How to Succeed in a Traditionally Male Workplace.
“I’ve always been in a male-dominated workplace. Since it’s something I have experience with, I’ve grown comfortable and confident. But it hasn’t always been easy,” Neva Wooldridge, CDP’s Customer Service Manager, began. “When I was first hired at my first job at the corrugator, automatic stackers didn’t exist. I had to stack everything by hand. The men joked around and thought I would buy gloves to protect my hands, but I refused, and my hands got cut up every single day. I was bound and determined to keep up. I wasn’t necessarily trying to prove that I was equal or better than anyone, I just wanted to prove to myself that I was strong.”
Being a woman in a male-dominated industry is far from a new concept.
For decades, statistics have shown that the female to male ratio in workplaces across the board have leaned in one direction more than the other; I think you can guess which way. In the manufacturing industry alone, women make up just 29% of the entire workforce—a number that has increased by a measly 0.4% since 1970 according to the US Census Bureau.
Though the numbers and research may look bleak, there is hope.
The manufacturing industry was second out of a group of twelve researched industries by LinkedIn that saw the highest rate of change in female leadership roles, with a 26% increase since 1978. Other industries that have a significant impact on manufacturing have also seen tremendous growth; STEM alone had a 243% influx of women entering the workforce. Though not all changes have been in the double and triple digits, I am a firm believer that slow and steady wins the race. I think we’ve all heard the cliché “you can’t rush perfection”, and though perfect may not exist in these types of scenarios, we’re clearly headed in the right direction.
You might be thinking: It’s 2019. Why aren’t we there yet?
Why haven’t we achieved “perfection”? As a woman myself, I’ll tell you this – It’s hard. Plain and simple. Research from Cornell shows that females are wary of entering traditionally male workplaces for a variety of reasons such as lack of awareness, lack of support, and past workplace mistreatment (including sexual harassment, unequal pay, and gender discrimination, just to name a few). As large as these hurdles may be, it’s clear to see from the statistics above that change is brewing. The more women that face these challenges head-on, the more women are inspired to take their own leaps of faith.
At Complete Design and Packaging, we empower our female team members each and every day.
Though we are not perfect (speaking candidly, 43% of our total team is female and 50% of our managers are female), we strive to set a positive example in the corrugated industry and the manufacturing community as a whole. In honor of International Women’s Day, I decided to interview the ladies of CDP to learn about other perspectives on what it’s like being a female in a traditionally male industry and what lessons they have learned along the way. Though everyone’s story is different, there are common threads that connect them all.
1. Know Your Strengths
“I’ve learned not to stress so much about what others think of me. Your strength comes from within, not from the opinions of other people. When you have confidence in yourself, you can inspire other women. My mom inspires me…she is the strongest woman I know. She works every day with an incurable disease but doesn’t let it get in the way of anything she does.” – Britney, Customer Service
“Being a woman in our industry is challenging. It takes a “never give up” mindset. You have to keep the faith and confidence that you will be recognized and respected…I learned this from the story of Deborah in the Bible. She was the first female who rose to a position of power in that time period. She is a perfect role model for leadership and strength.” – Jamie, Customer Service
“It takes just as much strength to slow down and appreciate the world around you as it does to do anything else. Life moves quickly, so you need to take advantage of every moment you’re given.” – Amy, Special Projects
2. Speak Up
“I had to get over shyness a great deal. At a previous job, I had to do presentations in front of large companies, and I was always nervous especially as a woman standing in front of a bunch of men. I finally got to the point where I realized that we are all people. I would tell my younger self to stop doubting herself and to have confidence. Any mistake you make, you will learn from it and become stronger.” – Stacy, Prepress Manager
“Being a female in this industry means you have to give it 150%. You have to speak up and communicate. You have to speak loudly.” – Julie, Prepress
“Being a woman in a male-dominated industry is something I’ve been a part of since I was in school for engineering, and it can be difficult at times. Never be intimidated to speak your mind and always believe in yourself. Have goals and keep after them, even if there are setbacks. My main thing…and it doesn’t necessarily go for only females…is to understand that in a job that you do every single day, your input is valuable. Don’t sell yourself short or be afraid to share ideas.” – Cindy, Engineering
3. Be Proud of Yourself (and Others)
“I am proud to be a woman because we endure so much, from all angles. We have some major responsibilities and many people look to us for wisdom and guidance. Overall, we bring so much to the table. We are fun loving, nurturing, encouraging…we are strong but also have the ability to be more emotional.” – Renata, Prepress
“I am proud of myself for pursuing my career. I worked in fulfillment for two years and was honored when my supervisors recognized my efforts and promoted me to a higher position.” -Paloma, Shipping, and Receiving
“As working women, we have the ability to contribute to the economy and our community. Working with my mother is a lot of fun…we have been able to find the balance between being coworkers and family members who support one another. I’m very proud of her.” – Angeles, Fulfillment Manager
To all the ladies reading (especially our fellow women in manufacturing), remember: You are strong, you have a voice, and you have the right to be proud. Happy International Women’s Day from our #girlsquad to yours!