Three women pose for the camera in their office environment

The struggles that come with being a woman in any workplace are present everywhere, but being in a male-dominated industry adds a unique challenge. It can be difficult to find a safe space where you can, as they say, plant yourself and bloom. These women, however, make us believe that hard work pays off and that women can dominate in any field.

In this article, they share their experiences working in male-dominated industries, along with their triumphs, struggles, and how hard work pays off no matter what.

Engineered to Take on Challenges

Rica Paula Eugenio, an engineer, is a hardworking woman in a man’s world. (Credit: instagram/ricapaula)

A prospective employer once asked Rica Paula Eugenia, a five-foot-one tall system architect if she could climb a van and install solar panels.

For nine years the 34-year-old worked as a software engineer in Singapore's automotive industry before moving to Australia to work for a company that develops software for trains and railways.

In her profession, Rica is no stranger to gender biases. She is proof that hard work pays off no matter what industry you're in. "I wanted to continue my nine-year role after the migration, but it was tough to enter the automotive engineering industry in Australia," she explains.

She remembers how hirers would ask her the same questions: Can you solder electric boards? Can you go to the production plant and take care of manufacturing if it goes wrong? Can you drive a truck and test the electronic unit there?

“I would say that I am up to the challenge, but I realized through these questions that they are indirectly telling me that they needed a man for the job and that I am not a good fit," Rica says. Being an engineer is tough enough, but being a female engineer is an even bigger challenge. She believes that most companies prefer men because of all the "manly tasks" associated with the role. Because of this, simple diligence wasn't enough. She needed to work twice as hard as her male counterparts.

Despite the initial rejections, she was able to secure a job — and she didn't need to climb a van to do it.

"There are some limitations for me when it comes to manual work such as carrying heavy electronic testing equipment, soldering of electronic boards, and troubleshooting electrical wirings," she admits. But her so-called womanly skillset also serves an advantage: "There are some things that needed to be taken care of, such as processes and documents. That’s where the technical strength and organizational skills of a woman come in."

Despite the inherent gender bias, Rica is happy and fulfilled in her chosen field. She's grateful to find a place in a male-dominated industry. Through perseverance, she found companies that considered women valuable in engineering. "I feel proud that women are slowly being acknowledged and accepted in the industry,” she says.

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A Fun and Fearless Rider

Kara Santos, travel blogger and motoring journalist, covers a traditionally male beat. (Credit: instagram/karasantos)

Kara Santos is a blogger and motoring journalist. In March 2011, she purchased her first scooter and started a blog "Travel Up" which revolved around travel, lifestyle, and motorcycles.

"Back then, there weren’t a lot of female riders yet, and blogging was still new. I got some attention because of the lack of online resources that combined those two interests," says Kara. She also stood out from the motoring crowd because of her gender.

“It’s hard to break into that typical macho culture of the world of motorcycles,” Kara says, but she also doesn’t brand herself as a “lady rider,” which for her is like saying “lady doctor” or “lady chef.” One of the biggest struggles of being a woman in the industry, she shares, is the fact that not many motorcycle gears are made for women.

She confesses that helmets, boots, jackets, gloves, et cetera, have been designed and sized to fit larger guys. She had difficulty finding gear that either fit her properly or wasn't designed to be overly feminine with pink details and flowers.

"Some girls like that, but others (like me) just want a decent plain black helmet,” Kara says, adding that the lack of options meant that women end up using ill-fitting equipment or ordinary gear with inferior quality, essentially endangering themselves. 

Kara shares that, over the years, she’s learned what kind of rides she likes to do — and they don’t involve racing, group rides, or endurance runs. “I’m just trying to do my own thing and not compete with anyone but myself. After completing my quest to travel all 81 provinces in the Philippines, some of which involved motorcycle (including solo) rides, I feel like I’ve already proven myself. These days I want to chill out and enjoy remaining rides, however long or short.”

Despite these setbacks, she knew that hard work pays off. Kara finds fulfillment in the freedom and discovery that riding brings. “On a motorcycle, you feel more in touch with the world around you. You're in charge of your own adventure,” she shares. Getting messages from readers is also humbling.

“Last year, I got a message from a ‘striving senior scooter rider’ saying he’s read 95% of my blog posts and is following my lead by renting scooters when he travels," she shares. "He said he just wanted to express his appreciation for people like me with an adventurous spirit who inspire others to savor blessings around us. Simple words and gestures like that from readers feel as rewarding as epic rides themselves.”

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Cool and Confident in the Kitchen

Chef Natalia Moran believes that you must prove yourself whether you’re a man or a woman. (Credit: The Blue Leaf)

Natalia Moran is a chef who runs her own food business and works as a consultant for various restaurant groups. She's a single mom who's needed to find ingenious ways to balance everything she needed to do.

"I couldn’t bring myself to work at a restaurant or hotel full time. I knew that dream of mine would have to be set aside. Thankfully, there was an opportunity to still do what I love the most," she says.

Natalia believes that the turning point of my career was when she worked on a new restaurant concept with some friends in Boracay. A six-month project of developing recipes, crafting a menu, training the kitchen team, and opening a restaurant stretched into a six-year (and counting) collaboration.

“Since then, I have worked with other restaurants and restaurant groups to either open a restaurant for them, tweak their current set up, or create new dishes for their menu,” she shares.

According to Natalia, that there are more men than women in her line of work, and gender bias is present. She shares that people would always assume that she works in the cold kitchen, pastry kitchen, or front-of-house. "Not that there's anything wrong with that but it's quite an unfair stereotype," she adds.

One time, when she was a line cook, she was assigned to the hot kitchen and her male colleagues complained that she deserved to be in the cold kitchen. "Why? Because I’m a woman, deemed to be more inferior and less capable in the hot kitchen than my male colleagues,” she adds.

Most of these struggles happened when she was younger and she would compete with male chefs to make sure she did better than them. She no longer sees it as a competition. “I think you have to prove yourself fit and capable whether you are woman or man. You’re simply a chef,” she says.

In her job, Natalia partners with different F&B teams, new restaurateurs, restaurant groups, line cooks, managers, photographers, food brands, food writers, event organizers, marketing teams, so she's learned to roll with different personalities.

In her case, hard work pays off up to now. These days, Natalia is happiest when she sees the restaurants that she has worked so hard on flourish and operate on their own with the kitchen team she has trained.

She always feels pride when she witnesses how a dish her team put together makes customers happy. "Creating a dish and putting it on the menu involves working with these different people, and I am truly thankful for all the fun, learning, and growth they add to my life," she says.

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Hard work pays off when you’re a woman in a male-dominated industry, but we still need to stand together so that no woman feels alone in her struggles. Salute to all women who are working hard while dealing with gender bias; keep up the good work.