Macho atmosphere puts women off male-dominated industries, says survey



A macho atmosphere is the factor most likely to put a woman off a career in a male-dominated industry, according to new research.

According to a survey of over 1,000 women, pay levels, wording on job adverts and being asked to carry out boring work were found to be less off-putting in attracting women to the top ten so-called “manliest” industries such as construction, commercial fishing and the military.

Brewing (41% identified ‘macho atmosphere’), construction (40%) and security (26%) were the industries where macho environments were the most off-putting factor.

Military (53% identified ‘safety’ ), marine and fishing (39%) and intelligence (31%) were the industries perceived as being the most unsafe.

Aviation (42% identified ‘patronising male colleagues’) and medicine (32%) were perceived as most likely to force women to endure being patronised, while the most off-putting characteristics of agriculture (29% identified ‘unpleasant working conditions’) and conservation (28%) were the associated unpleasant working conditions.

Genevieve Kurilec McDonald is a captain of a commercial fishing boat. She says: “While there is an inherent risk in all marine-based industries, advancements in safety and navigation equipment have helped to mitigate some of that risk. In my experience women tend to be more safety conscious and detail oriented, which makes us an excellent asset to any crew working in a dangerous occupation.

“There will always be men in society who are patronising towards women. The camaraderie found in the majority of the commercial fishing industry far outweighs the petty few who do not recognise the capabilities of women employed in marine occupations. If you do your job, put in your time and take care of your vessel you will earn the respect of your fellow fishermen, gender notwithstanding.

“In the past decade I have seen a tremendous increase in the number of women working in the commercial fishing industry, not only as captains and crew, but also in marine science, wholesale distribution and fisheries management. I would like to see more programmes and opportunities that encourage women to consider marine-based occupations.

“I would advise any woman considering a career in a male-dominated industry to connect with women already working in that field. I have found great inspiration and support from other women in the commercial fishing industry.

“Commercial fishing is one of the few male-dominated occupations that guarantees equal pay, the catch is worth the same price on the dock regardless of the gender of the captain.”

Caroline Livesey is a geotechnical design consultant and often works on engineering projects in male-dominated environments. She believes attitudes to women’s work in general create barriers to participation in the workplace.

She says: “I think societal bias tends to pigeonhole women and men into specific roles. The knock on impact of this is that both genders are inclined to assume women cannot make good engineers as it is not a role that we naturally see them in.

“The downside of this is that women continue to have to break down those barriers in order to progress in this industry. On a day-to-day basis for females in civil engineering is that they have to work far harder than their male counterparts to earn respect, to progress, and to be trusted technically.”

Regan McMillan, director of Stormline, believes male-dominated industries need an injection of female talent: “Safety fears, especially in the marine industry where Stormline operates, drive away lots of talented professionals, both men and women. While the marine industry in particular isn’t for the faint-hearted, technology has changed dramatically over recent years and safety has improved a lot.

“I would encourage anyone, male or female, considering a marine career, to speak to people currently working at sea to get their take on it. Social media is great for this and if it helps increase the number of women in our industry, that’s only going to be a good thing.”

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