Even in 2017, male-dominated workplaces are common in many industries. Finding yourself as the only woman on a team of men has some perks (such as your pseudo-private restroom), but being the sole woman among men can produce some unique challenges (such as commonly being mistaken for the group’s assistant). Whatever the particular nature of your profession, however, you can take steps to navigate the challenges presented by an all-male team and succeed in your position, despite an uneven gender ratio.
Learn How to Find Your Voice
Stereotypically, men are not afraid to speak up in meetings and schedule one-on-one time with managers in order to request staffing on attractive projects or to advocate for themselves for a promotion. On the other hand, many women–even accomplished and well-educated professionals–fall into the “good girl” trap. Rather than speaking up, these women decide to keep their heads down and work hard in an effort to get the same results as their male colleagues. Unfortunately, the men who are more vocal tend to get all of the credit for ideas and solutions, and their requests are more likely to be met.
Understand that bosses of either gender are often too busy to try to come up with a completely fair allocation of hot projects and credit for innovative ideas. As a woman on a team of men, push yourself to get comfortable speaking up and promoting your own interests. If it’s hard to do so spontaneously, see if you can schedule a formal catch-up time with your manager on a monthly basis.
Get Comfortable With Bonding Opportunities
In many workplaces, opportunities for career advancement don’t always arise during work hours. Male-dominated workplaces often amplify this effect, with key conversations and decisions being made over beers at happy hour. Even if you feel somewhat uncomfortable being the only woman at the team’s bonding session, push yourself to go. Being left off of the invitation? Create your own and ask your male colleagues to join you for a cold one.
Don’t Let Yourself Be Pigeonholed
Particularly if you’re new to the team, it can be tempting to try to help your colleagues and managers out in any way you can to prove that you’re a team player. However, be careful about assigning yourself certain tasks, such as bringing your boss coffee. If it’s not part of your job description, doing so can cause you to be treated as an assistant rather than a peer. Take your cues from your male colleagues; if they aren’t routinely picking up lunches for the team, you shouldn’t, either.
Avoid Becoming a “Yes” Woman
High-pressure work environments can make it seem like you have to say yes to every project that comes your way. Much like it’s hard for some women to promote themselves for exciting projects within their all-male team, it can be equally hard to say no to requests to help out with less-interesting tasks. Certainly, you aren’t always going to be able to pick and choose what you’re working on. However, don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself when you don’t have enough capacity to take on that new assignment; you’ll notice that your male colleagues won’t have this issue.
Find a Network of Women to Support You
Working in a male-dominated workplace can become lonely, but the effects of being the only woman on a team of men can be more than simply socially isolating. Having a network of women in similar positions can provide critical support in a range of ways, from supplying mentorship to providing a sounding board for problem-solving.
The National Association of Professional Women (NAPW) can help you find this important support network. NAPW has created a strong and sympathetic network of professional women, both online and in person, that assist each other in creating key business connections, promoting themselves within their organizations and developing professionally. Learn more about NAPW’s network and find out how you can become a part of it.