Male Dominated Industries Need More Women Like Her!

Rosemary Rodriguez is an outstanding TV and film director who has directed many episodes of The Good Wife on CBS. An interview every woman should read, particularly women in male dominated industries.

RSM Hall of Fame

RSM Hall of Fame

You know when you like a movie so much that you sit through all the credits at the end? That’s exactly what happened to me after watching “The One Percent” episode of The Good Wife. I liked it so much that I was glued to the screen waiting to see who had directed it. Was I pleasantly surprised to see it was a woman: Rosemary Rodriguez!

You would think, given that the star of the show is Julianna Margulies, who plays a strong lawyer navigating the politics of one of the most male dominated industries, The Good Wife would have many female guest directors. But no, Rosemary is the exception and not just on this show.

Film and TV are among the most male dominated industries. During the 2013-2014 season, 69% of all TV episodes were directed by white men, 17% by minority men, and 12% by white women. And only 2% of TV episode directors are minority women.

RSM Hall of Fame Honoree, Rosemary Rodriguez, one of very few women directos in a male dominated occupation

RSM Hall of Fame Honoree, Rosemary Rodriguez, one of very few women directos in a male dominated occupation

A kind, honest, hard working professional, Rosemary Rodriguez was born in Boston, grew up in New Hampshire and

married Nestor Rodriguez, a stand up comedian and radio host. (Hence her last name.) She radiates equal parts ambition and generosity. Someone who pursues big dreams with her feet firmly planted in reality. Someone with a passion for her craft who still, even after her amazing career track, has some trouble owning her success. Rosemary has directed episodes of some of TV’s most popular shows: The Good Wife, White Collar, Rescue Me (the first woman hired in five seasons), Vegas, Hawthorne, Elementary, and many, many others. She has also written, produced and directed two independent movies of her own: the Sundance premiere “Acts of Worship” and the upcoming “Silver Skies.”

We are proud to honor Rosemary Rodriguez in our Red Shoe Movement Hall of Fame.

Women in male dominated industries break the mold

Oftentimes male dominated industries have remained so because of a perception that they require men’s strength. Like construction or transportation, for example. But film directing? Why has it remained one of the most male dominated industries?

If you look at the history of the film industry, women were the first to make money. Alice Guy-Blache directed the first narrative film, and Lois Weber was an auteur comparable to DW Griffith, yet only a few have heard of her in comparison. As soon as films started to become a popular medium and there was money to be made, the guys stepped in and pushed the women aside. It’s one of the biggest money making industries and one of the biggest exports of our country. But usually, when there’s money to be made, the women get kicked aside.

In interviews, I’ve read that women executives say that women don’t want to lead 200 people and a crew in a big production. They try to put a twist to the reason for the lack of women directors, but that’s not true. Every woman director I know would relish the opportunity of doing a big Hollywood movie. There’s also a myth that there aren’t enough women directors. There are tons of women directors but many are desperately under employed.

On the set of Rosemary Rodriguez' latest film, Silver Skies, with actors George Hamilton, Jack McGee and Alex Rocco. Read the full interview! | Photo Credit: Courtesy of Rosemary Rodriguez

On the set of her latest film, Silver Skies, with actors George Hamilton, Jack McGee and Alex Rocco
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Rosemary Rodriguez

What attracted you to this field?

I grew up in New Hampshire watching movies on TV after school. I was always drawn to the old Hollywood films. I remember the first one I ever saw was Serpico, and I loved it. I was attracted to hard-edge, realistic, 70s films. At the time I didn’t know I wanted to make movies, I just loved them.

How do you see things differently than men? Is there an advantage to being one of a handful of employed women directors?

I’m not sure there’s a difference in storytelling between men and women. But there is a difference in the way of working.

The way in which I connect with the crew and actors is a priority to me. I need to protect them, acknowledge how hard they work, make their work easier. I don’t think that’s a male way of working.

The advantage, if there is one, is being in a position to inspire and help other women who work and want to work in this industry. I also try to set an example and be a woman who hires other women.

Is there a reason for the lack of diversity in the field?

Rosemary Rodriguez, RSM Hall of Fame Honoree inspirational quote

Rosemary Rodriguez, RSM Hall of Fame Honoree inspirational quote

White people are doing the hiring. At the end of the day the guys hire people they want to go to the bar and have a drink with. As in other male dominated industries, the decision makers seek people who have the same interests, who look and sound like them. It’s scary to go past what you’re comfortable and familiar with, and when there’s money involved people avoid making those choices. It’s a bad equation when people think that hiring a woman or a minority director is risky.

