3 Pieces Of Advice I Learned To Help Me Navigate A Male-Dominated Workplace

By Rachel Jackson

Gender disparity has never been more of a talking point. Just take a look at the news. Sexual harassment in the workplace. A worrying gender pay gap. And we know without looking to the newspapers that more men than women sit in executive offices across the world.

Some companies and industries are worse than others for operating like an old boys’ club. For women looking to make their mark, it can be disheartening and frustrating to face that glass ceiling day in and day out.

And believe me, I know what I’m talking about. I’ve been working in male-dominated offices ever since I entered the job market. That’s just what the tech industry looks like – and there’s no sign that anything is about to change.

During my time at these male-driven organizations, I noticed that even when women are appointed to the top jobs, they tend to have an extra-tough time ahead of them. Men are used to reporting to men and don’t always take kindly to a woman in charge.

So I asked myself: How can women become effective leaders in a male-dominated company? Can they become such leaders at all? Here are a few tips I’ve learned through my experience being a manager in a male-dominated environment:

  1. Body Language Counts More Than You Think

Whilst I hate to think that women have to become more like men in order to lead, this is unfortunately the current state of affairs. Some mannerisms our society tends to interpret as typically female can be misinterpreted as weakness or submissiveness.

Smiling a lot, employing the social gaze and tilting the head as a gesture used to convey that we’re actively listening to someone else all fall into this category.

When addressing a group of men, I noticed that avoiding these gestures helps a lot. I also try to maintain balance throughout my body. That means no head-tilting and no resting my weight on one hip.

If you want to take this one step further, do the following: When at a meeting, try to take up as much space as possible – both physically and with your papers. Trust me, it works.

All of these little body language signals convey a sense of dominance and seriousness, which helps to get the guys in your team on board.

  1. Think About your Team Culture

Some reputedly female characteristics can be harnessed to great effect in a leadership role. As women, we’re supposedly more communicative and able to empathize with others.

That puts us in a much better position than men for building a positive and productive team culture.

It doesn’t matter whether you lead a male or female team – it’s all about learning what makes your team tick and helping to facilitate their motivation and initiative. I’ve been open to discussions on flexible working, I’ve provided healthy snacks in the office and I’ve always been transparent, encouraging feedback and giving praise where it’s due.

This kind of positive work culture has fostered respect between my team and myself, and helped me to be more effective in my leadership role – even when managing a group of male writers!

  1. Consider About the Bigger Picture

In my experience, employees of both genders are more likely to respect a boss who has a clear vision. When you have a certain (but always flexible) view of where your team is going, you can give clear instructions, respond to suggestions and questions knowledgeably, and basically keep everyone on track.

During my career, I learned that it’s a good idea to keep your eye on ultimate objectives, but it’s also important to be aware of your own progress.

I regularly assess my management and job skills. I often seek out training where appropriate and never rest on my laurels. Understanding your own strengths and weaknesses helps to delegate and improve skills wherever necessary, making you into a better leader in the process.

It’s a sad fact that women have to work harder than men to gain the trust and respect of their team, particularly in male-dominated companies. Hopefully this won’t always be the case.

In the meantime, feel free to follow my example and play down the characteristics that allow men to write you off as weak. Instead, use the opportunity of being a female boss to foster a great and communicative work environment. That way you’ll have the power to succeed as a leader wherever you work.





Rachel is a mother of 2 beautiful boys. She loves to hike and write about traveling, education and business. She is a Senior Content Manager at Bizset.com – an online resource of relevant business information. You can follow her on Twitter.

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