Working In a Male Dominated Field
I’ve posted about this before, but the topic was revived by Fabulously Broke’s perplexing post citing some disadvantages of working in male dominated jobs. (“Perplexing” is the most diplomatic way I can describe it.)
Her argument focuses on hard physical labor jobs, like garbage men or working in the North Dakota oil fields. For the record, neither my husband nor I would like to end the day smelling like garbage, thanks.
An oil rig worker, which she cites as making an average salary of nearly $100k, is ranked among the 10 worst jobs. The $100k “average salary” includes highly skilled scientific oil rig workers, and the lowest skilled “oil rig” jobs only pull in ~$35 a year (though you can make $65k with < 1 year experience).
I’m not saying I would never do those jobs, but… OK, I probably never would do that job! Most men would probably never do that job either! If I could get by on less money and have an easier job, that would be my choice. That is also the same choice all of my male & female relatives living near the oil fields have made! While the rampant sexism in those jobs is NOT OK, focusing only on these jobs misses the point.
Engineering is male-dominated. I’ve found it to be a fantastic career. I don’t smell like garbage, work in desolate places, nor lift heavy items. (Neither do my male colleagues!) Maybe it is my company, my managers, or the liberal California culture, or perhaps I’ve just been lucky, but I don’t find it unfriendly to women at all. I’ve felt there is a sincere effort to make the job friendly towards people, women included. Some working mothers arrange alternative schedules, and others do not. Some women and men don’t have kids at all! Few men have alternate schedules, but a male colleague may have to leave early to pick up a kid, and no one raises an eyebrow. Sure, there are some jerks, but I assume they are equally jerk-like to all and I don’t take it to heart. Yes, I actively keep watch for being pushed into a helper role (which is distinct from being a mentee or in a learning role), but it hasn’t happened at all in my new job. Ambitious women and men alike are noticed and given leadership opportunities. I’ve even came across not one, but several female role models in the past year!
So why aren’t more women pursuing engineering? Why aren’t more women in the top ranks of companies? How about in consulting? Or working investment banking? (By the way, Shawanda does address this in a comment, and suggests that maybe the long hours are not good for raising a family. The internet can make me so stabby sometimes!)
I don’t have many answers here. Part of it is the culture and the expectation on the women to head up the child rearing while men are off the hook. (But maybe you’ll be lucky and your boss will totally understand and let you go home early to make dinner!) Part of it is the crazy hours needed to advance, and the lack of husbands willing to be a support system for a high powered career woman, compared to the number of women who are willing to fill a similar role for a career man. Part of it is biology – though I truly think this is the smallest part. No matter how egalitarian my husband is, we can’t divide up a pregnancy (“I get the first 4.5 months, you get the last!”).
There are a lot of factors, and I’m doing my small part to help by being an example, talking about it, and encouraging women to pursue STEM careers.
So, maybe I don’t have a solution, and maybe this problem will be around a long time. However, I do know that brushing the issue aside by saying, “hey, no woman would WANT that job anyway!” is
perplexing ridiculous and offensive.