Numbers-wise, there’s increasingly more money to be made with minorities, but that still doesn’t amount to what can be made with the general population, so executives are playing it safe.

Overcoming stereotypes of male dominated industries

Rosemary Rodriguez Director in action. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Rosemary Rodriguez #Women in Male Dominated Industries Series

Rosemary Rodriguez Director in actionPhoto Credit: Courtesy of Rosemary Rodriguez

What were the hardest hurdles you had to overcome to be accepted as one of the women in male dominated professions?

I once had a meeting with a woman network executive. She asked me what show I’d like to direct. When I told her, she said, “Sorry, we already have our minority hire for that show.”

From her perspective, they have one slot for a minority. From my perspective, I just want to be on her list of great directors.

That’s one of the biggest hurdles: To get hired for my work instead of being put into a diversity slot. At this point in my career, I think there’s still a little of that going on in placing me, but much less so than before.

This is a tough industry for everyone but I know it took me many more years to get my work appreciated than it would have taken a guy.

Rosemary Rodriguez supporting Red Shoe Movement

Thank you Rosemary Rodriguez for supporting the Red Shoe Movement. We love where you wear our charm!

Who gave you your lucky break?

I got a shot at directing because of John Wells (ER, West Wing, Third Watch) who had a Fellowship to help minority and women independent film directors to transition into TV directing. I owe my entire career to him and his company. The first person to hire me for an episode under this program was executive producer Christopher Chulack

Are you incorporating more examples of cultural differences and gender diversity into your work?

I’m trying. The first thing I did was write, direct and produce a feature film, “Acts of Worship,” to give the underdog a voice. It’s a movie about the realities of drug addiction, not the glamorized version of the disease we usually see in movies.  My new film, “Silver Skies,” is about older people, because seniors, just like women, also get pushed aside. In our society, when you get old, you have no more value, and that’s not true.

Also, in casting a TV show I always try to hire cast that is outside of the box.

The Good Wife — Even in male dominated industries there’s sometimes a surprise

The Good Wife, a popular TV show, has become the voice of the new feminism. A show that openly discusses the difficulties of career success for women in order to move the needle in female representation at the executive level.

You have directed many episodes of a show beloved by millions of women: The Good Wife. What would you say are your most powerful contributions to the show?

The idea of being a good girl, doing the right thing, is something that haunts all of us. How you are perceived, how not to live in a man’s shadow. I’m fascinated by the gray areas in the business world that the character navigates and her constantly having to decide what’s right and what’s wrong. I bring a lot of experience navigating moral and ethical situations like the ones the character, Alicia Florrick, is confronted with. It’s thrilling and exciting, because I feel I’ve been on the same journey.

Discover what it takes to succeed. Women in male dominated industries: Rosemary Rodriguez has directed many episodes of The Good Wife, starring Julianna Margulies Photo Credit: Courtesy of Rosemary Rodriguez

Rosemary Rodriguez has directed many episodes of The Good Wife, starring Julianna Margulies Photo Credit: Courtesy of Rosemary Rodriguez

How did you get to be part of this show?

Juliana Margulies got me to direct the show. She is an incredible, loyal woman and a good friend. From the first season, she said she wanted to get me there and she did. She looked out for me. To me, being given an opportunity by another woman has a lot of weight and meaning. We have a lot of fun working together. I think they keep asking me back because the writing is intuitive and bold and that’s sort of who I am.

You directed the episode “The One Percent” which features a female CEO who was fired from her company. What was it like to direct that episode?

As with any script, I try to connect with it. I’m very open and honest. I was able to connect with the story of the woman CEO being mistreated and fired. In the real world, you face people who mistreat you, talk down to you, disregard you and your work. To me, any script that gives me an outlet to express those frustrations gives me an opportunity to let all of that out in a healthy way.

Do you believe that a show like The Good Wife can contribute to changing the public narrative about empowering women and gender parity in the workplace?

Yes, absolutely. What’s interesting is having a female character that’s strong and beautiful. There’s never a perception, never a question that she can’t do her job because she has kids. And that perception is nagging at the world big time right now in a negative way.

Bringing your total self to work

For a few years you struggled with drug addiction. Where did you find the strength and the support to overcome that very difficult time?

There’s a misconception when you are a drug addict that you can say no whenever you want. The truth is that you’re suicidal, you want to die, you can’t say no to getting high. I was homeless for three years in New York City living like a cockroach, shoplifting, shooting heroine. I lost contact with my family; my friends wouldn’t let me stay in their homes any more because I would steal from them. I was really out there.

