Gender divides have existed for as long as anyone can remember. However, women aren’t just sitting back and letting their male counterparts get all the credit — they’re making a name for themselves in these male-dominant industries.
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According to a recent publication by Catalyst.org, women make up less than 25 percent in total employment in male-dominant industries such as construction, mining, oil and gas, and utilities. Additionally, and sadly, this gender discrimination has caused “particular challenges for women’s advancement” in said industries due to the fact that “talent management systems are frequently vulnerable to pro-male biases” that promote a less diverse employee pool. Women are not only discouraged from entering these fields, but if they do, it’s much more difficult for them to succeed or move up in rank than their male colleagues. Let’s take a look at how these three capable and savvy women were able to muscle their way into male-dominant industries and build successful businesses when the odds were against them.
Sandra Wilkin was a business woman who wasn’t afraid “to break the concrete ceiling” when she founded Bradford Construction Corp. in New York back in 1989, since earning herself the title “a hard hat with style” in the industry. According to the company’s site, Wilkins served on the Executive Board of the Regional Alliance for Small Contractors, making her the first woman to be awarded that role. But Wilkins is anything but tightfisted in her success with her continued advocacy for the “advancement of women, minorities and small businesses in the industry.” Pink hardhats never looked so good.
Genevieve Withers began her business, Pipe Wrap, a company that sells various high-tech solutions for repairing pipes, back in 2005 out of financial necessity after realizing that her teaching salary wasn’t sufficient enough to provide for her two children. After coming across an idea for an emergency repair kit for leaky pipes, Withers decided to try her hand as an entrepreneur and make a living out of it, and her risk paid off. In 2012, Pipe Wrap was awarded a $650,000 research grant from the National Science Foundation, which allowed the company to take on an entirely new avenue of technology that could be used to repair bridges as well. Withers has faced a bit of adversity and hesitancy in her industry simply because she is a woman, but her advice, “In some ways, (being a woman) can be an advantage because they are so used to men in the business. (Female entrepreneurs) should never be afraid to present their products or technology to a business if they believe in it.” (Source: Houston Business Journal)
Mikki Paradis, President and CEO of PDI Drywall, Inc. proves that being a woman in a male-dominant industry can be challenging, but fun at the same time. Paradis states in her interview with NewsObserver.com that “[t]here is obviously skepticism at first, but then once people realize that you know what you are talking about, I don’t think they have a problem working with a woman.” PDI Drywall was started in 2005 after Paradis’ father convinced her to join forces to meet the then high-demand for drywall in the residential construction market. After a few years and a couple of construction management courses under her belt, Paradis would find herself running a successful drywall company in, what was thought to be, a “men only” industry. It paid off for Paradis to not let the fact that she was a woman hold her or her company back, instead she educated herself in the industry and used her gender to her advantage. We’ll raise a glass to that kind of tenacity and desire to turn a career dream into a reality, despite the great adversity that came with the territory.
So, if you’re a woman looking to take on or enter a male-dominant industry (like programming), then don’t let your gender get in the way of you following your dreams. In fact, according to this recent PayScale post, the tech industry needs more nerdy women like you! No great woman ever got anywhere in her career by hiding in the shadows of a man.
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