The Women’s Rugby World Cup kicked off last weekend and as I think we can all agree that rugby is predominantly a male sport, we got thinking about women who work in male dominated industries. To investigate we had a chat with five women in different male-dominated industries to hear their experiences andget tips for other women in similar situations.
Gemma, Assistant Surveyor
“I’ve wanted to go into construction since the age of 15 so there was no better feeling than landing my graduate job last year. Initially I was a bit worried but once I got a work placement and experienced what it was like to work in the industry, it never bothered me again. I’ve never come across any problems and I would hope that I am treated the same way as my male colleagues; many of the clients I work with are female so I don’t feel in the minority anymore.
I think that I’ve managed to gain respect from the people I work with by taking a professional approach to the job and by always responding to requests. I also take the time to get to know the people I am working with as I’m a consultant who liaises between the client and contractor so at times I have to take a firm approach to situations. I would say that you have to be able to stand your ground and be knowledgeable so that you can get your point across.
I’ve never really thought about doing anything else, only different positions within the industry. I never wanted to be stuck in an office 9-5 and working in construction means that I’m always out and about. I think if you have bad experiences then I could understand wanting to change but I think the industry has moved on from its male dominant ways.”
Becca Howard, Product Genius at BMW
“I’ve always loved cars – especially expensive ones! – so the prestige car market has always appealed to me. It’s never really bothered me working with guys though, I just feel protected and secure; they’ve always got my back. You constantly have a laugh with them and you know you’re being looked out for.”
Although women are still very much in the minority in the motoring industry Barb Samardzich, Ford of Europe’s COO, told The Telegraph earlier this year that things are changing. “The short answer is yes,” she said, “or we wouldn’t see women reaching the levels they are in the auto industry. But overall if you add up the number of women who are in the c suites [business slang for senior executives] or in high positions in the OEMs globally, we are still in the minority. So I’d say there’s still a way for us to go before people stop talking about the gender of the person – as long as you’ve got to talk about it, we’re probably not there yet.”
Ann Pickering, HR Director for Telefónica UK (O2)
Despite research last year finding that 75% of people change their behaviour or appearance for work, Ann told Yahoo! that she thinks it’s important not to. “It’s really important that when everyone, not just women, come to work they feel they can be themselves. And I think a lot of us feel we have to be someone else or that we’ll do better if we put on a front, but that’s exhausting and hard to keep up.”
“We need a balance: in my team at O2 I want people have have a range of skills and personalities. You need assertive types but having a whole room of them isn’t helpful. You need a blend, with more reflective and creative characters mixed in.”
“The sad reality is that many women are still feeling the pressure to conform to outdated stereotypes,” she said in an interview with HR Review. “While of course women have their own part to play in pushing past stereotypes, all businesses need to take responsibility for ensuring their female employees feel comfortable being themselves and are absolutely secure in the knowledge that their gender won’t hold them back.”
Harriet Notton, Entertainment Writer and Editorial Assistant at ZOO magazine
“I’ve only ever known lads’ mags really. The first ever placement I did was at a magazine called Superbike and there were no females there. After that I went to Loaded to do work experience and for two years after that I was always welcomed back; I loved the environment and I loved the guys. I did some freelance work for them and I was the only female writer there so it was a big deal at the time given that I was only about 20. I just liked how relaxed it was.
I think that they quite liked that I could write in the tone of a man. It was definitely something I liked doing and I think you can be a bit freer with your writing in men’s magazines. I’ve definitely never been put off by the environment; I came to ZOO and it was no different from Loaded in that it’s just pictures of boobs all over the walls. But what I do isn’t so embedded in that as I don’t write about the girls and I don’t know if they would ever employ a female to do that.
I think that girls should consider working in lads’ mags. It’s definitely something that girls may shun and have preconceived ideas about but everyone’s not pouring over tits - that’s not the reality at all. I’ve had some really cool interviews and written about some really cool films. Working for a lads’ mag doesn’t mean you’re writing about boobs – there’s so much more to it.”
Nic Whatmore, Digital Engagement Manager at The Lab at Telefónica UK (O2)
“I kind of fell into working in tech as I actually trained in travel and tourism but there was no money in it. Then I got a temp job doing secretarial work and I got into the tech scene when I joined Three when it was a startup. I was working in the technology department then and that was my first real exposure to it. I’ve always really liked techy stuff and been interested in new technology coming out, so there’s always been an underlying interest but I never really thought it would be my job.
Going into Three there were no other women in the department but that didn’t really pose an issue – I grew up in a pub which was very male-dominated so I was kind of used to it. The only time it became apparent was when I got pregnant and the attitude changed a little bit. But being one of the few women has never really bothered me.
I think women in tech is talked about more now and the profile of it is rising considerably. There’s been a lot of talk about it on Twitter – especially about speakers at events where they particularly target women and then there’s a big outcry about being gender biased. It’s definitely got a high profile recently, and one of the projects I’m working on is about how we get young people excited about careers in technology and to diminish the stereotype that it is older men in white coats with glasses and grey hair.”
For more, take a look at…
- Success stories from Wired Next Generation
- We need more women in tech!
- Career advice from kick-ass women
- ZOO Magazine editorial work experience