Where are the women? Male-dominated workplaces need to diversify
Monday, April 03, 2017
"There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish." — Michelle Obama
Over the past century, women have made significant strides in achieving equality in workplaces, everything from narrowing the pay gap to increasing women in leadership and senior management roles. However, when taking a closer look at individual industries, it's apparent that the push for gender equality is just beginning to affect traditionally male-dominated industries like construction and mining.
According to Wider Opportunities for Women's "Women and Nontraditional Work" report, only 5.8 percent of working women had careers in nontraditional occupations. In addition, those who worked in these nontraditional occupations faced a higher risk of sexual harassment and a lack of support.
Male-dominated industries are beginning to realize the positive impact of women in the workplace, but diversifying is complicated and results are not immediate. However, those who have successfully diversified are reaping the benefits — and they can be a useful resource for those unsure how to begin.
Celadon, a transportation and logistics company based in Indianapolis, is one of these success stories. To learn more about Celadon's female workforce, three female Celadon employees sat down for an exclusive interview to offer insights and tips. And, to make these women even more interesting, they are family — a mother and her two daughters.
Women in nontraditional workplaces can make a huge impact on businesses. According to Grant Thornton's "Women in Business: The Value of Diversity" report, companies with diverse boards — at least one female executive board member — outperformed all-male boards by 1.91 percent resulting in a $567 billion opportunity cost.
"Women are needed in these fields because it's important to be able to have a different point of view, which women will bring to the table. Without a woman's point of view, you may be missing important ideas to help employees and the business, I think this goes both ways," said Marie Leapley, vice president of customer service at Celadon.
Why should women consider male-dominated careers?
Careers in nontraditional industries can be intimidating but can also be rewarding. Many women find higher satisfaction with traditionally male roles, and they benefit financially since these jobs tend to pay more — by 20 to 30 percent on average.
Nontraditional industries tend to be fairly labor-intensive, but that doesn't mean every job within that industry is.
"A trucking company isn't just truck drivers; there are other positions that women can be successful in that make the industry what it is," reminds Julieta Briceno, a member of Celadon's Driver Qualifications team.
Men and women are different, but these differences do not make one better than the other. In fact, businesses need both to satisfy consumer and employee needs. Without one or the other, you are cutting your team in half.
"I feel that some women can be more organized than men. I also think we are easier to talk to in some cases," Briceno said. "For example in my experience, I interact a lot with drivers, so I've noticed that they enjoy speaking to a woman more than they do with a man."
Characteristics like organization are not specific to females, but females tend to be more organized; it's these types of characteristics that cause a void in male-dominated workplaces.
How can women succeed in a male-dominated industry?
"If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair," said Shirley Chisholm, who in 1968 became the first African-American woman elected to the U.S. Congress.
In order to succeed, women must make the first move. Don't wait to be asked your opinion, make them listen. If you have an idea, bring it up. If you feel you deserve a raise, ask for it. If you can't handle something, say no.
For Alma Briceno, Celadon customer service representative for almost 20 years, the path to success is a simple one: "Have respect for others, be punctual, positive and strong."
Take this advice to heart. Not only has she had a successful long-term career in a nontraditional industry, but her two daughters Marie Leapley and Julieta Briceno have also successfully followed in her footsteps.
But it doesn't stop there, Leapley said.
"As a woman, you need to be able to be outspoken and not scared to share those thoughts and opinions, even if people don’t always agree with them," Leapley said. "I think that’s always a big hurdle for women to not hold back on ideas, opinions if we feel strongly about them, but know that others may not agree or your idea may not take off in the industry — you have to learn from it and be OK with that."
Women who aren't afraid to put themselves out there will gain industry attention. Being a woman doesn't make a person any less qualified, so if you have something to offer, don't hold back. Women in nontraditional roles must be confident in themselves and their skills.
Leapley wasn't afraid to stand up and lead a room full of men when she presented at a recent industry symposium, and because of this she gained professional attention and recognition.
"I think people were surprised that I was presenting, and I do think it gave me an advantage, because more people became interested in what my presentation was about," Leapley said.
What can businesses do to begin diversifying?
Utilize colleges and the relationships with them. You should be attempting to recruit a good mix of experienced women as well as entry-level candidates, but one of the most successful recruiting strategies of Celadon is their relationships with the nearby colleges and their ability to get in front of these college students, and explain why and how the industry and business offer something no one else can.
Especially today, people are attracted to businesses that try to better their local community. Doing volunteer work and speaking at local elementary schools are a great way to get your company's name out to the community and increase brand awareness. It's not going to get women to jump off the couch and come work for you, but when a woman decides she is ready to job search, your name will stand out.
Just because an industry or business is male-dominated doesn't mean women can't succeed. In fact, being a woman in a male-dominated industry can have its benefits — for both the employee and the employer. Women who take on a career in nontraditional industries need to be prepared for the challenge, as well as the reward.
"Be the kind of woman who makes other women up their game. So no matter how you feel, get up, dress up, show up and never give up!" — Manushi Singh
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