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As a woman have you ever felt discouraged going into a male dominated field?

As a woman wanting to go into a male dominated field I often find it scary thinking there won't be much women around me. Have you ever been discouraged from it? How did you deal with it?

Thank you comment icon Melanie there's no denying the importance of those working in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) occupations. In fact, it's nearly impossible to imagine what our world would look like without the advances that have been made in these fields. They've brought us vaccines that have cured diseases, deepened our understanding of the universe and given us tools that make us more connected than ever before. Job growth in STEM fields continues to outpace that of all other occupations, too. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in these industries are projected to grow by nearly 9% between 2022 and 2030. Unfortunately, due to gender biases, fewer role models and male-dominated industries, women have been historically underrepresented in STEM. Despite common sense and plenty of research showing no cognitive difference between men and women, the myth that women aren't as good at math has broken the confidence of many young girls, women represent only 21% of engineering majors and just 19% of computer and information science majors. Overcoming this gap is critical. Not only will it help open more opportunities for women currently in the field, but it will also create more role models. Help shatter stereotypes and introduce new talent and fresh perspectives to these fields Melanie. John Frick
Thank you comment icon Challenge yourself to rise above and showcase your skills. Build alliances with internal and external stakeholders and focus on what talent you bring to a company or organization. Best of luck as you highlight your best qualities! Krista Bistline
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Subject: Career question for you

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Ashley’s Answer

The first thing that you need to know is that you are needed by tech companies. Women make up half the population and they want technology solutions that meet their needs. Guess who knows the customer's needs? You do. Women have tremendous buying power. Women have fantastic ideas for how to make technology work for women.
https://www.unicef.org/innovation/stories/oky-co-created-girls-girls

As for workplaces, use the resources available to find out about a company's culture. There ARE inclusive tech companies. Check out the reviews of companies on Glass Door. Google "best technology companies for women" and read some of the articles. Talk to women who are working at those tech company by reaching out on LinkedIn. Ask lots of questions during your interview. Know that becoming more inclusive should be a top priority for all companies. Non-inclusive / toxic cultures are one the reasons that the "great resignation" is occurring, which costs companies a lot of money. They should care about being welcoming to you. If they don't, go elsewhere!
https://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/toxic-culture-is-driving-the-great-resignation/

Once you are at the tech company, build your own Board of Directors. These could be women from your college program. These could be co-workers you develop relationships with along the way. These could be mentors or sponsors who know you well. Have a place where you can go for trusted advice on how to deal with situations in the workplace. It's very important to have "work friends" who can relate and build you up. Reach out to women leaders and ask for 15 minutes to talk about a problem you are encountering and how to handle it. The worst they can do is say no, but trust me, they want to help you. I've never gotten a no.

You can make a difference in the world by pursuing a technology role. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise! Go have fun and know that you can and will do amazing things.

Thank you comment icon Thank you, Ashley! Melanie R.
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Kathryn’s Answer

Obstacles are learning opportunities. I found it scary, challenging and thrilling to go into a male-dominated field, become very good at what I do and exceling. The most important aspect of whatever career you follow is doing the best you can each day with what you have, learning from experience/observation/challenges/successes, and showing up each day to do it all over again. Male/female is not relevant - common sense, expertise, flexibility, thinking on your toes, communications, and overall being a good person are.

You can do and be whatever you set your mind to. Even if you are the first female, you won't be the last. Do what drives YOU.

Kathryn recommends the following next steps:

Research women in the career of interest - use the web.
Read books on overcoming gender bias in the workplace.
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much, Kathryn! Melanie R.
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Niaz’s Answer

I was once discouraged by going into a male dominated field, but then I learned that my passion for the field outweighed any fears I had about it. Everyone has given great advice, but I would like to re-emphasize that if you are the first woman on your team you may open up doors for future woman who may interested in the same field as you. You may be setting the standard for the importance of women in that field - so dont be discouraged but feel empowered that by entering yourself, you are opening up doors for the future. I look up to all of the woman in my field because against all odds, they pushed through and became successful.

Thank you comment icon Thank you, Niaz! Melanie R.
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Prettina’s Answer

I understand it can be different when you get into male dominated field but the first step to working peacefully in a male dominated field is to accept the fact that you are not alone. You have already taken a huge step towards breaking stereotypes by deciding to get into a male dominated filed and that's something you need to be proud of yourselves. When your talent shines, gender blurs. I've worked in a team of all men, but never felt alone and that was mostly because I never let myself think that i'm the only woman on this team. I always thought i'm part of this team just like any other man. So my suggestion would be to put this thought behind and believe strongly only on your talent, as that is the only thing that can help you sustain in any field and take you places. There are so many factors that can make you feel comfortable and empowered in a male dominated field, but none of it would help if you are not willing to trust your talent and follow your heart irrespective of what field you choose and who dominates it.

