It is understandable that women can feel outnumbered in the workforce in certain industry sectors. The construction industry, for example, has only 17 per cent female representation and the mining industry reflects even less at just 16 per centi. These statistics clarify why women may be hesitant to enter industries that are predominately known for being male-dominated.
However women offer a range of insights and skillsets that could see these industries grow with new opportunities. Studies show closing the gap between male and female employment rates in Australia could boost GDP by 11 per centii and if gender productivity were further promoted within work forces, the Australian economy has the potential to be boosted by 20 per centiii. With this in mind, if the trend of industry segregation continues, enterprises will continue to lose out on growth potential.
In order to take advantage of this opportunity, women should consider seeking out openings withinthese industries where clear cut pathways aren’t usually presented. By taking charge and confidently selling themselves into these male-dominated industries based on the benefits their ideas and skillsets bring, women will be able to leap over the barriers they are usually faced within these industries, and be the catalyst for the cultural shift that will benefit these workforces.
Such barriers that women face in these industries can be seen in early personal and professional development situations. Historically, women have not been exposed to career paths in mining, construction or trade industries and it can be pinpointed down to a lack of family role modelsiv. Many men learn about careers within these industries from other male relatives whereas women are more likely to come across such opportunities later in life. This introduction to industry is also more likely to occur in a formal setting such as a job interview, instead of a personal connection that may be formed between men.
Stereotypes and bias can also be traced to originating in school environments where career decisions are reinforced during school and post-secondary education. Due to role stereotyping, girls are more likely to consider careers in social sciences or humanities rather than mining or engineering fields. The Harvard Implicit Association Test shows that more than 70 percent of test takers associate‘female’ with art and humanitarian based subjects and ‘male’ with science based subjects. This also influences parents and teachers in encouraging or discouraging females from pursuing male associated subjects.
These male-dominated industries also contain structural issues that make integration more difficult for women. Long hours mean less flexibility for work-life balance for women who are usually the primary caretakers of the average family unit. A male-dominated industry is also perceived to have a masculine culture which can feel non-inclusive, deterring women from pursuing opportunities.
If these barriers remain unaddressed, it’s fair to say women have their work cut out for them when entering a male-centric industry. Despite this, there are tools and approaches that women can utilise in order to power into these industries and remain at the forefront of opportunities.
Women should ensure their skills are up to scratch for the industry and position they are looking to enter into, by sourcing training and vocational programs through their local TAFE or tertiary offerings. Some institutes offer all-female programs which provide support and advice from others who have worked in or experienced male-dominated industries as well as the comfort of bonding with women who are also looking to enter the same sector.
It must be said, that considering the barriers blocking women’s entryway into male-dominated industries stemming from schooling days, it would be opportunistic for women to consider pursuing further study of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) related subjects in order to acquire further skills and resources that these industries are looking for.
Within these same schooling environments, women can seek out mentorship from leaders who have connections to the industries they are looking to break into. If women are not planning to enter an educational or skilling environment, seek out mentorship within industry recruitment agencies or networking events.
Most industries hold major ticketed events for these purposes alone and they are ideal opportunities to gain inside information as to what the industry is after and where women may look to provide their skills. These events present the opportune time to not only brush up on conversational skills but to connect with male counterparts who can offer inside pathways to male-dominated industries.
Confidence is also key when entering male-centric working environments, so it’s vital that womenensure they are in a positive and strong frame of mind when selling themselves into the industry roles they are seeking, as entering unchartered territories can throw anyone off of their game. Seek out professional and personal development courses and seminars that can be found online and through reading materials or podcasts to support building confidence.
I was personally able to enter into the mining industry through a connection with my husband Eric, who also works with ADE. The opportunity partnered with my skill set and management background, was a suitable situation for both ADE and myself to benefit from. Although this might not be everywoman’s circumstance, the possibility to break into these industries is there, in many forms. It’simperative to find your strength and hone in on those skills in order to develop into an asset for these industries. Women by nature are intuitive and nurturing; this could open up pathways for leadership and educative roles.
In a future where gender equality in the workplace is no longer a taboo topic for leadership and human resources teams to broach, women can inspire cultural and economic change. It is important for women to recognise their worth within these workforces and charge forward with pursuing opportunities that will provide not only benefits for themselves, but for the industries they enter into.
For more information about Australian Diversified Engineering, ‘Elevate’ or their ADE Spray, please visit www.ade.net.au.
The Carousel would like to thank Katie Tomicek for this article.
Katie Tomicek is an ‘E-Learning Coordinator’ for Australian Diversified Engineering and offers valuable insights into the benefits of women entering male-dominated work forces.