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male dominated careers

(16 Posts)
NewLife4Me Tue 01-Mar-16 16:35:08

I have started this thread as a general sort of chat rather than any specific incident, job or career so I can transfer the chat to my own scenario iyswim.
Also, for confidentiality reasons I'm unable to disclose specifics.

some questions if you nice people could help.

At what stage do girls become aware/ it become a problem wrt feeling inadequate because of banter from boys? Is there a particular stage/age
Do teachers always support girls, or have you experience that they don't.
Is there a particular stage of their studies when it is more noticeable.
Is there an age range where you feel they will continue in this male dominated career and definitely not be put off.
Also, once in this career, what can you do to make sure your'e noticed, not over looked and treated as the token girl.
How do you forge ahead and prove yourself. (in general)
There's probably more to ask but will add as we go along if that's ok.
Please be kind thanks

PosieReturningParker Tue 01-Mar-16 17:51:06

I was never put off, I did physics and technology and was the only girl in each! I'm also very stereotypically feminine in dress and make up and so on.

My daughter has three brothers and me for a mother and so as yet, she's nine, she is very good at putting banter back in its box.

Boys were showing off in front of her talking about seeing a picture of a woman half naked. Dd just said they were silly and sexist and that they should grow up.

NewLife4Me Tue 01-Mar-16 19:23:43

Thank you Posie.
So if you are determined you don't notice it being a problem? Or did you notice a particular time it being harder than others.
Did people try and put you off, especially with technology.
I think you have been very brave and your dd sounds brilliant. I mean from the pov that not one girl did anything like this when I went to school, the only tech was food grin
Mine is similar and it doesn't bother her, but was just trying to see if there was a particular time I'd need to look out for.

itllallbefine Tue 01-Mar-16 21:39:58

I work in software development, at high school one of the comp. sci. teachers was a woman, at uni two of the lecturers (and head of dept.) were women. There were only about 5 out of 30 or so students who were girls, but i can honestly say that at no point did anyone assume i was incapable because i was a women. Interestingly i remember that one of the girls on the course got chucked off after getting her boyfriend (who was a professional) to do her coursework, i was pretty mad about that. When i think of industries that are dominated by a single sex i think of manual labouring jobs, e.g. scaffolding etc, no one seems bothered that those are dominated by men, infact they are pretty much exclusively male, i don't think i have ever met nor heard of a female scaffolder.

Software is actually an idea job for a mother of youngish children since you can do it generally when you want without having to do 9 -5 (save having to be available for meetings). I would therefore whole heartedly recommend it as a career to young women. I guess i heard peers say stupid things like "oh, it's not for me" or "my brain doesn't work that way" - i think for whatever reason a lot of women just don't even consider it as a career, i don't actually know why that is.

PosieReturningParker Tue 01-Mar-16 22:10:25

No one ever told me I couldn't but having kids opened my eyes.

DoreenLethal Tue 01-Mar-16 22:12:46

I knew I was an engineer when I was about 7. I mended stuff. I made stuff. I went into civil engineering. I dominated. I managed staff 20-30 years older then me. I spent 14 years fending off the banter and sexism and then decided that fuck it, it wasn't worth it and left.

LassWiTheDelicateAir Tue 01-Mar-16 22:32:29

I don't recall ever being told by anyone I couldn't do what I wanted.

I grew up in a period where only a tiny proportion of people went to university. It was something expected of me from the start of secondary school, possibly even earlier, by my family and teachers.

I was expected at school to do at least one science and maths to what was then called Higher level. I passed the science but only have Ordinary grade maths. English, History and languages were my strong subjects.

At what stage do girls become aware/ it become a problem wrt feeling inadequate because of banter from boys?

In my case never. Throughout my school years I was aware that in my year group I was in a group of around 10-15 (boys and girls) who were being groomed by the school for university. I never felt inadequate. Far from it- I'm sure I had an inflated sense of my own superiority.

If there was any cause for complaint against the teachers and the school it was that the star pupils got far more attention than the rest.

Career wise- I didn't think it of a male dominated career although men were in the majority when I started, particularly in my sector. I don't think being a woman has affected my career at all.

WhimsicalWinnifred Tue 01-Mar-16 22:45:23

I have a daughter of 4. I wouldn't say I am too feminine but I appear to be before I open my mouth swearing lime a builder and talking about science and cars.