Thank you comment icon Thank you, Prettina! Melanie R.
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Caitlin’s Answer

I take it as a challenge. For instance when I was entering into the military I knew that I was going to be mostly around men. While a lot of the time there are women around I didn't wanted to be treated any differently because of my gender. I wanted to be seen as an equal. In order to do this I did have to work harder than my peers and set myself to a higher personal goal.
I look at everything in life as an obstacle to overcome and set a goal for myself. Once I complete that goal, I set a new one. I think once you get yourself into your new role that just happens to be male dominated, you will find that YOU determine what your future holds. If you hold yourself to a higher standard than they do, possibly go in with a better work ethic and better attitude you will be fine. It is the first impressions that are everlasting. Don't let society tell you who is going to be the one to run a certain field.
Be confident. Remind yourself you can do anything you set your mind to. Set goals both daily and long term.
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much Caitlin! Melanie R.
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Jaclyn’s Answer

Hi Melanie,

I am a woman in tech. I never imagined myself in a male dominated field but after a few changes to my major ended up in one. School was the perfect time to start learning the new professional culture. I would be in group projects with mostly males and it ended up not being as scary as I thought. More often than not they are there to work too and want to hear different opinions and ideas as well. Trust your intelligence and your experiences to grow confidence in participation. Everyone I've spoken to sometimes feels like they do not belong, even if they are in the majority. My sister is in the STEM field as a chemical engineer and is generally quieter than I am. She excelled in the program and was in the top 10% of some of her classes. She even likes being one of the few women at her company which I was surprised by.
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much, Jaclyn! Melanie R.
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Jennifer’s Answer

I think working in a male-dominated field can be intimidating, but we are at a time in history where there are more women entering these fields than ever before! I think it's important to connect with other women in your field. Women who can mentor and support each other. There can be a lot of bias to overcome in these fields as well, so look for allies among your male counterparts to help overcome the perceptions related to the biases. Don't be discouraged by setbacks, think of yourself as an explorer and pioneer, forging a path for all the amazing women coming after you!
Thank you comment icon Thank you, Jennifer! Melanie R.
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Diana’s Answer

Hi Melanie –

I remember having the same feeling before I started my career in forensic accounting. I decided to follow my dreams and take it as a challenge. I didn't want that to be the reason where I held myself back. I wanted to be part of the shift that would welcome more women into this field.

I put my energy into letting my work shine instead of focusing on the fact that I was part of a very small group of women at the office. As I moved up in my career, and more women started to join my team, I did my best to be a resource to them because I know that’s something I wish I had when I entered the workforce.

Try your best to trust yourself and the process, and know that there are plenty of wonderful opportunities to build your network outside of work. You can join LinkedIn groups, attend networking events, participate in industry-related communities, etc. There are so many wonderful resources to connect with other women who are experiencing / who have experienced the same feeling.
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Geri’s Answer

Hi Melanie! I started my career as an equity trader and was one of very few women in that field. I switched careers about 5 years later to investor relations where I also found I was typically among men at the leadership level. I found seeking out like minded women in my field to connect with was really helpful. It is unfortunate that in tech the gender gap seems to be getting worse. There is an organization called girls who code that is trying to address the gap and lots of other organizations that can support you in navigating a male dominated field. One thing I've found is that women want to support other women so seek out Linkedin groups or networking events to connect with other women.
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Divya’s Answer

Hi Melanie! I was also in your position once when I entered college. I was overwhelmed by how male dominated computer science was. I think what really helped me was joining online communities or clubs on campus that helped me connect with other women on the same path as me. Through that, I was able to get support and guidance. It has really helped me. You can also use LinkedIn to message other women who inspire you and ask them to be your mentor. Don't let the fact that that STEM is male dominated discourage you from achieving your goals. It is a great and rewarding career. You will be amazing, just believe in yourself!
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Karen’s Answer

Not at all. Strive to be your best and achieve your goals; that should be your focus. Expect to be treated professionally; you will be. I have over 30 years experience being an engineer at six different companies (some small, two very large). I am well respected and sought out for my advice because of my capabilities by engineering management and individual contributors. It is all about your skills, knowledge, how you grow professionally and behave towards others.

If you are going for the tech field, you are already in a major and attending classes that have a lower ratio of females to males. Many projects require collaboration; if you aren't impacted/concerned with this in your coursework, you will be just fine out in industry. In fact, collaborative efforts are even more common at work than in the university setting.

You probably already have female friends in college; make it a point to stay in touch after you graduate (LinkedIn and joining technical organizations in your field can help here). You'll be surprised at the number of times you will run across them at conferences and jobs over the years. And you can get some advice from people you respect should anything come up that is a concern for you.

