Each week members of our community pose a tough question they’re facing in their career for Valerie Sutton, our Non-Executive Director for Workforce Navigation & Transformation.. She posts her response in our community and we then share her advice via our blog. Got your own career-related questions? Share your questions with us via Instagram or LinkedIn! This week’s question is: How might I best navigate as woman in a male-dominated workplace?

In university, women often make up the majority, so it can be quite a shock when you enter the workforce to find that you are one of a few women in your starting cohort or the overall organization.  This realization can give way to feelings of insecurity, worries about tokenism, or having to fit into a ‘bro’ culture excluding you from acceptance in the organization.  But, if you find yourself in this situation at the start of your career, it’s important that you address the situation. Here are ten strategies you can employ to support you in being successful in male-dominated environments. 

  1. Ditch the idea of tokenism & own your worth. In male-dominated environments, it can feel like you are the token hire. You are not. Remind yourself of your skills, qualifications, and past successes, and remember what landed you the job in the first place.
  2. Journal to stop ruminating. You will likely have a lot of feelings and worries.  Get a journal and use it as a place to air those feelings and gain perspective. The act of writing down the valid feelings you are having will allow you to better concentrate on the work at hand.
  3. Seek support at work. Look for employer support if you are feeling anxiety about the situation.  Often your benefits package will include coaching or other professional development resources you can access.
  4. Connect with women. Cultivate relationships with women outside of your unit or starting cohort at the organization. Connecting and talking through situations can help you to reframe problems.
  5. Learn from successful male colleagues and allies.  Diverse approaches often lead to better outcomes in your career. 
  6. Educate yourself. Be aware of your growth potential by asking about company-wide benchmarks.  Knowledge is power in negotiating raises and promotions.
  7. Join professional organizations. Seek out professional organizations in your field, including those with a focus on gender or have a gender committee. For instance, you could join the Financial Women’s Association or Women in Tech.
  8. Own your voice and speak your mind.  You were hired for a reason, and you bring a unique perspective to the work.
  9. Leverage your unique strengths. Many women will hesitate to use strengths that are stereotypically feminine.  If your strengths are perceived as feminine, don’t change yourself, lean into them, as they will not be common in male-dominated environments.
  10. Live an active life. Remember that a job is not your career, and your career is not your life. Be sure to take care of yourself and your overall physical and mental health.  Make sure to keep your hobbies and friendships active and make time to enjoy all aspects of your life.