Suddenly I woke up in an ER and realized I didn’t want to die, that I always had a dream to be a director. I moved from New York City to Florida and got better there. I started to clean up my act when I met someone who came down on vacation from NYC. We fell in love. We saw each other four more times and the fifth time we got married.

Listen, when you get to the other side of drug addiction and you meet someone who brings you back to your dream, our meeting didn’t seem like a coincidence to me. I believe I have a lot of grace in my life.

I knew when I met him that I wanted to get back to New York and get back to the world of movies. It took us 8 years. All our money went into the movie, which was about drug addicts because I felt a passion for that. I don’t know how it happened, but my movie went to Sundance. And that was it. I was a director.

Alix, the main character of "Arts of Wisdom", Rosemary Rodriguez director - first film

Alix, the main character of “Acts of Worship”, Rosemary Rodriguez’ first film
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Rosemary Rodriguez

A director is a storyteller. How do you use your own life story to help you connect with characters and the actors playing them?

My ego doesn’t get in the way of telling a good story. No matter who beats me up, nobody can take that away from me. That’s my purpose and that’s what I was put on this earth to do: to tell great stories through directing. When I’m on set directing is when I’m at my strongest. My head is clear. I’m decisive and clear.

We highly recommend reading: Women in male dominated professions and industries

Women in male-dominated professions and industries

More women in male-dominated professions and industries means multiple points of view, approaches to solutions & less mistakes. Everyone benefits. In recent years there’s been a push for more women in male-dominated professions. Is it worth the effort it takes to break into these fields? Read on!

According to Catalyst, male-dominated industries are those with less than 25% women, and they tend to be the toughest fields for women’s career advancement. Why? Well, Catalyst’s research confirmed something many experts have long suspected—Given that, in male-dominated industries, the senior leadership tends to be made up of men, they set the tone for masculine stereotypes that creep into HR strategies and tools.

Imagination, GE's ad campaign: GE has been encouraging more girls to study engineering, a traditionally male-dominated profession.

GE has been encouraging more girls to study engineering, a traditionally male-dominated profession.

The million dollar question remains: Why do we need more women in male-dominated professions to start with?

You could say that, just as there are male dominated industries, there are also female-dominated industries. On the surface there’s nothing wrong with the fact that one gender gravitates towards one field in much larger numbers than the other gender. For example, engineering, technology and finance have been fields heavily populated by men for the longest time, whereas women have dominated fields such as education and health care.

I say “on the surface” because men and women have complementary behaviors, attitudes, and leadership styles that, when brought together, add new perspectives to the job.

A multiplicity of points of view brings new ways of doing things, approaching problems and finding solutions, which in the end benefit everyone.

This is true of all occupations.

Bad things can happen when an industry is dominated by one gender

We had a good example of the potentially negative consequences of one gender dominating an industry with the financial collapse of 2008. One of the most male-dominated industries, the financial sector, didn’t have the advantage of a diversity of view points that more women could have offered. The level of risk taking characteristic of male leaders encountered no counterbalance by the more moderate approach females tend to have.

Terri List-Stoll, CFO Kraft Foods Group, a position few women hold in a Fortune 500 Company. Women in male-dominated professions and industries

Terri List-Stoll, CFO Kraft Foods Group, a position few women hold in a Fortune 500 Company

Career growth opportunities for women in male-dominated professions

There are very interesting opportunities for career growth for women in male dominated professions. With technological advances leading the charge in the global economy, and no country graduating enough professionals in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) to fulfill the global demand, there are many available positions that pay well and have a future of low unemployment. You can review the list of the most promising fields in the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the Federal Government.

Janet Yellen, Chair of the Federal Reserve | Career growth opportunities for women in male-dominated professions

Janet Yellen is the first woman Chair of the Federal Reserve.

Challenges faced by women in male-dominated industries

Granted, succeeding in male-dominated industries is not easy. (If it’s any consolation, the same is true for men trying to enter women-dominated professions.) Many of the executives we’ve interviewed for the Red Shoe Movement are women in male-dominated professions. They have shared with us obstacles they had to overcome and challenges they continue to face. We could all learn a lot from their collective wisdom.

