/23 March 2022
Our society is becoming more inclusive in many different ways. Yet, there are still issues that need to be resolved, especially in workplaces that are typically male dominated. For example, construction or mechanical jobs can be a daunting career prospect for women, not due to the type of work, but because of the potential social prejudices they may face. Stereotypes that are thrust upon women in the workplace can create unattractive environments. It is clear that, as a more modern society, there is a push to encourage women to step forward for these roles to diversify the workplace and open out opportunity to all worthy candidates, but that doesn’t mean that entrenched and existing prejudices towards females working in labour intensive or STEM roles won’t be off putting to women with an interest in the field.
For a snapshot example, a recent study has shown that 40% of women who gain engineering degrees actually decide to leave their profession (LSE) due to a large variety of unwelcoming social barriers. The study explains that ‘The exclusion of women from male oriented social networks, stereotyping women as technically incompetent, perceiving women first and foremost in terms of sexuality and appearance’ are just a few of the examples of said barriers.
This opens up the question, are lingering social misconceptions of women still stopping them from working in traditionally male dominated sectors?
This is potentially the top offender and also the most difficult one to overcome. Deep rooted gender stereotypes in the workplace are still an issue in the UK. Nearly 50% of workers have said that they still believe particular jobs are exclusively male or female (HR Magazine). 5% of women claim to not have applied for a particular job as they were fearful of being discriminated against because of their gender.
Tia Boulton-Crowe told The Guardian about what she experienced when she joined a land-based technology apprenticeship. In this article she detailed how she found that not everyone was accepting of having her on the course and that she received regular judgement from her peers before she had even had the chance to prove herself to them.
The BBC discovered that in a study of military performance evaluations women were recorded more negatively than men, conforming to the stereotype that women don’t have the military leadership qualities that men have. Language such as ‘temperamental’ and ‘frivolous’ was used against women in a negative manner whereas the negative words used against men included ‘irresponsible’. This sort of language is often not only harmful to the individual but works to strengthen archaic and false gender biases.
Allie, who is working in the Logistics and Supply Train has said that she has had multiple situations where she has had inappropriate comments made to her in the workplace, making her feel uncomfortable in her role (The Everygirl). Safeline have found that a shocking 52% of women have received a form of sexual harassment in the workplace. For women in the age group of 16-24 this percentage increased even higher to a shocking 63%. When women are being treated this way by their peers, they are ultimately discouraged to want to stay and progress their occupation further where they genuinely fear for their safety.
The Office for National Statistics has found that there is still a large difference between the pay of genders aged 40 years and over and those aged below 40 years. Furthermore, the Institute for Fiscal Studies discovered that the average 25 year old male graduate earns 5% more per year than the average female graduate of the same age and skill. This statistic could point to the reason why women refrain from joining a male dominated workforce. Women are likely to feel undervalued for doing the same job at the same skill level of their male peers.
Speak up. It can be daunting to raise concerns related to the social injustices in the workplace, especially when it’s not personally concerning you! But, in doing so, you can make a big difference to your colleagues and contribute to a fairer, kinder and safer working environment.
Create a support system for women. By opening up the space for productive conversation you allow for social opportunity, where women feel they are respected and listened to.
If you are a female working in a male dominated space, try not to let anyone take away your confidence. Be proud to be in the position that you are in. You have achieved so much, and are inspiring so many. Wear that workwear with pride!
As a wider society, we need to quash these gender stereotypes early on. We can be making a conscious effort in schools, as parents, as general members of society to break down the discourse that limits women to only care or domestic roles. Let’s inspire our younger generations to aspire to any career they so please, regardless of their gender.
We can elevate female role models in our education systems. By using media and other mainstream methods that show women achieving in typically male dominated industries in schools, we may be able to encourage more young women into typically male dominated professions. Keeley Foster, who works as a female firefighter, told The Guardian that reaching out to underrepresented groups is of key importance to spreading the message that being a firefighter is for anyone who wants to pursue this career.
One company that is actively trying to make a difference is Govia Thameslink Railway. At the moment, only 5% of their train drivers are women so they are conducting school outreach programmes as well as setting up a programme that pairs up new female recruits with another woman in the company. It’s great to have incentives that support females in the rail service industry!
At Alisco UK, we will always support women in the workplace by supplying comfortable and tailored protective workwear for all genders! Get in touch with us today to see what workwear we can supply for your industry by calling 01603 731330 or emailing us on email@example.com.