How to onboard women in male-dominated environments

by May 7, 2024

Onboard women in male-dominated environments

So what can organisations do to effectively onboard women in male-dominated environments and successfully into teams?


Hiring women into tech and other male-dominated sectors has always been a challenge. But once they succeed, organisations fail to onboard them correctly with disastrous results for retention numbers.

  • 1 in 6 new female hires plan to leave tech after 2 years
  • 25% women leave tech for a non-tech job after 2 years

(Source: Tech Talent and HBR)

Further down the line, the data is equally depressing. 50% of women aged 35 leave tech never to return compared to 17% men. The churn rate for women in the tech sector is  2- 4 times greater than for men.

One woman who has now left tech told me “there is more support in saggy spandex.”

So what can organisations do to effectively onboard women into their teams once they hire them?

How to onboard women in male-dominated environments

/Train managers to lead with empathy, authenticity, and respect. They should be attuned to loneliness risk among minoritized members of their teams.

1. Establish Mentoring or Buddy Programmes

Peer mentoring is invaluable. Pairing the new female hire with a mentor or buddy who is familiar with the organisation and its culture to provide that badly needed support. This individual can offer guidance, answer questions, and help navigate any challenges that may arise.

Men have no idea what it feels like to be the only woman in the room.  Check your privilege. Research from Mckinsey suggests that when women are the solitary woman in the room (or less than three) they are more likely to:

  • have their judgment questioned than women working in a more balanced environment (49% versus 32 %),
  • be mistaken for someone more junior (35% versus 15% ),
  • be subjected to unprofessional and demeaning remarks (24% versus 14 %).


2. Provide clear expectations

Clearly outline job expectations, responsibilities, and performance metrics from the outset. This clarity can help alleviate uncertainty and empower the new hire to excel in her role. Be clear about the support you will give her to help her be successful. Remember the lycra comment.

3. Offer career development opportunities

Provide access to training programs, professional development opportunities, and resources to help the new hire build skills and advance her career within the organisation.

onboard women in male-dominated environments

4. Create psychological safety

Foster an inclusive workplace culture by promoting diversity and respect for all team members. Encourage open communication, collaboration, and mutual support among colleagues. Make sure you have trained your managers to lead inclusive teams and demonstrate empathy.

Worth a read: Psychological safety and toxic bosses

5. Address unconscious bias

Raise awareness around unconscious bias and its impact on workplace dynamics. Offer training sessions or workshops to educate team members about the importance of diversity and inclusion, and encourage them to actively challenge their own biases.

This should be part of employer branding to make their departments more attractive and a place where women want to stay.

3Plus can help you improve with our Unconscious Bias Training Workshops

6. Ensure opportunities for visibility

Ensure the new hire has opportunities to shine in her new job and to showcase her skills, expertise, and achievements. Share her contributions to ensure she understands they are valued within the organisation.

The McKinsey research also suggests that when women are in the minority they are overlooked for promotion and stretch opportunities. If you encourage her to be visible it will be easier for her to find a sponsor further down the line.

7. Encourage cross-department networking

Facilitate opportunities for the new hire to network with colleagues,both within her immediate team and across the organisation to get out of solo mentality. Building strong relationships can help her feel more connected and supported in her new environment.

8. Carry out check-ins

Schedule regular check-in meetings to provide feedback, address any concerns, and offer support as needed. Create a safe space for open dialogue and constructive communication, ensuring all feedback is actionable and related to KPIs.

9. Be proactive in addressing challenges

Anticipate potential challenges or obstacles the new hire may face in a male-dominated environment, and proactively address them. Offer coaching to difficult personalities who are resistant to change and may create difficulties. There are still people who still see this as a zero sum activity and feel by promoting women you are limiting their opportunities.

Offer guidance, resources, and support to help her navigate any challenges.

10. Be a role model and ally

As a hiring manager, demonstrate your commitment to diversity and inclusion through your actions and leadership style. Lead by example, and foster a culture of respect, equality, and support for all team members.

Podcast: Let’s Talk About Male Allyship with Robert Baker and Dorothy Dalton 


Our Unconscious Bias Training Workshops will improve your workplace for everyone. Find out more HERE.




Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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