The strides to bring us closer to gender equality are never ending, and many women have made a huge impact on closing this gap. One of the areas that women have to continue to push the envelope with is finding pathways into male dominated industries. There are fields of study and work that have historically been overly saturated by men. Because there is sometimes push back, both actively and passively, when women try to take up space in these kinds of industries, it has been difficult for women to gain equal footing. But there are several brave women who serve as trailblazers through their efforts to make a name for themselves in these fields. These changemakers were and are bold enough to not take no for an answer and lead the way to improved access and opportunity for women who will come after them. To learn more about these female innovators, check out these 7 extraordinary women in male-dominated fields.
Irina Krush – Chess Master
Many competitive endeavors do not let men and women compete together, but chess is an exception. But despite this, no woman has ever won a world chess championship. Irina Krush became the youngest U.S. Women’s champion at age 14. She said that chess is a game that needs masculine characteristics to dominate. “Chess is a very solitary game,” Krush says. “I think women or girls when they were growing up were more social animals; [they] prefer to do things in groups. For a woman to be successful in chess, she basically has to develop in herself more masculine qualities than she would if she was involved in another profession.”
Annie Duke – Poker Champion
There are 38 inductees in the World Series of Poker Hall of Fame. Only one of them is a woman. Duke won the World Series of Poker Tournament of Champions in 2004, but says she is still not treated with respect. “I’ve been really overtly and disgustingly hit on at the table,” she reports. She feels that this was a way to assert their male dominance over her through objectification.
Cristeta Comerford – Chef
Comerford, who is Filipino, breaks ground as the first female and first minority to ever serve as executive chef of the White House. This is indicative of a drastic underrepresentation of women and female minorities in executive chef positions world wide. Despite equal enrollment in culinary schools based on gender, the Bureau of Labor reports that only 20% of chefs and head cooks are women.
Kathryn Bigelow – Filmmaker
Kathryn Bigelow recently became the very first woman to ever win an Academy Award for best director, for her film “The Hurt Locker.” This shows just how biased the film industry is against women, with the many amazing directors who have been working in the field for decades. Out of the 250 highest grossing films yearly, only about 10% are directed by women.
Danica Patrick – Professional Race Car Driver
In 2008, Danica Patrick competed in the Indy Japan 300 and became the first woman to ever win an Indy car race. And she was the highest ranking woman ever to compete in the Indy 500 when she placed 3rd place in 2009.
Cathy Lanier – Law Enforcement
Cathy Lanier is the Washing DC Chief of Police, and is the first woman to ever hold this position in the history of the US nation’s capital. She has an 80% approval rating and has drastically dropped the homicide rate to its lowest ever in 45 years. Female police chiefs only make up 1% of the total in the US.
Frances Allen – Computer Programmer
In 2006, IBM computer scientist Frances Allen was the first woman to ever win the Turing Award for her amazing work in optimizing compilers. This award is considered the Nobel Prize for computer science. SHe is also responsible for helping design National Security Agency code language that was elemental during the Cold War.