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3 Ways Women Can Thrive in Male-Dominated Fields

Posted by Shelly Quance on 8/23/18 6:18 AM

  August 23, 2018    

3 Ways Women Can Thrive in Male-Dominated Fields

The tables are turning for women in traditionally male-dominated fields.

The statistics are changing. Women can, and in fact do, succeed, thrive, and make names for themselves in fields like science, technology, business — and even race car driving!

The reason many fields have become so male-dominated is not because women are incapable of doing the job and doing it well. Several factors play into the gender difference, but at the end of the day, women are just as capable as men of succeeding at anything they commit to. You just have to put in the work, face the challenges, and never give up.

Here are three tips for women dedicated to thriving in male-dominated fields — like STEM education and STEM industries.

Explore WVU's digital resource page for aspiring STEM leaders — A Guide to  Graduate Programs and Careers in STEM!

There are a few specific things you can do to help position yourself to change the status quo. This is, by no means, an exhaustive list. But if you feel up to the tasks listed below, you undoubtedly have what it takes to be the next big name in an industry where men take the ranks:

1. Prepare Yourself to Experience Bias:

Plastic Surgeon Susan Lovelle advises that when you’re entering a field where women are scarce, you should prepare to experience biases (like lack of maternity leave) and learn to adjust to them. This doesn’t mean you have to accept these biases, but you need to know what you’re walking into and don’t expect things to change overnight.

Things can change though, she encourages. If you know who you are, what you want, and how to get it, there’s no reason you can’t climb to the top of your chosen field, no matter who currently sits there.

2. Build a Support System:

One of the most powerful tools in your arsenal as a woman determined to thrive where men have typically reigned will be who you know. So, get out there and network!

Join women’s associations. Form partnerships with other strong women. Foster mutually beneficial relationships. Let your peers validate your worth to the industry. From the American Business Women’s Association to Women Who Code to the Association for Women in Science, the resources and support you need are out there. You just need to take the initiative to participate.

3. Be Strategic & Strong:

As NJ Goldston, Editor-in-Chief of The Blonde and The Brunette, warns, you can’t make your way in a male-dominated industry without the skills needed to thrive.

You should be constantly engrossed in honing your skills. Don’t focus on the number of men you’re competing against; focus on being the best. Be strong and confident in your abilities. Convey that confidence through your speech, body language, and (most importantly) your work ethic and the results you produce.

These are just a few things you can do to ensure your success where the path has not yet been clearly defined. Part of being prepared, networking, and having the needed skills to thrive is laying a solid foundation through education.

At West Virginia University, we can help you challenge gender norms in male-dominated industries.

At West Virginia University, we offer many graduate programs that can help prepare you for success in traditionally male-dominated fields. From Neuroscience to Cybersecurity, from Physics to Statistics, from Mathematics to Safety Management, from Data Science to Software Engineering, and beyond, we want to see you rise above the challenges society has set.

At West Virginia University, we want to be part of changing the women-to-men ratio in these fields. We believe in you and the strength you possess to destroy the gender norms that have thrown these industries off-kilter.

We hope you’ll take the time to explore our programs and let us know how we can help you make a difference!

Also, if you have questions about the below topics, we have resources to help you there too!

As an aspiring STEM professional and leader, we invite you to explore our newest interactive resource — A Guide to Graduate Programs and Careers in STEM!

Explore the STEM Resource

Topics: Graduate Degrees in STEM

Posted by Shelly Quance

Shelly Quance has spent almost 20 years working in higher education marketing communications. She currently serves as Director for West Virginia University’s Office of Graduate Admissions and Recruitment where she works collaboratively with College leadership to develop, implement, and evaluate creative and effective comprehensive communication and marketing plans to increase graduate student enrollment.


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