HOW TO BREAK INTO A MALE-DOMINATED INDUSTRY AS A FEMALE ENTREPRENEUR December 12, 2023 | Business Tips , Franchise , Marketing , Social Media | small business , motivation , networking , Google , Facebook , business website , entrepreneur By Celeste Black-Harr, NPI, Inc.'s Recruitment Coordinator The glass ceiling is a concept that describes an invisible barrier that limits advancement in the workplace for certain groups. For women who look to find a foothold in male-dominated industries, working to overcome stereotypes can make glass ceilings feel very real. The great thing about the glass ceiling metaphor, though, is that glass begs to be shattered. Breaking into a male-dominated industry as a female entrepreneur can feel daunting, but underrepresented voices who build a platform in their industry have an opportunity. They will not only benefit those that follow in their footsteps, creating a more accessible pathway in the future, their unique background and perspectives will also benefit the entire industry. Of course, if finding success in a male-dominated industry was easy then everyone would do it. While every industry has their own unique quirks and obstacles, there are a few considerations that are particularly worth taking into account for female entrepreneurs getting ready to break through. Find A Functional Support System Reliable contacts are important to establish for anyone entering into any industry, but identifying these people are even more important for women who are looking to establish themselves in a male-dominated industry. First, let’s talk about finding a strong mentor. A mentor is someone with experience in the industry who is willing to impart advice, assist in navigating hurdles (which are inevitable!), and act as an advocate. Ideally, this should be someone who has encountered similar obstacles so, if possible, women should find other women who have found success to act as their mentor. Although male mentors will give invaluable insights on how to grow within the industry (and female entrepreneurs should absolutely seek out male mentors), developing relationships with women who have already walked their path and have direct experience of their unique challenges should be a top priority. Unfortunately, finding a female mentor in a male-dominated industry is by no means easy, and in all likelihood, that single perfect business owner who is capable of answering each and every question along the way won’t exist. This is why we recommend finding a support “system” rather than a single mentor. Network, network, and then network some more to find an ally that knows the industry, then maybe find a female mentor who has found success in a different male-dominated industry, another person who excels at managing a large team, and yet another mentor who is a master on social media Much of advancing in any industry involves getting to know the right people and establishing that reliable network of confidantes and advocates. For women entering a traditionally “male” space, an us vs. them can only distract from the great aid that women and men can provide while establishing a successful business. Disprove Negative Stereotypes Next, one important question that female entrepreneurs have to consider before stepping into a male-dominated industry is this: Why is this industry male-dominated? If you struggle to come up with a good answer, this might be a good opportunity to reach out to one of your industry contacts to get their take and perspective. Maybe the industry has just been slow to catch up to modern sensibilities, or something about the industry doesn’t generally appeal to female entrepreneurs, or perhaps there are persistent stereotypes that present an unfair hindrance to success. In the case of this last issue, women can work to dispel stereotypes with a few intentional steps. Let’s start with an example: according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics , 1.1% of plumbers were women in 2022 (the most recent available year). Although this profession has one of the most extreme male/female divides, many of the trades are similarly dominated by men, and this has a negative effect on an average person’s perception of competency for people in the trades. Another way to say this might be, if every plumber that a homeowner has ever worked with has been a male, they may have a subconscious assumption that men simply know more about home plumbing systems than women. For a woman who’s looking to open her own plumbing business, it is possible that a prevailing stereotype that makes her seem less competent than she is leads to less business than she would have otherwise gotten. The solution to this problem? To put it simply: prove the stereotype wrong. In the past, this was much more difficult since female entrepreneurs would have to convince clients and customers to give them a shot, do a great job, then hope word-of-mouth spreads enough to get their business humming. Today, there are more opportunities to put one’s skills on display: Gather Google / Facebook / Yelp Reviews to put satisfied previous customers’ experiences on display. Clients that hold to a negative stereotype of women in a certain industry will have to adjust their thinking if they find their business has hundreds of glowing reviews and spectacular ratings across the board. To learn about review gathering strategies for small businesses, read more here ! Post Video Tutorials to act as an authority on industry-related topics. Whether hosted on social media or on a business website, videos where prospective clients can hear you speak intelligently about your industry and services and see you exercise your expertise themselves serve as an excellent advocate for your capabilities. Did you know that videos can also be a great inclusion in email campaigns? Here are a few tips to make your next email marketing campaign a hit. Seize Opportunities to Teach in front of clients, referral sources, and even industry peers. These situations are, of course, more situations where you can put your skills and knowledge on display, but they are also opportunities to further break down unhelpful stereotypes. Whether at a child’s school career day, at a conference, or at a BNI group meeting, speaking as a representative of your industry in these public settings can work wonders to place yourself as an authority figure and even build your own confidence in your abilities. If you’re interested in refining your public speaking skills, take a look at our thoughts on the subject! If you’re interested in refining your public speaking skills, take a look at our thoughts on the subject! Don’t Change Yourself - Change The Industry Finally, there may be an impulse to act a certain way, or to change behavior in order to fit into the box of what sort of person has succeeded in the industry in the past. For many women, this can be a tempting impulse when entering into a male-dominated industry, but this instinct may not be the best. Just because women haven’t been prevalent in a male dominated industry doesn’t mean they can’t be, and it also doesn’t mean the odds are stacked against them. Innovations that transform industries often come from those with unique backgrounds, or from perspectives that were previously absent from that field. Women that lean on their unique strengths and discover their own way of conducting business are far more likely to find a better way of doing things than if they only emulate what’s been done before. While there is wisdom in sticking to what’s proven to work, having the bravery to try something new is what separates industry leaders from the pack. Taking home inspections as an example, a large portion of the job involves developing relationships and working with real estate agents - a profession that is 66% female (according to the National Association of Realtors ). Although property inspectors also skew male, there may be a considerable advantage to women who enter into the home inspection industry due to their own ability to appeal to real estate agents. Whether there are inherent untapped advantages in an industry or opportunities to innovate, women who take on the challenge of breaking into a male dominated industry should do so with great anticipation. Another thing that comes naturally with the breaking of things like glass ceilings: it’s bound to turn heads. One fantastic benefit of an NPI franchise is access to a nationwide network of mentors and industry professionals with decades of experience and a desire to innovate. To learn more about the benefits of partnering with National Property Inspections, receive your free info packet today! About the Author Celeste Black-Harr, Recruitment Coordinator With a background in customer service and office administration, Celeste joined National Property Inspections, Inc. in 2022. Her experience in customer service is the driving force behind helping all new franchise owners get started and developing those strong business relations! In her daily role as Recruitment Coordinator, Celeste onboards new NPI and GPI franchises from across the United Stated and Canada.