Women in STEM: What it’s like working in a male-dominated profession?

What It’s Like to Be a Woman in a Male-Dominated Profession?

What It’s Like to Be a Woman in a Male-Dominated Profession?

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July 8 2015 7:10 AM

What It’s Like to Be a Woman in a Male-Dominated Profession?

Male dominated field
“I think people expect me to know the same as men, and when I do, they are not surprised.”

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Answer by Michelle Victor, desktop support technician:

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I'm an IT, and from what I've been told, there's a general push from most companies to hire more woman in tech. I would say that being a woman gave me an advantage in that sense. To be quite frank, I believe I may have been given interviews because I am a woman, but I got hired because of my skill. I'm not afraid to command the respect I deserve from the very first interview, which makes entering the male dominated workforce pretty easy for me.

It's interesting—I don't ever think anyone held my knowledge to a different standard because I am a woman. I think people expect me to know the same as men, and when I do, they are not surprised. I think I hold myself to a high standard in general, so when I know more or am better than a co-worker (who are generally all male) at something, that may surprise them or they may not like that. I am very quick to address any issues people have with me, so this surprise naturally dissipates over the course of me working with them. I let them sort through any gender-related issues they have. I never worry too much about it, since it's not my issue, and I'm just there to do my job.

Because I'm one of those women who can hang with the guys, and because my co-workers usually know I date woman, I feel that makes them feel comfortable with talking to me about who in the office is attractive. Some even push the limits to say what sexual things they would do to them. I will say that hearing a man say sexual comments about another woman in the office is disturbing, and I don't like it. But since I'm quick to address issues, they know right away what is not OK with me and that I have no problem escalating if necessary, which I had to do once in my career.

Going to conferences is fun. It's the only place where the women's restroom line isn't out the door and around the corner. When I go by myself, many people approach me to talk to me and usually ask something along the lines of this same question I'm answering now. I've also found that when I go with a male co-worker to a conference, people come up to us and often ask our “relation,” which I'm fairly certain they would not ask two men that, but rather about what they do.

At my previous jobs, I often heard how nice it is that I am a woman, and mostly from female end-users, who were admittedly intimidated by male IT or frustrated with male communication. I personally never thought of me being any different than my male counterparts because I am a woman, but rather because I am an extrovert with a communications degree (two nonstereotypical traits of an IT). 

Maybe it's my communications background that makes it easy for me to be as vocal as I need to be in order to make changes against any gender-related discrimination that may occur. Being confident, self-assured, vocal, and good at your job, are essential to being a woman in a predominantly male profession.