Hess Associates

Women in the Male Dominated Workplace: Plight and Progress

Dr. Molly Shoichet has recently been appointed Ontario’s FIRST Chief Scientist. She holds the Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Tissue Engineering and is University Professor of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry, Chemistry and Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering at the University of Toronto1.

However at present, within the so-called STEM fields – Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) only 1/4 and 1/5 of graduates from IT or engineering respectively are women, and even then only ¼ of these women become or remain employed in a STEM-related job2.

Why is this so?

Many women find STEM a breeding ground for sexist or abusive behavior. “Climbing ladders loses its appeal if you’re forced to dodge sexism and harassment the whole way up”3.
Going along with that, it also seems that “If they’re likeable, they’re not considered leadership material; if they’re competent, they are judged to be inadequate women”4. Women often feel marginalized and resent being assigned less challenging tasks than men are assigned5.
A study from Frontiers in Psychology6 revealed that women leave STEM for 3 reasons: (1) inequitable pay coupled with a demanding life style incompatible with family life, (2) boring assignments not matching their skills and (3) little recognition of any achievements.

This is also meaningful, given that the percentage of women working in traditional male-dominated industries in Canada in mid 2017 varied from 11 to under 25% (construction, logging, forestry, fishing, mining, oil and gas, transportation, and warehousing7. Now this is not surprising, as most women are not drawn to he-man, muscle-man occupations. Nor are they drawn to occupations such as drilling, blasting, bricklaying, and so on where they represent ~1% of the workforce. Not all jobs within these industries however are at the hands-on heavy lifting stage, yet still in the more office-related positions women are under-represented.

Perhaps with more female leaders such as Dr. Shoichet, this will all change. These leaders can be role-models, mentors, your cheering section, and willing to reward success equally across the board.


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