How to Establish Yourself in a Male-Dominated Field
Elizabeth Wilson | WomenEntrepreneur.com
Women are starting businesses at a rate three times that of men, but there are still inroads to be made in typically male-dominated fields such as publishing, biotechnology and gaming, to name a few.
Mireille Gingras is founder, CEO and president of HUYA Bioscience International, a company that focuses on drug development. She offers the following five tips for women trying to get established in a field where few other women hold executive titles:
1. Commit to building and growing your career
“I’ve always been very motivated and focused on dedicating myself to those things about which I’m passionate. This dedication allowed me to put an enormous amount of time and energy into something I believe in,” Gingras says. Accordingly, she developed an innovative business model in the biotechnology space, bridging the gap between China and the U.S.
2. Know your industry, and look for opportunities that would play to women’s strengths
“The pharmaceutical business is becoming more global, and women are often better attuned to cultural differences.” In addition, she says, the fragmentation of the industry has shifted the key success factor from project selection — or choice of technology — to project execution, which requires motivating and managing large teams of talented people.
“Women are typically comfortable working in the team setting,” Gingras says, “making them well-positioned to lead teams in senior management roles.”
3. Move away from your comfort zone when networking
“Networking at industry meetings is one way to stay connected, as is joining specific organizations in one’s field,” Gingras says. In San Diego, where she lives, she singled out Athena, a networking group for women executives in the technology, life science and health-care sector. Network, but be careful not to limit yourself to same-gender networking.
4. Maintain a balance between drive and patience
Entrepreneurs are action-oriented and focused on making things happen. “The drive and initiative to get things done vs. the need to be thoughtful and patient when challenges arise can be a struggle, so it’s crucial to evaluate times when one may be more beneficial than the other,” Gingras says.
5. Speak directly and with confidence
It may sound obvious, but women are less likely than men to assume a loud, confident tone and are more likely to use equivocation — ending a sentence with a question mark, as though doubting their own words.
Susan Choe is founder and CEO of Outspark, an online game publishing company. She has been in the internet industry for 12 years, and the online gaming field for four. "It’s still a male-dominated industry at both the corporate and user level, though the number of women playing games is growing rapidly.
“I haven’t seen any changes yet at higher levels, but as more women play games, I’m sure we’ll see them get into online game publishing, service operations and game development,” Choe says.
For Choe, networking with other women executives in her field is difficult because so few exist. “It would be nice to have someone to talk to with a female perspective. I think female perspectives are valuable because guys more often than not think about things from the perspective of core gamers — the 18- to 34-year-old males that have so long represented the largest segment of our industry. But the market is changing rapidly and becoming broader.”
Choe has experienced sexism “numerous times,” she says. A former boss once told her that women “don’t take their careers too seriously.”
Her strategy for success then was to ignore the comments and work hard.
“If anything, comments like that drive me to work harder. I take them as fuel for the fire, and they inspire me to help my team succeed.”
Choe says if she could give one piece of advice to a woman entering a male-dominated field, it would be to “seek out good examples or mentors to learn from.”
“Try to be surrounded with good friends and colleagues with whom you can exchange ideas and help over the years,” she says.
She recommends being clear about goals and timelines, and she advises women not to be afraid to make mistakes. “Just try,” she says. Ultimately, she points out, “No one but you is going to know better what you’re good at or what really drives you.”