Why Male-Dominated Industries Could Use a Woman's Touch: A Perspective from a Current CEO and Former Soldier
Hagar Valiano Rips

It’s well known that most industries are still overwhelmingly dominated by men. For instance, Wall Street, tech, construction, and engineering are only a few of the industries in which women are underrepresented, holding only 9 percent and 6 percent of the senior roles in venture capital and private equity. However, no one needs those statistics to confirm what we already know: There are specific fields in which women haven’t yet broken the infamous glass ceiling.

The most significant mistake analysts tend to make when discussing male-dominated industries is that they focus on the inequality itself. However, it can be far more fruitful to consider the advantages women bring to the table, both for themselves and for the industries involved.

The outcome of equal female representation in the workforce was summarized quite succinctly by management consulting giant McKinsey in 2018. They found that even though women make up around half of the world’s working-age population, they tend to be underrepresented, especially in the top roles of the workforce. Yet McKinsey estimates that women working at their full potential can add up to $28 trillion in additional global GDP by 2025. On a more micro level, an MIT study on workplace diversity has shown that splitting offices along gender lines drastically boosts productivity.

That gender diversity offers a workplace many benefits has been well covered, but what about the inclusion of women in a company’s ranks boosts productivity and propels the business forward?

While there is abundant evidence showing women to be excellent communicators, multitaskers, and critical thinkers, psychological evidence also shows that men and women think slightly differently. Sometimes referred to as the “battle of the hormones,” there exists a phenomenon in which women and men bring different perspectives to the table due to their different genetic makeup and inherently opposing strengths and weaknesses. In other words, they complement each other in the workplace, joining forces to tackle obstacles neither gender would be able to face alone.

As the CEO of a tech company in the logistics industry, one of the most masculine industries imaginable, I have personally witnessed the wonders women can offer a world traditionally shaped by the minds of men. For example, I have observed how women’s creativity improves specific processes inside companies thanks to their innovation, and how women who come from very little strive to achieve greatness, not just for themselves but for their companies, taking nothing for granted. And that’s precisely it -- because women are aware that, despite the tremendous progress made in the fight against inequality, they are still afforded less professional opportunities than men, they know they have to work just a little harder. Armed with the mentality of fighting for every inch of progress, it’s hard to fail.

I also noticed this schism during my time in the Israeli Defense Forces, where I was rewarded for my hard work by perhaps the least likely of fans. Between 1999 and 2001, I served as an instructor of an infantry artillery unit, and afterward as an officer. Yes, the Israeli army has a reputation for gender diversity (as of 2011, 88-92 percent of all roles in the IDF were open to women), but military culture has been shaped by masculinity for thousands of years before any position was open to women, in any military. Also, some units are less used to having a woman around than others.

Units that absorb religious soldiers, for example, are bastions of gender bias because both religion and army culture have historically been patriarchal. And yet, even in these environments, there isn’t a gap that can’t be closed with a demonstration of knowledge and leadership.

During my time as an artillery training instructor, I trained a group of Yeshiva students -- deeply religious Jewish men who study Torah part-time while serving in the army. In other words, my trainees were accustomed to strict religious rules regulating the interactions between men and women. Every time I entered the infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) to train them, the soldiers backed up out of shock. It wasn’t out of malice; it’s just that the religious rules they live by don’t allow them even to touch a woman that is not their wife. Suddenly, they were expected to be trained by a woman soldier within the confined space of an IFV (for those not as familiar, they are quite small).

However, the initial feeling of confusion quickly transformed into mutual respect between the religious soldiers and me. By the end of the month-and-a-half training program, we had grown so close that they gave me a customized helmet and dog tag, with my name engraved on each. They so appreciated my professional contribution to our training sessions together that it changed their view on serving alongside a woman. It probably opened their minds in general.

Psychology is a useful tool and one that shouldn’t be limited to individuals in need of guidance. The different perspectives diversity can offer industries such as cryptocurrency, blockchain, finance, and logistics, should be embraced as tried and true tools for propelling those industries forward. Since psychology teaches us about the secrets behind the ways men and women think, one of its central themes is that positivity is more effective than negativity. If we’re going to break bulletproof glass ceilings in ‘boys-club’ industries, we’re going to have to explain why they would benefit from a woman’s touch once the shattered glass settles on those polished corporate tiles.

Hagar Valiano Rips is the CEO of Ladingo, and an entrepreneur and dynamic professional with more than 14 years of executive experience in business and product development across various industries. She started her first company at the age of 23 and sold it at 25. Valiano Rips also served as a commanding officer of an infantry unit in the Israeli Defense Forces.