5 Ways to Attract and Retain More Women in Male-Dominated Industries

In July 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott organized the first women’s rights event of its kind at Seneca Falls, New York. Women presented speeches and advocated for women’s right to vote. This July 19 marks the anniversary of The Seneca Falls Convention and it’s a great time to reflect on the rights and roles of women, especially in the workplace.

While much progress has been made, there is still evidence that more needs to be done. In the energy sector, only 9% of executives are women and in the financial industry, women represent only 12% of executive leadership. Women account for only 1.4% of plumbers, steamfitters, and pipefitters, and only 1.8% of electricians. And even though tech has been working to be more inclusive, only 28% of the workforce in science, technology, math, and engineering (STEM) fields are women.

In addition to the most male-dominated careers, where the workforce is largely made up of men, where the workforce is largely made up of men, the C-suites in many industries continue to have fewer women than men. In a study conducted on representation in the energy sector, Diversio research revealed that while women make up 39 percent of roles at the entry level, they only represent 26 percent of executive positions.

What Are the Challenges of Working in a Male-Dominate Environment?

A male-dominated workplace can appear less innovative or ready for change since it is unwilling or unable to attract a wider diversity of workers and leaders. There are several additional reasons why it’s problematic that entire industries and companies are still mostly men:

  • Women can drive performance – Women are good for business. In a 2019 study of salespeople, researchers found that 78% of men achieved quota while 86% of women did the same. Another study of Fortune 500 companies found that 87% of the women-led companies had profits that were above average, while only 78% of companies without women in the C-suite reported above-average profits.
  • Lack of women means lack of diversity – About 5% of the U.S. population consists of women, & this likely means a significant portion of your investors, suppliers, vendors, customers, clients, & other stakeholders are women, too. This diversity should be reflected in companies, too, where women’s voices can help businesses serve all their customers better.
  • Lack of women can contribute to toxic cultures – Male-dominated workplaces may normalize problem behaviors. In male-dominated workplaces, 49% of women surveyed reported sexual harassment as a problem in their place of work.

In most male-dominated careers, it’s worth asking why these sectors stay largely the same. Women entered the workforce in large numbers during World War II and again in the 1970s, so if a company is still largely made up of men it may be time to look more closely at what might be driving that situation.

What Barriers Exist for Women in Male-Dominated Careers?

One reason why there may be fewer women in male-dominated careers is that women face additional challenges. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act makes it illegal to discriminate against job applicants and employees due to gender, race, religion, and other protected categories. Despite this, women may have to face issues less commonly experienced by male counterparts:

  • Unequal pay is still a factor – In 2022, women in the United States will earn 82 cents for every dollar men earn & the pay gap is even larger for BIPOC women. In industries where women rarely make it to leadership positions, the disparity can also be greater.
  • Lack of promotion can discourage applicants – Women may not be promoted as often as their male counterparts, making some positions less appealing because of the lack of advancement opportunities. In sales, for example, men are promoted to management 16% more often than women.
  • Stereotypes persist – Women in male-dominated industries & in leadership positions are sometimes stereotyped as emotional, angry, & tough. The same attributes male leaders are praised for are sometimes criticized in women who lead.

In addition, most employment in the United States is “at will,” meaning that leaders and companies can hire or fire anyone for almost any reason. While it’s true that laws prohibit discrimination based on protected categories like gender, it can be very difficult to prove discrimination has taken place. With few options for legal recourse, women may gravitate towards industries and jobs where they feel more welcome.

How Can Companies Hire Women in Male-Dominated Industries?

If most of your workplace and leadership looks and sounds the same, change may not happen overnight. It will require conscious effort. The good news, though, is that even if you’re in a sector where there aren’t as many women in leadership and in the workplace, there are things you can do to change your team:

1.    Start with Leadership

Get buy-in from leadership by explaining the benefits of encouraging more women applicants for open positions. You may also want to start hiring at leadership. Seeing women in positions of power shows applicants you’re serious about equity.

2.    Build on Training

Consider working with trainers and coaches who are women so your team is slowly becoming more diverse, even before you add to your team. Internally, add Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) training to help everyone understand your DEI efforts to get buy-in.

3.    Create a Brand & Culture Where Women Want to Work

Are you creating a culture and employer brand that will attract all candidates? Offering good medical benefits, daycare, maternity and paternity leave, flexible work arrangements where possible, and clear paths to advancement can make your company more attractive to all candidates.

You may also want to consider what community groups your company supports. If you volunteer at or donate to shelters, Pride events, women’s organizations, or other worthy causes, this can send a powerful message about your culture and priorities.

4.    Build Inclusive Networks & Communities

Look beyond your company. Could you work with vendors, suppliers, and other partners who are women-owned businesses? Could you create internships, mentorships, scholarships, or community organizations for women in your field? Is it possible for your company to recruit at and attend women-focused events to discuss employment and advancement opportunities for women in your sector?

Ultimately, recruiting and hiring are about relationships, and when you create space for an internship at your company or create mentorships for women advancing their careers, you could just be working with members of your next leadership team because you’re building the relationships that bring talent to you. You also have the opportunity to hear from women about what they would need to see from you to want to work at your organization.

5.    Benchmark Accordingly

In some fields and in some cities, there may be fewer candidates for your open positions. While you want to be measuring your DEI efforts, make sure you benchmark your efforts against others in the industry or your own past progress and not against industries that currently attract more women in the workforce and leadership.

Hiring women in leadership or on your team starts with new conversations and with a new approach to recruiting. Instead of focusing on hiring through traditional networks and traditional job boards or job fairs, which will likely have male job seekers if your industry is dominated by men, work on changing the landscape of your industry and on changing the culture of your company to attract the best possible candidates to you. For more in-depth information on these topics, check out Diversio’s whitepapers.

How Can Companies Retain Women in Male-Dominated Industries?

Hiring women employees and even leaders is not enough. You also need to create a workplace they want to stay in, or you will find yourself endlessly recruiting and starting over.

A data-driven approach allows you to gather metrics not just about the demographic makeup of your company, but also inclusion data, including information about how women feel about working at your organization. With this information in hand, you can evaluate whether any employees are feeling included so you can take action if they are not.

This is where Diversio can help. As the world’s first AI-powered, metrics-driven DEI solution, Diversio for Companies and Diversio for Portfolios help your business or portfolio gather, analyze, and benchmark DEI metrics. The Recommendation Engine™ gives you actionable steps to improve your efforts, based on the data gathered. Diversio Training helps you learn more about DEI and DEI Certification has different levels of certification to offer a public-facing commitment to, and verification of, DEI efforts.

Diversio is your partner in your DEI efforts, with the solutions you need to create an authentic, measurable difference. Try it for yourself today by booking a demo.

Diversio DEI Expert
Diversio DEI Expert
Diversio's DEI expert shares everything about diversity that you need to know.
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