I am a Manager in the petroleum field. I am one of 3 women of the company I am with, who manages a successful business in this field. There are times when I feel I am not taken seriously, almost like because I am a woman I do not know what I am talking about. It is almost like at times I feel I am being "humored". This is a business I have been in for a long while. I have been very successful with other companies I was with before this one and in those companies I was taken seriously. My opinion counted and mattered, my advice was considered and taken.

When I applied for the job I was the only women interviewed. I obviously got the job. But did I get it based on my experience and good interview skills or because they felt they needed another woman for the job?

Before I took over, the business I am now managing was suffering, customer 's were low, product was not being purchased and things were falling apart. Since I have been there customers have flocked and purchases have increased and the place is starting to thrive. Employees who wanted to leave before I came no longer want to and they come to work ready to do their job. I have done well for the company.

What I want to know, is how does a woman, in a mans world get taken more seriously? There are not a lot of women in this field. At least not with this company. What advice would you give me to get the male members on board to take me as a serious Manager?

I am tired of always having to try to "prove" myself. It seems that if I have anything to say I need proof to back it up. But if a male were to say something it gets taken more seriously. Now do not get me wrong, I am not a whining woman who is stomping her foot to get attention. I know that because I chose this field I will have to work harder, which is fine. But what do I need to do to get the respect I know I deserve?

Any help would be great,
Thank You.

juliahhavener's picture
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Given the situation, I would say 'get used to it until it no longer matters'.

You won't change their minds or their actions except by consistently proving yourself. I manage a technical team. The men on the team occassionally make the mistake of thinking I can't handle the technical side as well as I do the managerial side. By consistently proving my own capabilities, they've gotten over that (one of them recently said, "Miss J, every time you come to my desk I lose 5 IQ points. Pretty soon my hands will be dragging the ground when I walk." I had just shown him in 2 minutes how to do something he'd spent 40 minutes trying to accomplish). Now they come to me when they're really flummoxed.

Our outside technicians take a little more effort. Email circulates with technical data that is a little off kilter. I ask a few more questions because it just shouldn't work the way it does. Instead of a smart answer, I get an honest one without judgement in it because of the way I present the question. I've made an effort to know and discuss technical issues with those managers so that they know me and how I work. Slowly but surely, I'm finding them trusting my judgement more readily and with less question when I said 'I did this'.

You may always feel there is some aspect of your job that is harder because you're a woman. Then again, you could decide that any good manager will be backing up what they say with facts again and again no matter what. You can decide to take care of your folks and be the best you can be at what you do. And you can decide to go forward and continue to kick tail and take names for your company.

ashdenver's picture

[quote="willow"]What I want to know, is how does a woman, in a mans world get taken more seriously? What advice would you give me to get the male members on board to take me as a serious Manager?

I am tired of always having to try to "prove" myself. It seems that if I have anything to say I need proof to back it up. But if a male were to say something it gets taken more seriously.

But what do I need to do to get the respect I know I deserve?[/quote]

Q. How do I get taken more seriously?

A. Deliver results and be prepared.

Men are generally results-oriented ("Who won the game?") and they want to know what goes into a decision ("I bet on that horse because [insert some stats]")

You don't have to change the way you think, necessarily, but if you want different results, you have to provide different input (different actions.) If observation tells you that men are asking for facts and figures, that should be a big clue that you should head into any presentation, proposal or discussion with those things ready. When you have a track record of having those things ready to go, they'll stop asking you because you have that track record and it's become part of "how you do business."

In this case, it may not be that you're a woman; it might be that you're the New Kid. I can't be sure of that because I don't work there but it is still a possibility.

Just as I've generalized about men (results, facts), men generalize about women (emotional, etc.). You can keep doing what you're doing and getting the same results or you can adapt to the corporate culture you're in which expects facts, figures and results.

So yeah, I guess it's a form of proving yourself - if you want to look at it that way. Personally, I prefer to look at it as adapting to the prevailing culture.

*two cents*

Mark's picture
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There's a great scene in Disclosure where one of Michael Douglas's female peers comments that she got a technical degree, and then another technical degree, and WORKED, AND WORKED SOME MORE, and yet somehow the promotion that Michael Douglas seems to be in line for she never even warranted consideration. She says she "didn't have the tools...I wonder what that is code for."

Sadly, the corporate world is still a male world, and in some industries, yours perhaps most notably, a testosterone filled and bigoted male world.

[b]The way a woman gets taken seriously in a man's world is to outperform them. [/b]

It sure would help me to know more about your role, and your results, and your level of responsibility - having had experience in the industry in the exploration, producing, refining, distribution, pipeline, and retailing arms. With more information, I could tell you more specifically what I would focus on.

