Women continue to find their way into male-dominated professions. Tanzania has its first female President, Kenya just swore in its first-ever female Chief Justice, one of Tanzania’s giant football clubs Simba SC appointed Barbara Gonzalez as the club’s first-ever female CEO just to list some examples.
That trend carries on across various levels in different industries. You might have heard of Sylvia Gathoni, Kenya’s first female professional gamer or seen women in other spheres of life globally doing the same or you perhaps know one or maybe you, yes you are the one “breaking the barriers”.
It’s obviously exciting and always creates a buzz but have you ever thought of how these women navigate their way in these fields? This writer has been down this road and now shares some tips for women working in male-dominated jobs.
Find An Ally
In my case, I had two other women in my department at a previous company but I still had to make some of the guys my allies. It’s inevitable that your options will be heavily tilted toward them. After all, they are the majority.
Trust me, even in these kinds of situations, you’ll always find men who want to be allies with the women they are working with. They’ll be of big help. These men will trust your ability to carry out a task, amplify your voice, seek your opinion, will be available to offer help, advocate for you and generally make you part of the team which makes everything much better.
Knowledge Is Your Ammunition
You just have to know your stuff. Whether you think it’s unfair and the other men somehow just get by with the bare minimum, make sure you know your stuff. It’ll help you feel more confident and not have to worry about what the guy in the corner thinks.
You don’t have to be Einstein - although that’s nice if you are - being a lifelong learner - continuously building your skills and being current with the trends and information in your industry will be something valuable to everyone. More importantly, you’ll love it.
Keep Your Eyes Peeled
Of course, you want to be friendly but also be smart. Be aware of everything that’s going on around you. Take time and learn the people you are working with. And whenever anything unusual crops up, whatever it might be - work-related or something bordering on your personal life for no reason at all - address it immediately.
If a guy is being unnecessarily aggressive for example, don’t hide and hope it’ll go away. Find a way to have a conversation with the aggressor and politely, I insist politely, let them know you’ll not condone such behaviour.
Master all the courage you can in the world, walk into that office and let your voice be heard. Nobody is going to hand anything to you. You want to work on particular projects, have an opinion in the morning meetings and feel like you aren’t some alien, then you have to take the initiative.
Say what you think. Sometimes your views might be different but as long as you know your subject matter, that shouldn’t bother you. I’ve learnt that it's better to share that idea you think is creepy than sit on it and have someone else float it out than live in regret.
Follow Like-Minded Women
You might be the only female in your workplace but you’re certainly not the only one in the industry or the world. You want to find these women regardless of the geographical boundaries, follow them through social networks - seminars, Twitter, LinkedIn, conferences - and with the ones closest to you, make friends.
They’ll be an outlet for you to share your experience because they understand what you are going through, it’s a networking opportunity and will also create mentoring chances for you.
Read More: 5 Tips To Survive Social Media Envy