How to Beat the Boys Club

Though women comprise roughly half the workforce, they're still woefully underrepresented in engineering and technical trades. So what does a gal competing in a testosterone-choked office need to know to compete? We asked Roxanne Rivera, author of There's No Crying in Business: How Women Can Succeed in Male-Dominated Industries.

Brace yourself for some hazing. "Men want to test women," Rivera says. "I call it the can-she-take-it test. They tease and can be a little crude — most of the time, a woman can tell the difference between that kind of behavior and sexual harassment." Annoying, but nothing to make a fuss over. "Suck it up and move on," Rivera advises.

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Go ahead — be a bitch. Rivera warns of women so afraid of being labeled a bitch that they go out of their way to be accommodating. The result: Male colleagues invariably take advantage of these well-meaning saps. "Don't be afraid to stand up for yourself and say no to things. Some men are going to call you a bitch no matter what you do," she says.

Do not cry. Ever. "It's the ultimate no-no. Nothing will destroy your credibility faster," Rivera says. She advises women to leave the office for a spell if it means avoiding shedding tears in front of colleagues. Whatever it takes, keep your composure.

Find female allies fast. Working exclusively with men can quickly become infuriating — the bathroom humor, the alpha-dog bravado. Women who don't have a support system tend to lose their cool with the wrong people and come across as lone wolves. "It seems really obvious, but find a female buddy if you don't want to burn out," Rivera says.

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