It is not an exact 50-50 split, but the population is essentially half male, and half female.

You could build a new library the size of a football stadium, then put out a call for new and original writings on the differences between males and females, and the building would probably be filled to capacity in a matter of weeks. Everyone has opinions on gender interaction. Whether it is the cube farm, the boardroom, the bedroom, the rest of the house, the highway, parenting, athletics, anything you could think about where both men and women would be present, there will be opinions on it.

Early in my professional career, I fell into the role of administrative assistant. I went to college hoping for a career in finance, but wasn’t able to obtain the degree. Needing to pay the bills, I found a job at a large bank as an admin. I excelled at the job and it became my career. For most of that time, I was part of the 1-2% of those working that career that are male. For a very long time, some careers have had the label “men’s work” and “women’s work.” The work labeled “women’s work” included nursing, any aspect of life inside the home (other than earning income), and admin support. In recent years, some of those things have been changing. Labeling anything “women’s work” is going to land you in hot water nowadays. The number of male nurses has been increasing for a while now, and even admin support roles are seeing more men among the ranks – recent research says about 6% of the admin population is male today, quite a healthy increase. Engineering was long considered one of those “men’s work” field, but there are a regularly-increasing number of women working that career now. There is such a thing as a “stay-at-home dad” and more men are filling that role. All of this is good; there is no good reason to pigeon-hole people into certain careers only because of their gender.

There has been a rise in female-focused training and careers during this transformation. Women were viewed as inferior to men for so long, and even as the number of women in the workforce grew, there were still pay disparities and too many inequalities in promotion decisions and the way women were treated in general. So there was a definite need to address these things. There is still much to do, but there has been a lot of progress. But there is one small unintended consequence: the marginalizing of men in female-dominated fields.

As I continued my career as an admin in large companies, I was aware of the use of feminine terms and pronouns in training and education avenues, but it never bothered me. If you’re holding a training class of 100 people, and anywhere from 94 to 99 of the attendees are women, that’s going to happen. I’ve been in such situations with 1 or 2 other guys, and sometimes they would object. The objection would often be passive-aggressive, such as doing a dramatic clearing of the throat whenever the speaker used a feminine pronoun. The speaker would correct, but most of the audience would give a collective eye-roll to the easily-offended male attendee. I would not participate, not wanting to be “That Guy.” My philosophy was “Respect me and my work, and pay me for it, and everything else is less important.”

In early 2018, after about 25 years in the corporate world, I left to start my Virtual Assistant business. I had first heard about being a VA about 15 years earlier, and thought it was a great way to make a living. That wasn’t the right time to make the leap for me; I had been in the job I was in, and my marriage, for only 3 years and needed the stability of the regular job – particularly the health insurance, as my wife has a number of chronic health conditions. In 2017, some of those conditions grew significantly worse, and leaving her alone for more than 10 hours a day become impractical. I needed to work from home so I could be around in case an urgent situation arose. So I left the corporate job and started my business.

Right away, I encountered a gender road block. I tried to enroll in a certain Virtual Assistant training course. One of the organizers responded to me that their program was for women only, and had I read the FAQ on their website, I would have seen that. There was no such discussion on their FAQ when I read it. When I went back the next day, they had added that info to cover themselves. The FAQ entry was written in professional language, but was very condescending and dismissive of men in this field. Reading between the lines, you could see the message – “men don’t have the talent to do this particular work. Even if they did, they don’t have the passion or the drive for it. That’s what we have experienced when men enrolled in our program. When the last one left, we knew making this program for women only was the right thing to do, and all our current participants are glad we did.” Alrighty then! I went on to find another training program that had no such restrictions.

I have explored a number of avenues for continuing education and training as I build my business – webinars, podcasts, professional associations. Being a VA is only one of a wide range of careers people can have where their home is their workplace. I have encountered more trainers and experts that will only work with women. I sense a return to some of that “men’s work vs women’s work” mentality, with working from home being “women’s work.” I’m encountering more opportunities unavailable to me because of my gender.

The first thing a business needs to be successful is a market for its products or services. There is still a lot of ground to be made up in ensuring women are treated equally and fairly in the working world, so there is certainly a market for businesses that work with women and help close that gap. At the same time, when you are a male just starting out, and you see a resource you know will be golden in your efforts, then see you cannot have it because of your gender, it is a major letdown.