Joining a male-dominated industry can be intimidating. Not only is gender representation extremely low—we’re talking 3 percent in some industries—but also the culture at these companies can be outdated, exclusionary, and even discriminatory. Finding a company that’s an exception to these stereotypes is crucial for women who want to feel satisfied and welcome in the workplace.
Thankfully, they exist. Many employers in fields such as tech, manufacturing, and transportation are actively working toward change; attempting to hire, promote, and include women in all roles and at all levels.
What does that look like, you might ask? We definitely wanted to know. So, we asked five women at Pittsburgh Regional Transit (PRT), an employer in an industry made up of only 15 percent women, to share what makes their workplace environment unique for a male-dominated industry. The green flags to look out for, if you will, when searching for jobs and considering careers in these high-opportunity industries.
These are the three signs, they say, make PRT stand out from other organizations dominated by men.
3 green flags to look for when joining a male-dominated industry
1. Work-life balance and a sense of belonging
Work-life balance is a key factor in gender equity because women often take on more responsibilities at home than men do, and that overwork—juggling career, parenting, caregiving, housekeeping, etc.—contributes to higher rates of burnout among women than men. This is one of the reasons women often prioritize workplace flexibility, and why many female-dominated sectors have more flexible scheduling.
But in a male-dominated industry? Well, finding a company that values work-life balance is like finding a diamond in a landfill.
Denise Ott, acting director of capital programs at PRT, was bound for a male-dominated industry from the start. “I have always been interested in the built-up world, even as a child,” she says. “I began exploring career options seriously in high school and almost instantly fell upon engineering. After graduating from an all-girls high school, engineering school was a big change—my classmates went from 100 percent girls to 80 percent boys. I figured out how to navigate the engineering school world and began my career as a consulting engineer focused on building structural systems.”
The hours in that sector were long, however, and once Ott grew tired of them, she transitioned to the construction industry, where she began managing projects for a building steel supplier and installer. Turns out, hours were long there, too.
Then, she found PRT. “I stumbled upon an ad for a senior project engineer position within PRT and was honestly surprised that PRT even employs engineers,” she says. “I applied out of curiosity, got the job, and have enjoyed working at PRT since. It’s the first engineering career I have found that truly honors work-life balance.”
Balance—and a sense of belonging, something she hadn’t felt at previous organizations. “PRT is vastly more welcoming than most engineering consulting firms I have worked at,” Ott says. “I think it is because the goals are so much different than any other consulting engineering position I’ve had. We aren’t trying to complete designs faster than anyone else. We work together to keep PRT-owned infrastructure in good working order. This allows the other departments in PRT to move the people of Pittsburgh where they need to go. Each department has its own role to play in accomplishing that goal.”
One of InHerSight’s Best Companies to Work For, Pittsburgh Regional Transit continues to shine the light on opportunities for women in the male-dominated transit industry. While their top metrics include The People You Work With and Wellness Initiatives, it’s their score for Learning Opportunities—their highest rated metric—that makes PRT remarkable. Here, you can learn on the job and grow your career alongside people who want you to thrive. Discover your next career steps at PRT now.
2. Executive sponsorship and representation where it matters most
In addition to work-life balance, InHerSight has found that visible and measurable diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives to be a green flag for women employees regardless of industry. And companies that want to champion diversity—in house and in their communities—need top-down support of those initiatives in order to ensure they deliver meaningful change. That’s called executive sponsorship.
Sue Broadus has experienced that support firsthand at PRT. Broadus is a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise/Diverse Business (DBE/DB) program manager. She advocates for underserved businesses—both small businesses and those led by minorities and women—to obtain contracting opportunities.
Broadus says CEO Katharine Kelleman has expressed her support of this important work both verbally and financially—the kind of two-pronged executive sponsorship DEI initiatives need to thrive. “For example, I have been able to hire two staff members because she recognized the volume of work for which this office is responsible,” Broadus says. “[Kelleman] has further expressed her commitment to this office by encouraging me to come to her directly for any future concerns and/or resources.”
What’s more, Kelleman herself represents a growing leadership trend in the transit industry in particular. PRT joins other transit systems such as Dallas DART, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, and SunLine Transit Agency in having a woman CEO. With 84 percent of women saying it’s important or very important to see women filling leadership roles where they work, this representation is key to driving gender equity in male-dominated fields.
“Having a woman CEO is an inspiration to other women in the organization and community,” says Missy Ramsey, director of employment and development. “It is wonderful to see so many women CEOs leading transit properties throughout the country.”
“PRT is an organization that prides itself on diversity,” Ramsey adds. “We take great pride in our efforts to attract a diverse workforce and offer opportunities to our employees.”
3. Growth opportunities and mentorship
Research shows that “lack of mentoring and career development opportunities” is one of the five greatest challenges women face when navigating male-dominated sectors. Yet Amy Giammanco, assistant director of employment and development, says that hasn’t been an issue for her at PRT. In fact, in the 35 years she’s worked for the agency, she’s experienced the exact opposite, changing roles five times within the human resources department.
“I have been fortunate to have worked for several supportive leaders, and I have been mentored by some amazing women,” she says. “PRT has provided me with the opportunity to grow professionally over the years into roles such as training specialist, senior training specialist, manager of employment and development, and now assistant director of employment and development. Our department is like a family. I work hard, but I enjoy what I do and who I work with.”
Monica Green, director of bus and rail operations, has had a similar experience rising in the ranks at PRT. “I fell into transportation after speaking with a neighbor who was a former employee,” she says. “My neighbor informed me of the pension plan and benefits that were appealing to me. At that time, I was a manager for a well-known outdoor retail company and, of course, specialized in customer service. Having a young family and thinking of their future, I decided to apply as a bus operator.”
Nearly 30 years later, Green now oversees a team of two assistant managers of bus and rail operations, an operations program manager, and 39 first-level dispatch supervisors. “I believe that the women who promoted me saw the tenacity, ability to succeed, and no-nonsense demeanor as the missing ingredient to the male-dominated field,” she says.
And she thinks other women should consider PRT, too. “Recently, PRT has promoted more women than I’ve seen in my tenure. Women bring a different perspective and are now being accepted as having earned their way in the field.”