Thriving in a Male-Dominated Industry (As A Woman)

Tuesday, March 8th, 2022



Open dialog and idea sharing are how we build a community of trust at DefenseStorm, and everyone plays a role in that – speak up and encourage others to do the same!

When I joined DefenseStorm in 2019 it didn’t even cross my mind I was joining an organization that operates in (yet another) male-dominated industry. Having spent the first 20+ years of my career in the banking space, I’ve learned to accept that most of my colleagues are going to be male. It’s a reality I don’t have much control over. There are, however, many things I do have control over and choosing to put my focus and energy on those has been crucial to many of the successes I’ve enjoyed throughout my career. Sounds simple, right? It can be with the right mindset.

Before delving into mindset, let’s define how an industry even gets classified as male-dominated. According to the US Department of Labor, any occupation where women represent less than 25% of the workforce is considered male-dominated. Cybersecurity barely makes that classification with 24% of the workforce made up of women, but only 3% of those are in leadership roles. Wow! And, in the United States only 6.5% of women work full-time in male-dominated occupations according to a study done by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Compare this to female-dominated industries such as healthcare, education, and the non-profit sector where woman represent more than 70% of the workforce, and 21% of those are in leadership roles. These statistics make me think – A LOT – but perhaps not in the way you would assume.

I’ve had what most people would consider a successful career and 100% of it has been spent in male-dominated industries: corporate banking, digital banking, and now cybersecurity. I have spent many a day as the lone female in a room full of males – be it team meetings, leadership meetings, prospect/client meetings, training sessions, board meetings or any other professional gathering. That reality has had zero impact on my ability to succeed – primarily because of my mindset. I have always chosen to focus on the responsibilities of my role and the tangible contributions I can make towards the goals and objectives of the company. I certainly don’t ignore the gender of the person sitting next to me at the table, but I have found it irrelevant as long as we are working towards the same goals and objectives. Now, I can’t say for sure that this approach has influenced or even been noticed by my male counterparts, but I can say that what we’ve been able to accomplish together over the past 25 years represent some of the proudest moments of my professional career.

I am going to outline a few tenets of the mindset I’ve embraced while building a career in a variety of male-dominated industries:

Exceed Expectations

Richard Branson has been quoted as saying, “The key to success is setting realistic expectations and not just to meet them, but to exceed them – preferably in unexpected and helpful ways.” Of course, he was talking about doing this for customers of the 400 companies worldwide that make up the Virgin Group, but I have found his words have many applications. When I think about the one thing I consistently try to do professionally, I always come back to the same thing – exceed expectations. This has been a core value of mine since childhood and carrying it into my professional career has been one of the cornerstones of my success. I make a habit to set clear expectations and then communicate progress against those expectations on every project/initiative I take on – big or small. This simple act removes ambiguity, ensures alignment, and allows for small wins (or losses) to be discussed along the journey so there are no surprises. And, if you are always pushing to exceed expectations, you are going to at least meet them every time.

Remain True to Who You Are

Everyone can spot a fake, so don’t be one. What makes you unique is what will most likely help you succeed. I am a friendly person. I like to socialize and get to know people, but at work I also like to get things done. In the Hartman Color Code Personality Profile, I am a Red. A Red is someone who is physically active and wants to experience the world with all five senses. Someone who is achievement-oriented – passionate & competitive and wants to win. Someone who is independent, task-dominant, productive, and proactive. Someone who can be aggressive in the moment, but then immediately relax when removed from the environment that resulted in that aggression. That’s me. I embrace the good and bad of being a Red and while I am always trying to improve, that doesn’t involve changing the inherent characteristics of who I am. Being a Red means I am constantly striking a balance between aggressively pushing myself and my peers towards the accomplishment of a goal and remaining mindful that many of those peers are White (motivated by peace), Yellow (motivated by fun), or Blue (motivated by intimacy). It’s a constant tug-o-war. Throughout your career – and your life – you’ll connect with some people, and you won’t connect with others. Try to learn something from both.

Use your Voice

Studies from a myriad of research firms show that organizations make better decisions when there is diversity in the decision-making process. For example, gender-diverse teams make superior business decisions 73% of the time compared to all male teams which make superior decisions only 58% of the time. Being at the table isn’t enough – you must use your voices and speak up, too. Females working in a male-dominated industry can have a significant impact simply by sharing their point of view and offering an opinion. For the women reading this blog – can you think of a time your words impacted the outcome of a decision at work? For the men reading this blog – can you think of a time one of your female colleague’s words impacted the outcome of a decision at work? If ‘no’ was the answer to either of those questions, it’s time to make a change. Several years ago, I was in a meeting where a large group of leaders were asked to share a time that they received top notch customer service. After approximately 5 of my colleagues shared their stories, I stood up and volunteered a story of my own. When I was done, a few more colleagues offered up stories before we took a short break. While grabbing a drink during the break one of my male colleagues approached me and asked if I realized I was the only woman to share a story during the exercise. Quite honestly, I hadn’t noticed. But the fact he noticed was enough to give me pause. I politely asked him what made him feel compelled to seek me out and share this observation. He looked at me puzzled for a moment and then said something to the effect of not knowing why he chose to use that observation as his opener, but the reason he wanted to talk to me about it was because the story I shared gave him an idea about how to change the way we speak with our customers when they call in to Customer Support. This began a larger conversation that resulted in a new script being developed for low severity calls into Customer Support.

Open dialog and idea sharing are how we build a community of trust at DefenseStorm, and everyone plays a role in that – speak up and encourage others to do the same!

I may have unintentionally chosen a career path that has me perpetually navigating male-dominated industries, but I can honestly say it has been a great ride so far and the future looks bright.

Robin Mace

Robin Mace

Vice President, Sales Enablement

Robin joined DefenseStorm in July 2019 and currently oversees the Sales Enablement function. In this role, she leverages more than 25 years of transition leadership in the financial services/financial technology industry to drive initiatives that enable the company’s customer-facing teams to execute the core aspects of their jobs more effectively, especially as it relates to selling and revenue performance. Robin is a strategic thinker and proven innovator with a disciplined approach to leveraging new and emerging technologies. Prior to joining DefenseStorm, she held various leadership roles in Marketing, Learning & Development, Sales, Customer Experience, and Operations at Q2, Intuit, Digital Insight, and Wachovia Bank (now Wells Fargo). An avid traveler, she has visited all 50 United States, all 7 continents, and more than 150 countries. Robin has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Corporate Communications from Elon University.