Working in a mainly male dominated industry and succeeding greatly within it, carries an interesting dynamic and I am going to do my best to explain to you. How it feels. How to do it. How I found to act that works best. The good, the bad and the ugly. The reality. I am going to put it all out there for you.
So, if you are a woman that finds herself in an industry (such as mine) where the guys wayyyy outweigh the girls, what is the best way to excel? Read on.
I am going to bottom line you: You are going to have to work harder in the beginning to prove yourself to others so that they take you seriously. And then after that, you are going to have to continuously prove yourself one way or the other. Yeah, I know. It is not fair. Then again, who ever said that life was fair? Exactly. No one. You chose this field though, so you kinda knew what you were getting into. It is ok though, because keeping yourself on your toes only makes you better. It doesn’t allow you to be complacent or lazy…cause you won’t survive or you will fail miserably. The mere fact that you have to work harder is only going to help you be so much better than you would have been without the competition.
There are so many dynamics that we have to deal with that I am going to touch base on. So here goes…
The Quandary of Being Strong and Assertive Without Being a Total Bitch.
This is an age-old problem that requires a balancing act on our part. Another thing…yeah, I know…not fair…blah blah blah. Total double standard. There is nothing you can do about it other than proving and showing others that one way of acting does not equate to the other way of being perceived (even though some people will still think you are a total bitch…and that is ok because you cannot please everyone).
Being strong doesn’t mean that you have to be conniving…take short cuts…undermine others…walk all over people…treat others like shit. If you do those things, then you are a total jerk regardless of what sex you are.
Being strong means knowing and owning your shit and not being afraid to let other people know about it. It means speaking up. It means being involved. It means doing what you say you are going to do. Stepping up. Knowing your guidelines or rules better than anyone else. Knowing how to talk to people. Making those appointments. Going after those clients. Presenting your ideas. Not being afraid. Not giving up. Not backing down or hiding in a corner when something is wrong. THAT is what being strong is. You don’t have to be an ass if you are a strong woman. You just have to know your stuff…maybe a little more than the guy next to you. Again, reality. It makes you better though.
You are going to get left out, dismissed and ignored…if you want to survive and thrive though, you have to brush yourself off and keep going. They will take notice. Just keep being yourself. Work hard. Learn. Grow. You HAVE to have confidence in yourself and your abilities.
The Handshake – How To Do it Right!
Whatever you do in life, make sure you learn the proper way to shake another person’s hand. This is not 1850. It is time to shake a hand like you mean it.
No dead fish. No putting your hand out like someone is going to kiss it.
I actually made a video about this and have blogged about it to. A good handshake is serious business. It shows that you are serious. It shows that you are strong. It shows that you are confident. A weak or just plain stupid handshake shows that you are weak and weak and don’t know how to conduct yourself in a business setting.
Watch this video I posted on Facebook: How to Properly Shake a Hand
You are welcome!
Dealing with Other Women at Work
If you find yourself in a higher or more successful position in your company than most other women, there is gonna be some drama and some jealousy. You are going to be looked at in a different way. The other women are going to watch you closely…whether it be for the sake of being envious, proud or jealous. You are going to be talked about. It’s OK. Why women do this in general has always been one of life’s biggest mysteries…but women do it all of the time. We compare. Whenever another woman walks into a room that we perceive as better (better looking, richer, more successful) than us, we immediately compare ourselves to that person even though we have no base knowledge of anything other than what we make up in our heads. Again, reality. Women need to stop doing that anyway. It will make our lives so much better.
So here’s the thing…I believe that it is so important that – especially as a woman – needs to be kind to everyone. Period. From the lady that cleans your office to the head of the company. Be kind. Obviously, this goes for everyone and every aspect of life…if we all practiced a little kindness and acknowledged people, this world would be a better place. Don’t be fake though…people can see right through it when you are. Being phony is only going to hurt you. Always. Treat people with respect regardless of their “position” and genuinely love them. That will make a difference.
When you become successful, people tend to forget the “little people” because they are so laser focused on their success. Or, they think that they have something to prove to their peers, so they treat people like crap. Don’t do that. Be kind. Acknowledge. Smile. Be real.
Now, I am not saying that by doing this, there isn’t going to be drama, jealousy, judgment etc. at your office. Some people just aren’t going to like you. Just remember though that 99.99999% of the time, it is not about you though. They have something going on internally that has absolutely nothing to do with you. My advice: Ignore it. If it becomes an issue, confront it directly with the person with the issue and talk it out until it becomes a non-issue. You would be surprised at how quickly rumors and BS stops once you confront the source. People are gonna talk and there are going to still be haters that are gonna hate.
Bottom line: Don’t be a B. Be the same self you were before you became successful.
You should also align yourself with other powerful women in your field. I am not necessarily talking about women who are at your “level” in pay etc. I am just talking strong women. Be confidants. Hearing boards. Build each other up.
Dealing with Men
This is where it gets interesting because there are so many factors that I need to talk about here in this arena.
I will start with how a woman should dress, especially when they are intwined in a male-dominated field. I have talked about this in some of my videos too, in general. Women…listen up…don’t dress like a ho. Yes, I totally just said that. You are inviting trouble. The easiest way for someone NOT to take you seriously is by dressing provocatively in the workplace. If you are wearing an outfit that you have also worn out to the clubs, then that is not what you should be wearing to work. A woman’s sexual “power” should not be used at work if you want people to respect you. It is true. Most men are distracted by shiny things…and you don’t want anyone to only look at you sexually because of the distracting and inappropriate outfit you are wearing. You want them to pay attention to you because of how freakin smart you are…not because they all want to have sex with you because all they can see is your cleavage and your panties under the short skirt that you are wearing.
