The Rise of Women in Traditionally Male-Dominated Industries

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The Rise of Women in Traditionally Male-Dominated Industries

Gender equality is not where it should be in pretty much any industry. While things are steadily getting better, the struggle to undo centuries of gender discrimination is still very much present. The #MeToo movement, in particular, continues to highlight just how prevalent inhospitable, abuser-protective workplaces are today.

One of the issues has been that, for quite some time; there have been certain industries that have erroneously been considered unsuitable for women or dominated by male perspectives. However, the last few decades have seen an emergence of women; as successful participants and leaders in many of these roles. To the extent that a 2016 study reported that some of these — marketing, advertising, and transportation among them — had become those with the greatest gender equality.    

So how is a greater female presence affecting some of these industries? Who are the organizations and women influencing the direction of marketing, trades, and sciences? What can we learn from them to make our future workplaces more diverse and supportive? The rise of women in traditionally male-dominated industries an overview.

The Trades

It seems only right, to begin with, the skilled trades. Electricians, plumbers, carpenters, and the like have traditionally been considered to be masculine career paths. A toxic level of the classic definitions of conscious and unconscious gender discrimination has limited women’s presence in these fields. This isn’t limited to the more visible despicable behaviour, such as; abuse and casual application of sexist language. That so often alienates women from industries. It goes deeper than that. Societal expectations can negatively and inaccurately inform the decisions of interviewers. Even influence the advice and encouragement that teachers and career guidance counsellors provide in schools.   

The LAndscape of tradies today

We’re not over this hurdle yet. Women represent approximately 10% of Australia’s electrical services workforce and just 1% of construction and telecommunications tradies. There are organizations seeking to redress this balance. And show that women have a serious talent to contribute to the fields. Trades Women Australia, have committed to developing research and partnering with other organizations; to understand what the barriers to trades for women are. Also, how these can be overcome from an individual and systemic perspective. 

SALT (Supporting and Linking Tradeswomen) is another group that helps women to access apprenticeships and mentors, and also builds networks for female trade workers that can be instrumental in dismantling the boy’s club mentality that is still prevalent in the trades. This approach amplifies the opportunities for women and empowers women to get into schools early and adjust the deep-rooted bias attached to traditional gender roles in these careers. 


Over decades, popular culture has presented marketers and advertisers; to be a high-sociopathic man in a suit, hustling to create brand interest. What this stereotype has managed to miss; however, is that marketing relies on insight into human nature, and a certain emotional intelligence. As women have risen to become leaders in marketing; they’ve brought with them the innovations and insights that greater diversity breeds.  

One of Australia’s most visible marketing leaders right now is Melanie Perkins. She founded the popular graphic design tool Canva; in a bid to offer greater accessibility to use visual marketing tools such as infographics. Linda Lin, team happiness co-ordinator at Canva, states the company has actively sought to improve gender diversity in its hiring, and part of its strategy in this has been as simple as changing the language in its job ads. This includes removing aggressive word choices that seem to be more attractive to male candidates. It further extends to leaning into more life-enhancing job perks such as flexible working hours.  

What this seems to boil down to; is that smarter, more inclusive marketing is literally the key to encouraging more women into marketing roles. Where their innate and hard-earned abilities can make a significant impact.  This is not a case of dividing the genders in order to help clients hit specific demographic targets. Rather, marketing — as with all sectors — benefits most from the collaboration of complementary skill sets; women and men working together make meaningful connections between businesses and the public.  

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)

There are STEM fields in which women have been traditionally dominant. Nursing has been one sector in which women have led for the last couple of centuries. Though this is seeing a change in gender dynamics too; men have gained an increasing presence in nursing. Though this also highlights how negative gender stereotypes affect roles. Men have historically been met with surprise or even ridicule in nursing. As this area of expertise has long been considered unmasculine. This tells us that so-called soft skills such as empathy; are looked upon as weaknesses, rather than the incredible strengths they are. 

STEM industries & women

In order to contribute to and lead STEM industries; women have had to prove themselves in ways that are not expected of men in the science and technology sectors. In fact, women’s achievements in science have historically not been as highly lauded as men. Often barely acknowledged by the community. This has resulted in a lack of high-profile female role models for girls and young women; who are considering careers in STEM. Representation is vital — by seeing people like ourselves succeed, it gives us the self-belief that we can also make important contributions. 

STEM Women has been building a database of science, tech, engineering, and math workers in Australia that identify as female. Partnering with the Australian government and industry leaders; projects such as this can be important in raising the profile of women and the important work they are doing. In turn, having a positive effect on the number of women entering STEM fields. 

The fact that we still have traditionally male-dominated industries is problematic. We are starting, slowly, to see shifts in gender disparity across the trades, marketing, and STEM fields. We must continue to challenge stereotypes; promote female innovators, and present role models in order to encourage greater diversity into these industries.


Adrian Johansen writes to share her knowledge with the world.

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