Ensuring Gender Inclusion in Male-Dominated Industries

While women make up roughly half of the overall U.S. labor force (though these numbers have been declining due to COVID-19’s destructive effects), there are certain industries where they are vastly outnumbered. Women make up just 10.3% of construction jobs, 29.6% of aerospace product manufacturing jobs, 8% of firefighting jobs, 20% of television, video and motion picture camera operating jobs and although they make up half of all architecture students, the field itself is comprised of just over 25% women.

The first step toward equity in these industries is creating an environment where women feel like they can thrive. Here are some tips for advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in male-dominated industries to help close the gender gap.


Show diverse images on your careers site and vet your job listings for inclusive language.

If you can’t see it, you can’t be it! The image your organization promotes publicly can leave a lasting impression. Ensure your career site has a diverse array of photos of people on the job. Consider reaching out to real employees whom you can profile on your site and have them share stories of their real-life experiences.

Certain language within job listings may not seem blatantly gendered but can still be incredibly gender-coded. While they might be intended to connote a lighthearted, less corporate workspace, terms such as “ninja,” “guru” or even “rock star” have implicit associations with one gender over the other. Using these terms might seem like a creative way to attract enthusiastic candidates but they can also steer certain types of candidates away from your listing, especially women who may not be able to picture themselves in the position upon reading the job listing. Search out some of the many available online tools that can help you scan your listing for gender-coded language.

Advertise job listings in diverse places.

Consider the audience of where you’re going to publish your job listing. LinkedIn, Indeed and other sites are universal, but pushing out that advertisement in diversity-focused platforms can also help to get it in front of more eyes. Facebook groups and newsletters designed especially for women in various career fields are a strong way to get the word out. You can also encourage women who are already in your workforce to post the listing on their social media. Consider submitting your job listing to the DiversityInc Job Board.

Train recruiters on recognizing and working against implicit biases.

Everyone has implicit biases. That’s why many managers tend to hire candidates that are more similar to themselves. Hiring for a “cultural fit” often translates to hiring someone who is just like everyone else. To learn more about identifying and preventing bias in the recruiting process, watch DiversityInc’s recent webinar, Limiting Bias in Diversity Recruiting. Additionally, work to get honest feedback from women at different phases in the recruiting process.

Retention and promotion

Offer flexible work schedules to accommodate family and personal obligations.

2020 saw a large percentage of women leaving the workforce due to family obligations. Even though household duties are becoming more evenly divided, the reality is the majority of the burden still falls on women. Make sure the culture of your company accommodates a variety of personal obligations and lifestyles. Value results over length of hours logged and create a culture that does not shame people for balancing their work and lives. Schedule changes, one of the most common and valuable accommodations, comes with no additional cost to your company.

Monitor pay equity and be transparent about it.

On average, women make 70 cents to the white man’s dollar — and the pay gap is even wider for Black, Indigenous and Latina women. In male-dominated industries, this gap is no different. For example, the average salary for a TV, video and film camera operator and editor is $57,788 for men and $49,633 for women. Retaining women means paying them fairly. Monitor and report your organization’s steps toward pay equity. Recording data leads to accountability and, therefore, change.

Promote and enforce zero tolerance for sexual harassment or other discrimination

The unfortunate reality is that women in male-dominated industries are more likely to experience sexual harassment, which can make the workplace a hostile and scary environment. For example, according to a 2018 survey, 66% of respondents said they’d experienced sexual harassment or gender bias on the job. All of this can also take a significant toll on women’s health and wellbeing. Train managers to handle these incidents swiftly and effectively. Don’t sweep incidents under the rug. Instead, be transparent and open about how you’re addressing them. Be clear about what the repercussions of sexual harassment are and cultivate a zero-tolerance workplace culture by having leaders speak on the issue regularly.

Offer mentoring and sponsorship programs and affinity groups for women.

Allow women within your workforce to connect with other women. Mentorship can help one woman learn from another’s success and see herself in more powerful roles. Sponsorship from a leader of any gender shows that your organization is willing to invest in and advocate for female employees. Employee resource groups or other affinity groups specifically for women can give them a space to network, share advice and tell their stories. Be sure these groups have an executive sponsor. Support from the top demonstrates that your workplace values all of its employees.

Ultimately, the best way to attract women to your organization is to make it a place that women want to be. When male allies are invested in hiring, retaining and promoting female talent, your workplace can fully reap the benefits (innovation, profits, etc.) that gender diversity brings.

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