April 10, 2015 Practice Points

How to Excel in a Male-Dominated Workplace

By Meghan M. Dougherty

In the recent article “7 Ways to Excel in a Male-Dominated Workplace,” Jane Fang reflects on her experiences in investment banking and the sports industry to provide practical tips for other women in male-dominated industries. 

Her first tip is to advocate for yourself to your supervisor regarding projects that are of interest to you. Men are often better about vocalizing which opportunities they want to pursue, while women are more apt to wait for projects to come their way. Fang suggests simply grabbing your boss in the hall or on a coffee break to request exciting projects. However, you can also schedule a formal time to meet with your boss if you are uncomfortable with this type of casual run-in setting.

For her second tip, Fang encourages women to spend time with colleagues and supervisors outside the office, for example, in a happy hour setting. However, as her third tip, she addresses the fine line between tolerating sexual harassment and not being too easily offended. While she clearly states “sexual harassment is never OK,” she found that tolerating disgusting stories allowed her into the inner circle of her male colleagues.

For her fourth tip, Fang cautions women against being the “coffee or lunch getter.” While the occasional trip to Starbucks for a supervisor during a particularly stressful time might be understandable, you should be leery of acting as an assistant if that is not your job, especially if your male colleagues are not performing the same tasks. 

For her fifth tip, Fang encourages women to say no to an assignment when their situation demands it. There may be pressure to seem helpful, but Fang conveys the importance of pushing back when you lack capacity.

For tip six, Fang notes the destructive nature of female stereotypes in a male-dominated workplace, but encourages women to identify their strengths even if they are stereotypically feminine traits. In a male-dominated workplace those strengths are lacking and can create an opportunity for leadership. Finally, for her last tip, Fang emphasizes mentoring and sponsorship as a key to career advancement.

Meghan M. Dougherty, Bressler, Amery & Ross, P.C., Florham Park, NJ


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