Knowledge Center

Women in Male-Dominated Industries and Occupations

Male-Dominated1 Occupations Are Those That Comprise 25% or Fewer Women2

Male-dominated industries and occupations are particularly vulnerable to reinforcing masculine stereotypes that make it even more difficult for women to excel.3 

In the United States, only 6.6% of women worked full-time in male-dominated occupations in 2017.4

  • Women represented only 38% of non-technical positions in the tech industry, despite holding 57% of all bachelor’s degrees in 2015.5

    • Women held only 20% of leadership roles in the tech workforce in 2015.6


  • In 2015, women held only 26% of computer and mathematical occupations and just 36% of high-tech occupations.7

Women Face Challenges Working in Male-Dominated Workplace Cultures 

Women working in male-dominated industries face a variety of challenges, including:

  • Pervasive stereotypes, such as that of the "caring mother"8 or the office housekeeper.9

  • The view that women are outsiders and threaten the norm.10

  • Work/life demands may delay women’s time to PhD, impacting the number of publications that are so important for promotions in academic science and STEM fields.11

  • Fewer mentoring opportunities, which women reported as being important for their success.12

  • Sexual harassment.13

Women use various mechanisms to cope with working in male-dominated work environments, such as:

  • Distancing themselves from colleagues, especially other women.14

  • Accepting masculine cultural norms and acting like “one of the boys,” which exacerbates the problem by contributing to the normalization of this culture.15

  • Leaving the industry.16

Sexual Harassment Is More Prevalent in Male-Dominated Industries17

In a 2017 survey, 62% of the women interviewed who work in male-dominated industries in the United States reported that sexual harassment is a problem in their industry, compared to 46% of women working in female-dominated industries.18

  • 49% of women in male-dominated industries said sexual harassment is a problem in their workplaces, compared to 32% of women whose workplaces had more women than men.19

  • 28% of women working in male-dominated industries said they had personally experienced sexual harassment, compared to 20% of women in other industries.20

This heightened level of harassment is a problem even before women enter the workforce. One study found that women pursuing male-dominated university majors experience higher levels of harassment than women earning other degrees.21

  • About 14% of women with engineering degrees don't enter the labor force.22

There is a Gender Pay Gap in Male-Dominated Industries

Canadian women face a larger gender wage gap in male-dominated industries.23

Occupational segregation is considered to be an important contributing factor to the wage gap in Europe.24

  • Despite legislative changes, occupational segregation has not improved in Europe over the past ten years.25

In the United States, many of the best-paying occupations are in male-dominated industries,26 yet women made less than men in median weekly earnings in every male-dominated occupation in 2017.27

One study examining United States Census research from 1950 to 2000 showed that as large numbers of women entered male-dominated fields, the overall pay rate declined.28

  • Some jobs, such as database administrators and electrical engineers, have too few women employed to even compare salaries.29

Women of Color Are Underrepresented in Male-Dominated Industries

One study on women of color in science in the United States found that 100% of the 60 scientists interviewed experienced gender bias in the workplace.30

Another study found that Asian women make up 42.6% of all mid-level women in tech, but Black women and Latinas have low representation across all levels:31

Level Black Women Latinas
Entry Level 4.6% 4.1%
Mid Level 2.7% 3.0%
High Level 1.6% 0.0%


  • In Silicon Valley tech companies, women of color are 1% or less of all workers.32

  • Less than 1% of founders in tech who receive venture capital funding are women of color.33

In a 2016 study, 71% of women of color engineers said they had to "prove themselves repeatedly" at work, versus 59% of white women engineers.34

  • 61% of women of color engineers said they were held to higher standards versus 51% of white women engineers.35

Occupation Total Employed—Percent Women
Senior managers—construction, transportation, production, and utilities 14.0%
Engineering managers 14.4%
Computer and information systems managers 23.8%
Computer programmers and interactive media developers 16.5%
Manufacturing managers 19.5%
Utilities managers 19.0%
Supervisors, mining, and quarrying 4.2%
Contractors and supervisors, oil and gas and drilling services 5.3%
Total Employed—Percent Women by Industry EU France Germany Italy Switzerland UK
Manufacturing 29.6% 30.1% 27.1% 26.1% 29.5% 25.2%
Mining  and Quarrying 14.1% 10.3% 13.7% 19.4% 0% 18.4%


United States38
Total Employed—Percent Women All Women White Black Asian Latina
Architectural and Engineering Managers 8.7% 79.7% 8.3% 11.2% 6.2%
Architecture and Engineering Occupations 16.2% 79.3% 5.6% 12.7% 8.7%
Computer and Information Systems Managers 28.6% 78.0% 6.6% 13.0% 6.6%
Computer Programmers 21.2% 65.9% 7.1% 25.4% 5.3%
Construction Managers 7.4% 90.2% 4.9% 2.3% 12.4%

Additional Resources

Catalyst, Ask Catalyst Express: How Can STEM Companies Recruit, Promote, and Retain Women?

Catalyst, Women In Energy: Gas, Mining, & Oil.

Catalyst, Quick Take: Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).

Catalyst, Quick Take: Women in Science and Medicine.

How to cite this product: Catalyst, Quick Take: Women in Male-Dominated Industries and Occupations (August 23, 2018).