contributors (32% women) to executives (21%). If we look at more than just numbers and go deeper into the problem, we see that the most widespread barriers faced by women working in tech are not just about unequal pay. ICASA’s 2017 Women in Technology survey shows that they also include unequal growth opportunities, gender bias in the workplace and, most notably, lack of mentors and female role models in any given field.
Looking at these obstacles to good gender balance, it is clear that the main problem lies in social perception of what is and what isn’t a suitable career for a woman. At the end of the day, it is a lack of acceptance of women professionals in these fields that determines their under-representation. So, changing mindsets is the most obvious solution, and this can best be reached by integrating gender equality topics into educational curricula at all levels.
Aside from public education, social initiatives aimed at empowering, endorsing and engaging women to enter male-dominated sectors are crucial for changing girls’ and women’s own perception of themselves and their opportunities. Role models with wide public recognition, as well as mentors working with women of all ages, are the main agents in helping women affirm a positive self-image which is so challenged by patriarchal stereotypes. Networks like Chicks with Bricks and Girls Who Code do an excellent job in helping to close the gender gap by offering learning opportunities, indicating future career pathways and building strong communities.
So if you’re a woman working in a male-dominated industry and face some of the issues above, look for a local branch of one of these or a similar group in your area. And if there are none near you, then remember that the best way to foster initiative is to start one.