Creating Opportunities for Women to Succeed in Male-Dominated Industries
By: Kristy Wallace and Betty DeVita
There's no denying that women are faced with challenges in the workplace. These challenges include sexual harassment, access to opportunities, the "mom" effect, pay gaps, investing gaps, good old boys’ club, and more. The challenges increase exponentially in male-dominated industries such as finance, technology, law, and politics. These industries are comprised of 25% or fewer female employees, and an even smaller percentage of women in leadership.
According to research by Cornell University, “the difference between the occupations and industries in which men and women work has recently become the single largest cause of the gender pay gap, accounting for more than half of it.” We know that the disparity between genders in the workforce has been detrimental, but research shows that increasing diversity is not only good for the company, but the economy as a whole.
A 2011 Catalyst study of Fortune 500 companies attests to the fact that having more women in leadership can benefit a company’s bottom line. While only 6.4% of Fortune 500 companies have women CEOs, the study showed that companies with 3+ women directors outperformed those with no women on their boards, achieving 42% return on sales, 66% return on invested capital, and 53% return on equity.
A 2016 Peterson Institute survey of almost 22,000 firms from 91 countries suggests that women in corporate leadership positions can contribute to and advance a firm’s performance. The study found that having greater diversity in the executive suite is positively and significantly correlated with measures of financial performance, such as gross revenue margins.
Furthermore, the 2015 KPMG Women's Leadership study showed that 86% of women see possibility in getting to positions of leadership and feel that it is an attainable goal when they see more women in these positions.
Why should we work to create equal opportunity for women in all industries? Research shows having more women on teams and in leadership positions leads to:
- More innovation
- Higher ROEs and increased profitability
- Better problem-solving
- Increased mentorship and sponsorship opportunities
Companies and individuals can take actions that set women up to succeed in any work environment. Here’s how:
Don’t let stereotypes & unconscious biases get to you: When women lead, their traits are often perceived in a negative way. Assertiveness is perceived as bossiness, and passion & empathy as getting “worked up.” It is important to look past these comments and continue to lead with confidence.
Find your network: Women are stronger together. Find a network of women who support your goals.
Set the stage: Sometimes when you’re the only woman on the team, there are times when the men plan innocuous after-hours meetings that skew in a way that alienates other members of the team. Instead, set the stage; create the next situation and include everyone.
Don’t be afraid to fail: Failure isn’t negative. It’s an opportunity to learn, grow, and push boundaries that ultimately lead to success. Take a chance and fail. Try again and fail better, smarter, and faster.
Take ownership of your accomplishments: When you accomplish something at work, share it with your team and your boss, and let others outside of your team know. Keep a journal that tracks what you’ve accomplished. Keeping your name and accomplishments at the forefront will keep you top of mind for new opportunities or promotions.
Ask for the raise/promotion/new opportunity: This goes back to not being afraid to fail. There are opportunities out there that might be perfect for you, but unless you tell your boss that you’re interested, they won’t know to nominate you. Ask, “What do I have to do to get to be a part of…” and then do it.
If your company won’t support you, leave and find a place that will: You have the choice to work where you want. Is it a business that acts as a true advocate for inclusion and representation or is mission-driven and aligns with your morals? With the ability to choose where you want to work and what you want to do, satisfaction & productivity come along with it.
We believe in a future where gender equality in the workplace is no longer a topic among leadership teams and HR departments. Together, we must all take action. By inspiring conversations, professional development, and cultural change, we have the opportunity to create a springboard for our employees, colleagues, and bosses — of all genders — to reach higher.
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Betty DeVita serves as Chief Commercial Officer of Digital Payments & Labs at Mastercard. In this global role, Betty is responsible for commercializing Mastercard Labs assets. In 2014, Ms. DeVita was inducted into the Women’s Executive Network Hall of Fame as one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women.
Kristy Wallace is the CEO of Ellevate Network, where she directs the Network’s staff, is responsible for business growth and strategy, and works closely to further Ellevate's impact. She is a regular speaker and thought leader on Leadership, Diversity, and Social Entrepreneurship. Kristy was recognized as a Woman of Influence by the New York Business Journal.
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