By Sarah Adnan (Research Associate at WOWPK)

As per the United States labour law, non-traditional occupations for women are defined as those jobs which have fewer than 25% women representation in a particular field.

With increased exposure than ever before, more women are opting for careers previously perceived to be male-centered. Whether it be Benazir Bhutto, the first and only female Prime Minister in Pakistan’s history, or Ayesha Farooq, Pakistan’s only combat-ready female Air Force pilot, or Samina Baig, the first Pakistani woman to summit Mount Everest and the Seven Summits, more women in Pakistan are breaking gender stereotypes and venturing into the non-traditional professional fields, excelling and creating opportunities for our female population in areas that defy our close-minded cultural approach.

However, it is never an easy feat for women to advance and excel in roles that are traditionally reserved for men. These challenges include discrimination, harassment, transportation and child care issues along with increased family pressure to give their 100% at home and at work. It is therefore a constant struggle to balance life and prove their worth every step of the way, even when they do not get level playing field with their male counterparts.

Here are a few ways, women can thrive in a male dominated industry or profession:

  • Be Vocal – In the years that I have worked as a marketing manager, the one most important marketing tactic is to make noise about your brand, product or service. Same goes for women. If you are not heard, if you do not speak up, if you do not create ripples in your surroundings, someone else will take credit for your hard work. Be vocal. Be firm. Be assertive.
  • Learn to say ‘no’ – There are many instances when women, in order to prove themselves take up more work than they can handle. Do not be a doormat. Learn to say no. Agreeing to things you cannot manage will eventually hurt yourself and your company.
  • Be confident in your abilities – You will be amazed at what a huge difference confidence makes on your work image. If you own your talents and accept them with pride, others will recognize them too.
  • Learn to ask – Whether it be a salary raise or a day off from work, you will be surprised at the support you get, if you only learn to ask.
  • Support not just your female peers but all co-workers equally – In a leadership role, be that one person your team can count on, regardless of the gender. Be the guide, create an atmosphere of trust and respect and your femininity will never be a problem.
  • Find a mentor, be a mentor – A mentor helps pave the way for success and a strong female role model can transform your professional journey through her ideas, experience and advice. It is equally important to be a mentor to promising women. Not only will you experience ultimate joy at all her successes, just like your own, you will also learn so much more about your own self.
  • Do not get easily offended – In a work environment, men rarely censor their speech. Get used to it. Unless it is directed towards you in an abusive or sexual context, it is best to not get offended. In fact, create a friendly atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable in their skin around you.
  • Handle conflicts with ease – If there are any conflicts, handle them with maturity. If they are serious, take the right course of action, go through proper channels to report the issue. If it is a small issue which can be ignored, let it go.
  • Never stop learning – as they say, learning never stops. Never let any opportunity to learn and add value to your skill go by.

Working in a field where women have been historically excluded can lead to women questioning their abilities. In fact, self-doubt starts early when young girls are subjected to domestic discrimination, setting in the belief that the male sex is gifted. However, this vicious cycle can be broken by better upbringing and education of our children. We as mothers have the power to change the mind-set of our next generation. We need to encourage our daughters to pursue their interests regardless of the industry gender classification. We need to create an inclusive environment, we need to be the role models for our generations to come.

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