What Type of Business is Best for Women?


Last month we discussed the size of a business and how that might impact opportunities for women in the workplace. We take a look this month at the type of business and how that might impact your success.

When considering a place to begin or sustain your career, women need to be aware of the impact the type of business you enter may have on your career choices.

Let’s take a look …

Advertising + Marketing // Advertising and marketing in almost any company is a great place for women to build a career. This is a business where results drive success — regardless of who you are. Advertising and marketing firms are a great place for women. Just understand that the bigger the organization is in this industry the more cut throat it may be.

Consulting, Human Resources + Headhunters // No barriers here. Just an education, a personality and lots of hard work is required. Everyone has to start somewhere, but you want to obtain solid work experience to succeed in these pursuits.These are great choices for a go-getter and for end-of-career choices.

Entertainment // While this is a broad spectrum, in most cases the sky is the limit for women. You’re susceptible to the unfortunate circumstances of sexual harassment that is not as probable in most modern industries today, but women have great opportunities in this type business. The entertainment industry requires many long hours and demands; whether it’s the best type of business for you depends on what lifestyle you are looking for.

Fashion // Most think of the fashion industry as being in New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco. But think of every major retailer, and behind the scenes are buyers, merchandisers and designers. Closely related to the retail discussion above, these companies offer lots of opportunities for women. Lots of pressure, lots of travel and lots of hours, but also lots of opportunity. 

Finance // In the financial arena there are many opportunities for women. The opportunity as an entry position is there, along with the opportunity for growth. Many women gain entry and prove themselves in finance, then move to other management and leadership positions. Finance opportunities are one of the best if you are qualified.

Government // Any barriers to women here is probably very site- or department-specific. Overall, the opportunities in government are equal. The problem is … it’s not, in my opinion, a place to go if you want to make a difference or climb a fast ladder.Government opportunities are more stable and offer less challenge and opportunity for fast growth.

Manufacturing // Sorry for the description, but this is a crapshoot. The dirty industries like auto, steel, rubber and many more are questionable at best. I’m talking about the core jobs of a manufacturing plant, not administrative and sales jobs. They fall in the service category (below). Sure, things have changed over the years, but you have to decide how many trails you want to blaze. There is a significant difference in working for a food manufacturer where things are clean and they obey the law; versus working for a sub-par manufacturer who ‘gets by’ when it comes to the regulations. Make sure you have your eyes open when it comes to joining a manufacturing company. I’ve worked inside some of America’s biggest name companies and you’d be very surprised at what supervisors and managers have to do every day. It’s not pretty.If you’re hardy and a trail blazer, bring it on — otherwise keep looking.

Military // Once a totally male-dominated industry, today women are blazing many new trails. The opportunity for a career is there, or you can spend a few years and gain a skill and get out with benefits for college. When you consider the military, consider each branch totally depending on your goals. The best place, in my opinion, for women is the Air Force where there is a greater opportunity for high-level training and a more open environment. My second pick would be the Coast Guard. To me, they are the nation’s best kept secret. The Coast Guard offers good training and the opportunity to stay close to home. The third choice for me is the Navy. While you may be open to time on a ship, you do see the world. They, too, offer outstanding training, but the environment for women isn’t as progressive as in the Air Force. Many women today join the Army. They obviously offer many opportunities, but remember, it is a fighting organization, and the training might not be as applicable to the outside world. I don’t believe the environment for women is nearly as ‘friendly’ as that of the Air Force and Navy. The last is, of course, the Marine Corps. They have always had the smallest Corp of women, and I would advise joining the Marines only if you have your eyes open. It is an entire organization taught to kill the enemy. Remember, they all still have their problems in how women are treated. They all offer great opportunities and great training … if you’re up to it.

Oil + Gas // My experience in these types of heavy, old industries has not been kind to women. It is a male-dominated culture where I am sure women have — and do — succeed, but make sure you are ready for the challenge. The company may have ‘programs’ to support and help develop women in management, but the path is not an easy one. If you’re a trailblazer the experience may be worth it, otherwise, keep searching.

Retail // Obviously there are large and small retailers and many different positions. Women have been succeeding and doing well in retail for years. Make sure the company you consider is one that is going up, not going down. Today this industry is very volatile and unpredictable. Retail is a great place to start out and gain lots of experience.

Service Businesses // The service business can be anything from a local printing company to a large insurance company. These industries are nearly 99 percent  ‘women friendly’. Many are dominated by women, and they have a long history of being good places for women to build a career. These would include primarily administrative and management work and are a solid place to build your career.

Sports // Once a male-dominated industry, women today are fast changing the broadcasting landscape, as well as many behind-the-scenes positions. In some ways for women this is a growing industry full of opportunity. Make sure you understand that while the landscape is changing, there is a lot of testosterone remaining, and the nature of the industry opens you up for challenges. Make sure you are ready for it.

Technology Businesses

While there are exceptions, in technology companies women, for the most part, have had opportunities. It goes back to the results angle, the idea angle and creating new opportunities. For the most part, technology companies are a great place for women to grow their careers or begin their own business.

Warehousing, Distribution + Trucking

I spent much of my working life in these industries and at first was going to separate them out individually. I decided to group them together since today they are very similar and often integrated. These industries have come a long way. They were once dominated by a male culture and many remain that way today. But, some have come out of the dark ages and offer great opportunities for women. Just be sure you are up to the challenge of working long hours, putting up with a lot of aggravation at times and climbing a very slow corporate ladder. Your choice here should have a lot to do with the company. Research it well.

In whatever industry you choose to pursue, and over the course of your career it will be many in today’s world, the important thing is to do your homework and have your eyes open. The grass on the other side will probably need more fertilizer than the grass you are now standing on. Businesses and industries are all different … not good or bad, but different. Choose wisely on your path to success. Next month we’ll take a look at the dimension of the location of the business.