Women in male-dominated professions, men in female-dominated professions: These days, anything is possible. So you might think that in the wake of gender equality, there are no more gender-specific professions at all. If you have a talent for a field and at best enjoy it – do it. However, if that job is in construction, laboratories, or skilled trades, for example, you’re still often alone among men as a woman.
Women in male-dominated professions: Examples
Another example is U.S. astronaut Sally Ride, who in 1983 became the first American woman to fly into space. She was a physicist and had taught at Stanford University before her career as an astronaut.
Also a woman in a man’s profession is Marissa Mayer, a computer scientist and former CEO of Yahoo! She was one of the first female engineers at Google and was instrumental in developing products such as Google Maps and Google Earth before moving to Yahoo!
These women have had successful careers in their respective professions, even though they were originally considered men’s jobs. Their accomplishments have shown that women are just as capable as men to succeed in these fields.
Women in the construction & architecture industry
So what about construction or architecture? Don’t these industries also tend to be male dominated?
Current statistics show that over half of architecture students are women. However, in the construction industry, only 30 percent of graduates are women, and in leadership positions, only 10 percent are held by women. Why does the trend towards gender balance not change significantly? What is it about the male-dominated field of “architect”? What influence do family and career issues have on the employment of female architects?
Women in architecture are still struggling with stereotypes:
Despite the increasing use of cutting-edge technologies, men are still being appointed for jobs and higher positions, indicating that traditional values of men and women are still being observed in 2023. Women are seen in the areas of building design and interior design, while men are allocated to the fields of structural engineering, financial management, and technical implementation.
“The traditional assumption that female architects are best suited for designing houses and interior design is an expression of their low status in the profession and not a specific female trait,” says Christina Schumacher, a sociology lecturer in the Department of Architecture at ETH Zurich. This often results in women who introduce themselves as architects being mistaken for interior designers.
Successful women in architecture
Fortunately, there are many examples of successful women in architecture:
An early example is the Austrian Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky. She designed, for example, the so-called “Frankfurt Kitchen” for social housing in Frankfurt and was one of the few women who were active in architecture around 1925. At the same time, Lilly Reich studied with Mies van der Rohe in Stuttgart, as did Marlene Moeschke-Poelzig, who later married Hans Poelzig.
German architects Ilse Oppler-Legband, Iris Dullin-Grund, and Lucy Hillebrand are also among the most common names in architectural history. Regine Leibinger, a multiple award-winning architect from Germany, is also worth mentioning. Brazilian architect and designer Lina Bo Bardi designed buildings such as the Museu de Arte de São Paulo, also known as the “floating museum.” Today, it is mainly the buildings of Iraqi Zaha Hadid and Japanese Kazuyo Sejima, who together with Ryue Nishizawa, lead the SANAA office in Japan, that set worldwide standards. Partnerships with men in architectural firms are also helpful in breaking down traditional gender barriers for female architects. Well-known examples include Dutch architect Nathalie de Vries of MVRDV or Belgian Christine Conix of CONIX RDBM.
What about the construction industry?
The issue of the proportion of women in the construction industry has been discussed for years. The established trend continues: there are more female professionals in academic programs such as civil engineering or architecture than in the construction trade. The proportion can be almost 25 percent. This trend is expected to continue positively in the future. While around 33 percent of women are found in civil engineering and over half in architecture, the proportion in the construction trade is less than 3 percent.
Nevertheless, the Federal Employment Agency can report a positive trend and an increase in female trainees and professionals in the construction trade. This is due to numerous federal campaigns. It is also positive in this context that in recent years, more and more young women have become interested in manual work and started corresponding training. However, the Federal Employment Agency emphasizes that women will continue to be more involved in construction planning than in construction execution for the foreseeable future.
What about the technical field such as IT?
Reasons why there are fewer women than men in technical professions include:
- Stereotypes and prejudices: Technical professions are often perceived as male-connotated, which can discourage women from working in these fields. Stereotypes and prejudices can also lead to discrimination against women in technical professions.
- Lack of role models: If women are underrepresented in technical professions, there may be fewer role models to encourage young women to pursue a career in this field.
- Lack of support: Women in technical professions may have difficulty networking and finding support as they are often in the minority. This can lead to a feeling of isolation and contribute to women feeling excluded.
- Education system: Girls and young women are often not encouraged enough to study mathematics and natural sciences, which are essential for technical professions. Women may also be less supported in the relevant courses than their male classmates.
- Work-life balance: Technical professions often require long working hours and high willingness to travel, which can be a challenge for women with family responsibilities.
There are many initiatives and programs aimed at attracting more women to technical professions by combating stereotypes and prejudices, creating more role models, and providing support and promotion.
What about sales? Is there also a male surplus here?
There is no clear answer as to whether more women or men work in sales as this largely depends on the industry and the company. In some companies and industries, the proportion of women in sales is higher than that of men, while in other companies and industries, it is the other way around.
However, there is still a significant gender gap in some sales areas. For example, women are often underrepresented in technical sales, IT, or industry. In other areas such as retail or service sales, women are more common.
Overall, however, there is a trend towards increasing the proportion of women in sales in recent years, as companies increasingly recognize the benefits of diversity and inclusion and actively seek talented and qualified female employees.
Basically, these results are not surprising, and many industries have already recognized that they benefit from a higher proportion of women. Whether a rigid quota is always the right way to go is still controversial. There are some positive developments and trends that give hope. Because one thing is proven: mixed teams are more successful.
What is your opinion on this? Do you prefer to work in a mixed team or not?