I am very conscious of ensuring my daughter knows her gender/sec doesn't define her and she can do whatever she wants. My last childminder was quite uneducated and dd gained quire a lot of idiot theories about not being able to do x y and z and wearing x y and z because she was a girl. My point I'd that it's not really an age that this thinking comes about. It's who you're surrounded by. The new childminder is on my wavelength and even has a boy that limes to wear dresses. The old childminder would have gone crazy and not allowed it.

Banter and sexism: I challenge sexism whenever I see it. Mostly, it's accidental or something that off the cuff doesn't click as wrong until you dig deeper. I will teach dd the same. She will be the queen of sarcastic responses

I am 28. I do not remember being told I cannot do something because of my gender. My grandma believes I am wrong to actively encourage dd to play with 'boys' toys. She was a female pioneer, working and gaining a professional career back when women didn't but she's also the lady that told me I must learn how to cook eggs. Even though I can't stand them, my future husband may love them and how could he be interested if I can't feed him?!

slightlyglitterbrained Tue 01-Mar-16 23:04:50

Another software person. I always knew I wanted to do something technical/science based. Mostly despite teachers - had one dreadful teacher who actively tried to exclude me from experiments, discussion etc. (I was top of the class when he arrived, he did his best to squash that and wisely all the other smart girls didn't pick his subject for A level, leaving me the only girl).

I ended up going to uni to study that subject and then deciding "fuck this, I don't want to spend the rest of my life working with arseholes like him" and dropping out.

After a few years I realised that I really did want a techy job & eventually ended up in IT. Massive field, very very different cultures & "feel" in different companies/areas, but I gravitated towards something that was a good fit, and really feel I've "found my people". I am much much happier with the culture of the companies/teams I've ended up working with than in any previous job - curious, open minded, sociable types for the most part.

I think the key thing is to be prepared to look around if you find yourself in a bad place - the longer you stay in a toxic environment, the more it drains your enthusiasm and confidence, and really, there will be nicer companies/teams out there. Putting up with crap every day is wearing. Why do it when you can do the job you enjoy for a company who appreciates you instead?

MyCrispBag Wed 02-Mar-16 07:12:25

One thing that stuck with me as a child was telling my Dad I wanted to be a primary teacher. He told me that I shouldn't aim for that and that if I wanted to teach I should aim for academic at least.

I was never actively encouraged into any profession but I was always encouraged to aim high.

I always preferred 'boys' subjects at school and never came across any discrimination because of this. By the time I left school I realised I was odd in my preferences and enjoyed being in the minority.

I am in a very typically 'female' profession now, which I love. I have two sons and no daughters. My kids are far more interested in my job than their Dad's (semi skilled 'male job').

Recently I have started thinking that we (as feminists/a society?) are missing a trick by only focusing on getting girls into STEM. I think we should also be working on getting boys into caring jobs.

NewLife4Me Thu 03-Mar-16 19:28:27

Wow, thank you so much for the replies.
It's so good and comforting to hear stories of women and girls not being put off what they want to do.
My dd has already had some of this banter of the boys, but nothing she can't manage and they aren't bullying, just think they're funny.
She is the only girl of her age at school doing what she does with the ambition to go into music tech as a sideline too.
There are other girls/women in the industry but not many if any manage to get the kudos that the boys/men do.

I hope I was considering something that might not happen now, due to your lovely posts.
Thank you all so much thanks

Dellarobia Thu 03-Mar-16 19:47:16

I'm in a male dominated field. I wasn't in the minority at school because I went to a girls' school, but I was at uni (approx 20% females on my course) and work. I can't say it's ever bothered me and I've never felt at a disadvantage.

Muttaburrasaurus Thu 03-Mar-16 21:30:05

Im a doctor which is now a largely female workforce but not in the higher specialist grades. It was a real shock to discover how sexist medicine is. There were one or two hints of it in medical school but nothing compared with the reality of work. As a trainee doc I heard tutors saying particular career paths were no good for women, particularly mothers and saw the active discouragement of women entering those specialties by senior docs. This put me off surgery for instance. I also was aware of cases such as a colleague who was threatened with poor references if she didn't have sex with her consultant, a woman who was told they were shirking their duty if they left 'early' (she was already working late) to see to her child who was being taken to hospital in an emergency and another who was told she needed to have counselling to deal with 'her issues' or she'd fail her training - all she had done was report sexual harrassment from a colleague. Thats only a few incidents.
My best advice is to try to make your daughter aware as early as possible that the feminist battle is far from won. I think if I'd walked into work a little more prepared for the problems then I'd have been able to think more clearly and to have been able to fight back more effectively a bit sooner. Find a feminist mentor would also be a piece of advice I would have given my younger self.
The other thing that was a wake up call was ending up with an unsupportive ex for a number of years. The pressure of wife work was something that I wasnt prepared for and again took me a long time to identify as the issue it was. That had an impact on what I thought I could manage at work and was a pressure to do a shorter training scheme with less antisocial hours. I shall be preparing my daughter to watch for that in any male partner by getting her to read wifework in a few years time!