And, I am not sure if you are now saying that you have been in this industry at other similar companies and are now being "humored" at this one company, but if you are, that's easy, put together a great resume and find a better fit, and dedicate yourself to beating those whom you just left in the market (and the market for talent, not that there's that much difference).


rthibode's picture


I suggest you read the book "Talking 9 to 5: Men and Women at Work" by Deborah Tannen. The author is a serious academic, and she does a really good job of popularizing her research for a lay audience. As a woman in a field dominated by men, you are having sort of a cross-cultural experience. I think this book will help you understand male communication styles and culture, as well as their reaction to your own communication style.

Here's a review I grabbed from Amazon:

From Library Journal
Tannen (You Just Don't Understand, Morrow, 1990) describes differences in men's and women's public communication as found within the business setting. These differences appear to influence actual perceptions of worker skills and abilities. For example, women say "I'm sorry" without actually apologizing and tend to use an indirect manner of speech. These styles make women appear less confident, competent, and professional. However, women who learn to speak like men are accused of being aggressive and unfeminine. Written for the general reader, Tannen's work is entertaining and filled with illustrative conversations. It raises many issues of concern to working women, from knocking against the glass ceiling to dealing with sexual harassment. Unfortunately, Tannen's research has not yet suggested any linguistic solutions. Highly recommended for general public and academic libraries.
--Kathy Shimpock-Vieweg, O'Connor Cavanagh Lib., Phoenix

I disagree with this reviewer's statement that Tannen offers no solutions. In my experience, just understanding the differences between typically male and female social and conversational rituals goes a long way toward solving the problem.

naraa's picture
Training Badge


I came across your post.  I realize it is now almost 4 years old but I wonder whether you have been able to succeed or not in the environment you were in and whether you can share how you did it.

I am a chemical engineer and the deputy general manager for a engineering company which serves the mining industry.  A while back I worked for a petrochemical company.  Hard to say which of the two fields is more male dominated.

I have been quite successful if by success one understands contributing significantly for the profitability of the companies I have worked for and having a good salary and hierarchical.  Within the last year though, two female co-workers have left the company due to circumstances similar to the ones you have described: "a woman to succeed in this business and be given the same opportunities as man needs to be constantly proving herself and/or needs to be off the scale as far as competencies go".  I have had very little success in assuring same opportunities for man and woman within the company I myself hold a high management position.

What I came to realize is that the fact it is so hard to change it is because most man do not actually discriminate on purpose, most do not intentionally discriminate.  I have been voicing out what I see and most man do not, but I am tired, the energy spent on it does not correlate well with the results obtained.

I am in a position right now in my life when I question myself whether it is really worth the effort.  I feel like a fresh water fish in salt water.   The salt water is slowly intoxicating and killing me.  The fresh water fish cannot take away the salt from the water. 

My first boss was a female manager and she climmed almost to the top of the hierarchical company structure only to quit it all at about the same age I am at right now.  And I am just about to do the same.  We are women in man´s created business rules, conditions, and atmosfere, and I am not sure I have the energy to continue swimming in salt water. 

I will keep reading through the 315 results I found with woman in them on the manger-tools website to try to find the clues on how to survive without loosing oneself and one`s characteristics along the way, shall there be any.  Marc, Mike, do you have manager-tools for woman sort of podcasts you can direct me to?  




jhack's picture

Sheryl Sandberg, facebook's COO, discusses some of the challenges in  this TED talk:

It's an insightful presentation; the "Heidi Rosen" case study alone is worth the listen, and later capstones the talk. 

John Hack

naraa's picture
Training Badge

Thanks John, great TED talk, I watch it several times.  Good and true advice, although really hard to follow and really hard to get the 3 right:

1-Sit at the table; 2-Make your partner a real partner; 3-Don´t leave before you leave.

For me, what I got most from the talk, and what is applicable whether we got the three above correctly or not is, your job better be really good to go back to. It needs to be:

1- challenging,

2 - rewarding, and

3 - you need to feel you are making a difference.

And I would probably add a forth one:

4 - And it needs to give you the right amount of family time.

Probably man wants just the same.  

The difference might be that what is challenging, rewarding and makes us feel like we are making a difference is different from man and woman, and these differences just get highlighted after motherhood.

I do not think it is just a matter of getting the promotions.  I think we probably could adjust better to the challenges, rewards and existing rooms for feeling we are making a difference in the workplace before having a child than we can afterwards.  

My guess is a lot of man feel just the same, but perhaps not as strongly and also do not have the excuse we woman have of not adjusting to the established business environment and values because of family needs.  But we will see it more and more often in the future, really bright young professionals, dropping out, not just woman.