Gendered Workspaces. Experiences with Male or Female-dominated Work Environments

By Jeff Gillis & Mike Simpson

The headlines concerning gender discrimination in the workplace are near constant. Sexism in the wage gap, being passed up for promotions, or working in male-dominated offices are real and important topics to cover, but the story created can often seem single-dimensional. There are other gender stories to tell inside the workplace, which is where we jumped in.

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We wanted to know how gender roles played out in four different types of workplaces, not just the stereotypical patriarchal office. These four types of gender-based work settings were as follows: men who work mostly with men, men who work mostly with women, women who work mostly with women, and women who work mostly with men. This way, the entire story of gender’s influence in the workplace could start to unfold. 

We started by surveying over 1,000 people across the country, all of whom were employed and working within one of the four types of gender distribution. After comparing everything from job satisfaction to productivity and even some more emotional components of a job, we were able to uncover the other dimensions to gender’s workplace influence. Continue reading to see exactly what that was. 

Setting the Workplace Scene

Employee Gender Breakdown, by Industry

Before we dissected the feedback from our respondents, we looked into data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to see which industries were the most skewed toward certain genders and which were the most evenly distributed. 

Industries relying on manual labor were completely dominated by men. Ninety percent of construction workers, 84% of miners, and 76% of the transportation and utilities industry is comprised of male workers. Women, on the other hand, dominated one industry by 50 percentage points: education. Even in higher peaks of historical sexism, however, women were still in this industry’s majority, so these percentages don’t necessarily represent a change. 

Traditional desk jobs are more evenly split across genders today. Things like public administration, leisure and hospitality, and professional and business services were much closer to a 50-50 split between male and female employees. Now that we have an idea of which industries are dominated by which genders, let’s look into what work life looked like inside these types of roles and offices. 

Describing the Skewed Workplace

Which of the Following Are True of Your Workplace?

First, we asked respondents to agree or disagree with descriptive statements about their workplaces. Nearly a quarter of women who worked with mostly male co-workers failed to report feeling safe in their office places, a higher number than any other type of work scenario. When asked how to make employees feel safer in the workplace, even experts forget the sentiment behind this statistic. They mention things like asking more questions and learning certain leadership skills, but never suggest gender diversification. These same experts, however, understand how important workplace safety is, explaining that “psychologically safe employees are more interested in learning, excellence, and genuinely connecting with others than in looking good.”

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Speaking of genuine connections, it has long been determined that having friendships (or at least cordial relationships) with co-workers can lead to higher job satisfaction, as well as better tenure. But women who worked with mostly male co-workers felt less liked, less heard, and less able to relate to their co-workers. In fact, with every positive statement we presented to respondents, women in male-dominated offices were the least likely to agree or relate to the upbeat sentiment. There was, however, one notable exception.

Men who worked mostly with women were the least likely group to feel supported in the workplace. Twenty-eight percent of men in these situations were unable to agree with the statement, “I feel supported by my co-workers.” Research also suggests that more helpful or supportive workplaces perform better. “They produce better-quality products and have increased sales. And helping others at work feels good.” Though gender distribution is not a problem that an HR rep can fix overnight, increasing help and support in the workplace can start immediately. Experts recommend that employees ask themselves the following questions to start leading themselves toward more supportive attitudes right away:

  1. When am I most likely to help others at work?
  2. Why do I help others at work?
  3. Whom do I tend to help at work?

These prompts can help employees think critically about the times, places, and people to which they can start offering help.

Specific Satisfactions

Percentage Very or Extremely Satisfied With the Following at Work

Next, we jumped into workplace satisfaction in a few key areas, including overall job, work/life balance, benefits, diversity, growth opportunities, and salary. Of all of these areas, we noticed gender roles creating the biggest difference in satisfaction with employee diversity. In a very encouraging statistic, men who worked mostly with women were more satisfied with diversity in their workplaces than any other distribution scenario we studied. Maybe this nontraditional office type was refreshing enough to be noticed and appreciated by our male respondents. Women, on the other hand, were 20 percentage points less likely to be satisfied with diversity in an office full of men. Perhaps this represents a frustration with a continued alignment with sexism in the historic sense. Either way, this data certainly shined a positive light on male office workers, as they were exceedingly satisfied with diversity even if they represented the minority. 

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The trend was somewhat flipped when it came to benefits, as women who worked with mostly male co-workers were the most likely to be satisfied with the benefits they received. Among 41 countries studied, the U.S. was the only one to not offer mandatory paid parental leave, and we’re assuming this is one of the benefits at play in our study as well. Paid maternity leave is one of the top benefits that female employees want; maybe having mostly male co-workers enabled women to have relatively more in-office support while they took the time they needed to raise their families. 

What Works for You?

Employers may be particularly interested in the gender distributions that we found to contribute most to modern workplace productivity. First, we’ll point out that both genders studied truly did appreciate workplace diversity and thrive within it. Forty-five percent of men and 48% of women wanted to work with co-workers of an equal distribution of men and women, and 18% and 21% even wanted to work mostly with co-workers of another gender, respectively. 

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In reality, however, working with co-workers of a different gender, the same gender, and even a fair distribution reportedly impacted productivity negatively for both male and female respondents, which must ultimately mean preference came down to individual workers and individual workplaces. The biggest difference, however, came from women who worked mostly with women: They felt this lack of diversity most negatively impacted their ability to be productive at work. 

Room for Progress

Our data revealed a relatively encouraging spin on workplace diversity, especially in a time of such frequent discriminatory lawsuits and allegations. Men were highly likely to appreciate the diversity of a female-dominated office space, while the vast majority of both genders felt respected and comfortable sharing with others – even if their offices were dominated by the opposite genders. That being said, however, the data also revealed specific areas with the most room for progress. 

As an employee or employer, we cannot stress enough the importance of diversity. And it starts with the hire. As the experts in these types of processes, The Interview Guys are happy to help with everything from resumes and cover letters to interviews and career advice. Head to the site today to create your own job satisfaction, whether that’s by finding a new role or by receiving expert career advice and guidance from experienced professionals. 


We conducted a survey of 1,001 Americans who were full-time employees.

Of respondents, 255 were men who mostly worked with female co-workers, 254 were men who mostly worked with male co-workers, 255 were women who mostly worked with female co-workers, and 237 were women who mostly worked with male co-workers.

In total, 49.7% of our respondents identified as male, and 50.3% identified as female. Respondents ranged in age from 19 to 76 with a mean of 37 and a standard deviation of 10.5.


It is possible that with more respondents from each gender grouping, we may have been able to gain better insight into these demographics. The findings on this page rely on self-report and, as such, are susceptible to issues such as exaggeration or selective memory.

No statistical testing was performed. The claims listed above are based on means alone and are presented for informational purposes.

Fair Use Statement

You’re more than welcome to share this article and the data behind it online. We think it’s particularly important to do so if it can at all help gender-based discrimination or an overall lack of diversity in your workplace. Just be sure this article is used for noncommercial purposes and that you link back to this page.