Be classy. It doesn’t take money to be classy. Be modest. This is not to tell you to dress like a nun or anything like that. Just be classy. It is more powerful.
Watch this video: Dressing in the Workplace
Second topic: Dealing with men hitting on you. This is, most likely, going to happen. It is just the dynamic of when there are 100 guys in the room for every 5 women. There is this fine line that we have to walk…I know. You don’t want to be one of those people who won’t engage with others and shuts everyone out…but you also don’t want to be the office flirt who uses her sexuality to get favors and the “mirage” of more business because of this. You just have to be careful. When you have a problem at home, don’t use the men at work as your confidant…that is dangerous. When you go out for happy hour with the crew, don’t get drunk and stay out too late. Be respectful of yourself and others will follow suit. Remember, you want others to respect you for your hard work and contributions, not think of you as the woman who can’t hold her shit together at a bar.
If someone hits on you or asks you out, I would advise not going out with someone at work…but if you do, just make sure you keep your work space professional and don’t bring your romance into the office. It makes people uncomfortable and it is the quickest way for people to make judgments – whether they be right or wrong. It will still happen. It will quickly knock down the blocks of awesomeness that you had worked so hard to build for yourself.
If you don’t want to go out with the person, just let them know that you are flattered, but no thanks. You don’t date people from work. Then drop it. Be cordial and not all weird about it.
One more thing on this: It is a natural dynamic in life when you have men and women together. People are going to be attracted to each other. Don’t get offended if someone asks you out unless…
There is a huge difference between the above and true sexual harassment. Quid pro quo. Someone who makes you feel uncomfortable. Creepy leering. Inappropriate touching. Unwanted and unrelenting advances. Things like that. I am sad to say that I have been a victim of this many times over the past 20 years and it is something that a lot of women have to deal with non a daily basis. It sucks. We can make everyone watch every sexual harassment video in the world, but this is going to happen unfortunately. Even more so when you are in a field dominated by men and you are one of the few women in the office/industry.
So what do you do? When I was young, I just took it, for lack of better words. No double meaning intended, but I used to just ignore it even though it made me feel super uncomfortable. I just would not engage. I didn’t tell anyone about it either. No one prepared me for this!
Now, my honest answer (this is my personal answer…it doesn’t necessarily mean it is the totally correct answer) is that I confront the person who is doing it. Not in front of other people. I pull them aside at, what I perceive is the right time, and I demand that they stop. I let them know firmly that if they do not stop, then I will let HR etc. know about their actions. I take a very straightforward no BS approach. I let them know what they are doing. How it makes me feel etc. So far, I have not had to report anyone because the inappropriate behavior stopped immediately after my confrontation. The right answer should maybe be to follow whatever your company’s policy is regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. I don’t do that though…but it is out of my decision to take care of things on my own. So far it has worked out for me. Maybe one day it won’t…but I will deal with that day when it happens.
You also have to be careful not to put yourself into situations where “things” could happen. Don’t linger at happy hours or stay out late with the boys. ‘Cause that is when things tend to happen. Again…not a lovely thing to say, but a true thing to say.
What I don’t recommend is be dramatic in the office and make sure that everyone knows that, “Stan is a total creeper and he makes me feel uncomfortable.” Things like that backfire on you. When you are surrounded by mostly guys, making huge deals out of things doesn’t work in your favor. It sucks…but it is true. Be discreet because not doing so takes away from who you are as a leader in your industry or field.
In our world of PC that has evolved, there are also some women who take things a little too sensitively. When you are in a male dominated industry (or anywhere in life actually), learning to take some things (I am talking things that are not meant maliciously) with a grain of salt will help you dramatically. People need to be able to joke around. People don’t want to have to walk on eggshells in front of you because you might get offended by the slightest things said. You are going to isolate yourself from everyone if you are THAT person. Don’t be her.
Fitting In – Being “One of the Guys”
This is the fun part. How do we, as women, “fit in” to the male dominated industry that we are in all while A) Maintaining the respect that we have earned B) Still show them that we know our shit and C) Be admired for what we know and be taken seriously? Tough mix to to juggle…but it is just the reality of something that we need to do.
When you work with a bunch of dudes, being part of the team is important…which means that you will have to be “one of the guys” sometimes. It is by virtue of your circumstance and career choice. I don’t think it is wise to isolate yourself from everyone.
You don’t want to be the outsider. You want them to feel comfortable in front of you while at the same time, not soooo comfortable where they stop treating you with respect. Like I said earlier, if you have casted yourself to be the one where everyone has to walk on eggshells when you are around, then being part of the team isn’t going to be real…it will be only superficial.
People have to feel comfortable around you. When they do, they will want to include you. You want to be yourself and how you would be, for example, around brothers. Now that I type this, it seems so silly and simple…but it is true!
It is important though, that when someone crosses the line, you deal with it swiftly and strongly so that it doesn’t happen again.
Don’t be that woman who brings drama into the office or cries if someone makes you mad. Doing things like that takes down your credibility level like 20-fold in 5 minutes.
Finally, don’t be afraid to speak up. Share your ideas. Provide feedback. Don’t just focus on the fact that you are a minority in your environment. Don’t expect special treatment on a daily basis because you are a woman. Work your ass off and show them who you are on the inside.
You chose a male dominated field. You are going to have to use your IQ snd EQ in order to succeed in this environment. Be strong. Be courageous. Don’t back down. We have a lot more work to do in these instances than other women in different fields. We can do it.
One more thing. What I am not saying here is that you have to change who you are in order to work in a male dominated industry or workplace. You may just have to modify some of your behaviors.