NewLife4Me Thu 03-Mar-16 22:26:57


That's it exactly, it's the sexism. I have noticed this with dd friends.
They don't mean to be nasty, they are her friends and lovely with her.
However, she has had lots of opportunities due to her dad that many her age haven't experienced yet, and the men are so sexist, it's unreal.

You play like a girl, you're one of the lads, all good fun and in jest but sexist.
She gives as good as she gets though and does wind them up something terrible.

Then, older men and young men apologise for swearing when she's around, not so much because she's a girl (I hope) but because a child.
She tells them not to worry, she's heard worse etc. grin

NewLife4Me Thu 03-Mar-16 22:29:38


Thank you so much thanks
I'll take on board what you say, what great advice.

The examples you give are shocking, absolutely so.

EBearhug Fri 04-Mar-16 00:04:53

I think it starts very early. You can find threads here from time to time from people saying things like, "my son's coming home saying women can't be doctors, even though he's only ever seen a woman GP." Plus some toy shops are incredibly gendered, pink and blue aisles, dolls and Lego. And then you get parents who say, "Oh, I was never any good at maths!" - it seems to be more acceptable to be bad at maths than at reading. Probably any one of these things wouldn't be an issue, but when you're getting a whole load of separate messages about the same sort of thing, it all reinforces it.

There's evidence that ideas about STEM subjects not being for girls can be set in by the time children start secondary school. I went to a single-sex secondary school, and I think that helped massively - we were told we were the business women and academics of tomorrow, and I was really taken aback in the 6th form when we were planning a joint trip with the boys school to France, and we girls were told we would be in a big shared tent rather than separate tents like the boys, and I just couldn't understand why, just because we were girls (not least because I was probably more adept than most of the boys at pitching a tent.) I have often wondered since whether if I'd been at a mixed school all the way through, I wouldn't have questioned it, because I would have been more inured to it.

Things haven't necessarily improved - there are still some teachers who don't seem to think women can do as well in technology, and while they're in a minority, if they're the one who is teaching your daughter, it can be a big influence. I hope in a few years, with the changes in the curriculum from last year, things will improve - but last year, there was a BBC programme about girls can code, and the young women on that, they'd never even considered technology as a career - it wasn't that they'd thought about it and decided against it, it was just never even on their radar.

I've been working in IT for nearly 2 decades now. I've always been in a minority, and for some years, the only woman in the department. I've had outright blatant sexism about women not being as good at tech (oh, they are, because they usually have to be that much better,) and loads of low-level stuff, just signs like "men working behind doors", and stuff that's really well-meant, but still makes you feel "othered", like when I walked into the reception of a training site for a techy course and was cheered, just for being a woman. It can be draining - my male colleagues never have to deal with crap like that. But the more women who decide it's a good career for them, the easier it will get.

Some companies are definitely better than others, though. Mine has a good women's network, which puts on some great support for professional development, and gives opportunities you wouldn't normally get in your day job. I've been to an interview with another company where it really wasn't a woman-friendly feel, and I've recently chosen not to continue with a job application for a position I'm a great fit for, but they've got one woman on their board and in senior management (plus the package wasn't enough, but it was the lack of women which put me off.) But there should be a lot more women doing this sort of work - the pay isn't bad, it can be interesting and varied, it can be flexible (obviously exact conditions vary according to role and employer) - it should be ideal for women. Plus there are so many roles in technology these days - it's not all PC repair and programming (although those roles are there). There are also loads of different programmes to encourage young people, and girls in particular, to consider technology careers, and we're going to need those people coming into the industry.

And yet I still have only had parents asking me to advise their sons, not their daughters, despite the fact I spend half my life (or so it sometimes seems) banging on about why women should consider a career in IT.

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