Wherever you land, be sure to find a mentor. Even if your company doesn't have a formal mentor program, most people will agree to be a mentor if you ask. Pick someone that you admire professionally, is thoughtful in their approach, understands how to work with others (co-workers as well as management) and is NOT in your direct management chain. Most of mine have been men, but I did have 2 female mentors (one a mother) that were open and forthcoming on how they handled things (managing a family as well as their job). Of course, balancing work and personal time is something everyone needs to learn how to do!

If this is your only reservation in proceeding with a career path, acknowledge it and proceed! It is important to be passionate about what you are doing. And if the field you choose has fewer females, then you likely won't have to wait in the queue at the bathroom.

Good luck, Melanie!
Thank you comment icon Thank you, Karen! Melanie R.
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Helen’s Answer

As a female you may bring a unique set of skills when compared to your male counterparts. The awesome thing about being a female in a male dominated industry is that you are different and you have something to different to offer. You can learn from all of your peers and leaders, but you're also able to bring a unique perspective and set yourself apart. Embrace all that you bring to the table and bring your confidence every day!
Thank you comment icon Thank you, Helen! Melanie R.
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Diane’s Answer

* Being the minority in any field shouldn't sway what your are passionate about .
* Research companies where there is a culture of respect and the culture code aligns to your own.
* Proactive and ask for mentors and advocacy
* Use the opportunity to open the door for other who identify similar to you.
* Eliminate outside "noise" as much as you can and follow your instincts for what you are capable of
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Lauren’s Answer

Hi Melanie,

Like all of the answers above, I agree that it's important for you to pursue the field that truly resonates with you regardless of the co-workers you will have. I personally get along very well with men and have used my position in the tech industry to make way for other women, by hiring them into positions on teams that I manage so that I can help them cultivate skills and grow. I have felt, as many others, that there are certain men who feel that they can treat others without respect and if that happens to you, just know that you are strong and intelligent enough to get past that challenge. I have felt second-guessed but I always strived to move forward and show off the things that I accomplished. Good luck!
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much, Lauren! Melanie R.
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Margit’s Answer

Hi Melanie,

I spent 7 years in the US Air Force as a mainframe computer field service engineer and in my last assignment, I was the sole woman out of 150 folks. I was also a single mom. The "rules" have changed since then (for the better for sure) but a sense of humor, professionalism, and the ability to rise above are critical. And no means no. I never felt dismissed or undervalued as a woman even tho the country I was living in was about 20 years behind the US in terms of women's rights and roles in the workforce.

Since then, I've remained in technical fields through education and career. At one of my going away parties, my second line raised a toast to me, thanking me for raising the bar and bringing sanity and a degree of decorum to a rowdy bunch. I've watched that company since and women have grown into strong leadership roles. I also enjoy and share some of my "traditional" interests with my colleagues as ice breakers - with a twist. I create custom knit goods - but with an industrial knitting machine and complex design (Knit)CAD software!

Perhaps the most challenging time I faced was raising young children where my (female) peers didn't have that added responsibility and blessing. They could easily work late where I chose to go home wearing my primary "hat" - mom. I did the best I could with who and where I was at that time.

However, I encourage you to find a mentor / confidant. And yes, that can be a man as well but not in your direct chain of management. Or outside of the company.

As a woman, I suggest you claim your differences and perspective. Bring your voice to the table. Speak up and be proud - and human.

Best to you!
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much, Margit! This really helps. Melanie R.
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Deborah (Debbie)’s Answer

Hi Melanie!! I started out as a field technician 24 years ago and was the only female or 1 of 2 or 3 many times. While it was intimidating at times, I chose to take it as a challenge to work harder. I became "qualified" in only 2 months because I was determined to show everyone my abilities. We worked in teams and I am proud to say I was the lead many times. Quick story, a new man was transferred into our group and he was partnered with me. You could see the look of disappointment on his face, 'Oh great, I am working with the girl' and I decided to have fun with it. I let him take the lead and every time he needed a tool or supply, I had it ready before he could ask. You could see his attitude changing as the day went on. At the end of the day, I broke the job site down myself as he was still putting his gloves on. He looked at me shocked and I said "Are you good with working with me now?" He laughed and said he felt like a fool for judging me for being a female. We went on to be partners for a while until I moved on to a new role. My point is, people judge others for various reasons. Your job is just to be the best you can be no matter what people think. It only matters what you think and how you value yourself. I am proud to say that I am now a 2nd level manager and still look to move up ad forward every day!!!
You got this Melanie!!!! Lots of luck to you!!!
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much, Debbie!!!! Melanie R.
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