The gender landscape has changed dramatically in the last century. Don’t forget it was less than a hundred years ago when women got the vote – 1920 in the US, 1918 or 1928 in the UK depending on your age. Gradually, but steadily, traditionally male-dominated enclaves have opened their doors to the fairer sex, either by choice or due to them being broken down by a combination of legislation and public pressure. There is still a long way to go though: recent figures show that women are paid on average just 79% of their male peers. This gap is closing – it was 59% in 1974 – but not fast enough. However, what is encouraging is ladies’ storming of the last few bastions of male domination. If you are looking for a career change and need inspiration, here are 5 industries that have seen women not only fighting back, but definitely winning.
When women are successful in what has to be the most testosterone-laden industry of them all – professional fighting, there really is hope for everyone, no matter what their chosen profession. When Ronda Rousey began not only to make the headlines, but to actually headline the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) pay-per-view nights was a massive step forward. Only 3 years after the organisation’s president Dana White said that women would never fight in the organisation, Rousey was suddenly one of the most important boxers, if not the biggest star of the sport. Multi-million dollar movie contracts and the coveted Ring Magazine cover soon followed. Although her recent devastating defeat to Holly Holm has made a huge dent in her career, her impact on the sport – and especially women’s place in it – cannot be overlooked. There are currently 56 professional women MMA fighters in the UFC alone.
IMAGE SOURCE: mmamania.com
On the surface, entering a cage to try and knock your opponent out before they do the same to you may not seem the most attractive of pursuits. Anyone who follows the sport however will know that it is a whole lot more than that. An immense amount of skill, strength, stamina, self-belief and determination are required – exactly the traits that have enabled women to overcome barriers and obstacles in all walks of life. And what’s more, UFC stars are still managing to do so in a feminine way, many becoming role-models of mental and physical strength and true beauty along the way.
Women’s boxing has been around in one form or another since the early 1700s, but it has seen a constant battle with the authorities, not just for acceptance but to be allowed to exist at all. It wasn’t until 1996 that women were allowed to box professionally in the US. It took another 2 years (after Jane Couch successfully took the British Board of Control to court over sex discrimination) in the UK. Some momentum is gradually starting to build up, and the sport was given a massive boost in 2012, when it was included for the first time at the Olympics – Nicola Adams becoming one of the stars of the whole event when she won flyweight gold for Great Britain. She was recently interviewed by BBC on gender stereotypes and sexuality.
Poker & E-Sports
Though these may come with lower chances of physical injury, e-sports and poker are no less intense and require an equal amount of practice and dedication. Once again, the arena of skill-based video games were a traditional preserve of men, but women are gradually winning more and more respect – and tournaments.
The top 20 women poker players all have earnings of more than $1milion to date, with Vanessa Selbst topping the list with over $10 million. Vanessa, one of several women members of the respected Team Pokerstars professional team, has won three World Series of Poker bracelets and is the only woman ever to reach number 1 in the Global Poker Index rankings. She is also the only poker player – male or female – to successfully defend a North American Poker Tour Event. Outside of poker, she has attended MIT, Yale (where she graduated in political science) and Yale Law School (where she gained a law degree), and is one of those people that appears to be good at everything she turns her hand to.
As for competitive e-sports, this new highly challenging arena of battling it out for cash prizes and fame in video games, leading IT firm Intel has identified a rise of women in the field. E-sports are largely male-dominated, although non-competitive video game players are almost equally male and female nowadays according to reports: Girls are 47% of total gamers in the USA and Australia, 46% in the UK and even a majority of 66% in Japan. E-sports team CLG Red, comprised of five young American women is determined to set the record straight. Team member Stephanie Harvey highlights that it’s important “to have strong role models for women who want to play and compete” in this largely testosterone-filled arena.
The days when the only women who entered the boardroom were there to either clean it or bring in the coffee are long gone. In fact, a quick look at some of the largest and most successful firms in the world today is testament to just how much of an impact women having in the world of business. Here are just a few of very impressive businesswomen holding major posts in industry-leading organizations:
IMAGE SOURCE: nytimes.com
Ginni Rometty – CEO at IBM
Sheryl Sandberg – COO at Facebook
Marissa Mayer – CEO at Yahoo
Indra Nooyi – CEO at PepsiCo
Ursula Burns – CEO Xerox
Amy Pascal – Co-Chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment
Angela Ahrendts – CEO at Burberry
Sue Naegle – President at HBO
Safra Catz – CFO at Oracle
The list goes on and on. There is an equally inspiring list of women who have built up their business empires from scratch, while arguably one the most important people in the world of finance and business – the president of the International Monetary Fund is a woman, Christine Lagarde. The days of the glass ceiling for women in business certainly look like they are over, so there has never been a better time to brush up your business skills, and follow your dreams.
Another area where the sight of a skirt or a fashionably cut woman’s suit is starting to come commonplace is that traditional cauldron of male dominance – politics. The US Senate, the Houses of Parliament in the UK, and their equivalents up and down Europe and across the globe are welcoming more and more women into their folds. In 1985, the US senate had just 2 women, while today there are 20. And of course there is a very real possibility that America will be swearing in its first woman President later this year. Love her or loath her, Margaret Thatcher was the first high-profile political leader of a major power, but others have followed in her footsteps, most notably Angela Merkel – current Chancellor of Germany since 2005.
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Globally there are 44,877 politicians and currently only 10,110 of those are women. That is 22.7%. This is obviously still a lot lower than it should be for a group that represents more than half of the total population, but essentially it is a percentage that is growing, and the likes of Clinton and Merkel can only help by motivating and inspiring young women and girls to follow their lead.
The Nordic countries are leading the way in terms of women in their parliaments with an impressive 41.1%, with the Americas coming in second with 27%. Trailing behind is the Pacific Region with a lowly 13.4%.
It may not be the best paid of jobs, compared to others, and it certainly isn’t the most glamorous, but when it comes to the chance of ordering men around, a job in politics is probably hard to beat.
IMAGE SOURCE: blogs.indiewire.com
Things have thankfully moved on from the days of the casting couch and more and more women are having an influence behind the camera, as well as just in front of it. Kathryn Bigelow in 2010 was the first female recipient of the Oscar for the Best Director, and amazingly – or not as the case unfortunately is – was only the fourth woman to ever be nominated. Bigelow made Hollywood and the film world sit up with her winning movie – The Hurt Locker, and her follow up Zero Dark Thirty particularly because they were in a genre that was always seen as one where male directors excelled – high-intensity action films.
Taking up the baton is Angelina Jolie. In the middle of filming her 5th movie as director – First they Killed my Father, a harrowing tale set in Cambodia during Pol Pot’s time in power, she is perhaps best known for the 2014’s Unbroken, another story set in and around a war.
There are many other areas where women are proving their worth and make their mark. It should always be a question of balance, and very few people would deny that a woman can bring something to the table that a man can’t. In recent years it has become a lot less of a man’s world, and while it may not yet be a woman’s one, it is certainly becoming a more equal one. Let’s try to speed up the process!