There are times in a woman’s life (especially when pursuing higher education) that she’ll find herself in the slightly uncomfortable position of being in a male-dominated industry.
Of course, in the 21st century, that’s a rarity.
From the army to politics to the space programs, women now feature prominently, with just as much respect and expertise as men in every field of study.
Still, many women will find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer amount of testosterone in certain fields that are traditionally men’s. Construction, combat and theoretical physics are good examples. Suddenly, where once your talent was all that mattered, men with even lesser intellect than you are suddenly judging you based on your high heels! Why? Is it because men are all fools? No. It is because whenever you are a minority in a certain field, you need to stand out. You need to prove yourself, and to do that, you need to prove the prejudice wrong. It can happen to anyone in any walk of life, and it is not only about your gender, but it obviously is to some extent.
So what should a woman do? Work twice as hard to prove herself? Do her best to impress her peers and gain the recognition she deserves? Sadly, those are ventures that will be a waste of time. What is crucial is what you deliver. For, despite any reservations that any silly man will have about a woman doing his job, if it can be done well, he’ll relent. Several of literature’s biggest names were females who tried to impress her co-peers by mingling in the male “jungle” of writing. They did so by adopting male pseudonyms. The Brontë sisters were forced to adopt male pseudonyms by their publishers – however, their most successful novels (Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights & Agnes Grey) were published under their real names. J.K. Rowling was urged to avoid putting her name – Joan – by her publisher lest her sales be less amongst boys. However, her story about being a single mother with almost no money and then becoming a billionaire author who has inspired an entire generation has stirred tens of millions across the world.
There’s a lesson to be learnt there.
These women aren’t known for being prominent female writers. They’re known because their work set the benchmark for their respective genres. They tried to be measured against the men in their field, and soon saw that it was pointless and unnecessary. They became EMPOWERED women. By ditching the old traditional views that you had to be a man to dominate literature, they allowed themselves to thrive. Confidence and excellence are key. If you can do something better than anyone in the world, it doesn’t really matter whether you wear a skirt or baggy jeans. It doesn’t matter at all, especially if it doesn’t matter to you. A lot of the problems arise for women because they are led to believe that they need to match up against the greatest men, when they simply need to be good at what they do.
The period of dominance that Brazilian superstar Marta achieved was never compared to Lionel Messi’s. Although Messi was celebrated and hailed as a hero in a game traditionally played by men, Marta was given just as much credit for being the standout female performer in the sport. She did things her way, played her way, and was the best, and not once did she bother comparing herself with Messi or Ronaldo. Angela Merkel and Hillary Clinton are two women who continuously hold meetings with some of the most powerful men in the world. They greet them with firm handshakes and stern eyes, all whilst wearing pearls and skirts. Why should it be any other way? It shouldn’t! As a woman, you need to display the confidence and levels of quality that are expected from any man. If you are constantly comparing yourself to the male side of the over-achievers in your field, you will unfortunately be looked at as a woman trying to wear her father’s trousers.
That is exactly the opposite of what you’re trying to achieve. When breaking into a field that isn’t very common for women, you sometimes apply pressure on yourself that needn’t be there. If you can relieve some of that pressure by having faith in your own ability as a human to perform, then there is absolutely no reason why any man would have a reason to judge you. Obviously, there will always be people willing to take you down, whether you’re a man or a woman, tall or short, loud or soft. But it is how you respond to silly provocations like that that will determine your success in your chosen field of expertise.
Several of today’s greatest fashion designers are men, and they were able to dominate a field predominantly made for, paid for and appreciated by women. Why is that? Because they shook off the shackles of self-doubt and focused on creating innovative excellence. Do you care that Manish Malhotra is a man simply because he designed a dress? No.
So why should you care that Indira Gandhi is a woman?