Carla Dodds, VP Senior Business Leader at Mastercard, speaking about how to succeed in corporate America gave these suggestions when asked what women who work in male-dominated professions can do to grow and prosper

“1.  Know your opponents. 2. Understand they are not your opponents

This idea is key to better understand those around you.  Understand their drivers, their personal lives as much as possible because this will help you understand how they respond better. This knowledge will help you navigate the workplace more effectively in order to achieve positive outcomes and ultimately succeed in corporate America (or anywhere else you work.)  Understand men’s weaknesses and strengths so you can seek to “complement” not “face-off” with them.  (…) Instead, think strategically.  Keep cool and calm.  Breathe and take yourself to a happy place while the other person vents. Apply your abilities of “seeking to understand” instead of “seeking to judge.” (…) Accept others for whom and what they are and seek to co-exist in a productive way rather than going toe to toe.”

Deborah Martin, CEO of DM Milan Group, representative of celebrity soccer player Clarence Seedorf, speaking of what it is like for women in male-dominated professions said:

“Challenging. My work in football (soccer) is more about “the business of football” than expert knowledge of it. Despite the successes and contributions I’ve made together with Seedorf in football, some always refer to the fact that I am not a football expert, though many of them are not either, they are just extreme fans. I find that there’s often an attempt to ignore or not adhere to my observations or decisions.”

Advantages for women in male dominated professions

We believe there are certain characteristics that women in male-dominated professions can leverage to their advantage. So over the last two years we also asked interviewees to share these advantages with us. You’d be surprised at some of the answers!

STEM fields offer great competitive opportunities for women. Read what women who have done it have as good advice to us! Photo credit: www.topuniversities

STEM fields offer great competitive opportunities for women
Photo credit: www.topuniversities

Deborah Martin shared:

“My greatest advantage as a woman in the sports industry (as opposed to entertainment, where my clients have included Beyonce, Britney Spears, Cameron Diaz and many, many other A-listers) is my distance from it. I really like and appreciate football, but I am not a die-hard fan. I approach all my deals from the business point of view, so I’m more practical, less idealistic. It has been said that there’s a freshness in my opinions that is much needed for the health of football and the clubs. (…)

“As you can well imagine, initially the men who I must deal with are not expecting “me.” I look like, dress like and behave like what I am – a woman. This seems to come as a big surprise, but is guaranteed to get their attention. The key is that once you’ve got the attention you’d better keep it with innovative thoughts, know-how and excellent contributions.

I do not try to be one of the boys. Why should I want to be what I am not or like everyone else? As a woman who grew up in the South, I command and enjoy the respect that I was raised to expect from men. When I enter or leave a room, they stand, they pull my chair, open doors and give me a bit of preferential treatment as a woman and I gladly accept it.”


Ana Beatriz (Bia) FIgueiredo. One of the very few women in male dominated industries such as race car driving

Ana Beatriz (Bia) FIgueiredo. One of the very few women in male dominated industries such as race car driving

Ana Beatriz (Bia) Figueiredo, race car driver and the fastest Latina on the planet, shared this when we asked her what were her advantages as a woman in one of the most male-dominated industries there is: car racing!

“A friend once told me something that I feel really applies to my career:  ‘You are running in a straight line between Fantastic and Ridiculous. If you do well, it’s fantastic, but if you fail it’s ridiculous.’ By reaching a top series like IndyCar and becoming the first Brazilian woman to do such a thing, I have some media and sponsorship advantages. By the same note, I tend to get more recognition by being one of the only females in the field.

“Becoming a ‘feminine’ female driver helped me get more attention from the media, sponsors and new opportunities that are targeting women.  This has positioned me to gain interest from cosmetic companies which do not traditionally enter the racing industry.  Being a woman driver has even helped me acquire Ipiranga as a my main sponsor, given that my gender helps their brand reach women and kids—something difficult for a Gasoline brand that has traditionally targeted men.

“Yet, inside the track gender is irrelevant, and I don’t feel any different from a male driver. We are all aggressive and share the same goal of winning the race. However, outside of the track I have leveraged my femininity to overcome bad situations using traditional women skills of tact and diplomacy while maintaining a firm versus aggressive stand.”

Should you enter or try to advance in male-dominated industries? Engineering and related professions are still male-dominated

Engineering and related professions are still male-dominated
Photo Credit:

Should you enter or try to advance in male-dominated industries?

The answer is yes, of course. There are amazing, untapped opportunities for women who enter these fields. But here are a few caveats you may want to remember: Be aware of what you’re getting into and have a plan and a strategy. Expect some level of pushback and some rough times. Use your femininity to your benefit; use it to stand out in a relevant, positive and powerful way. Identify early on who’s got your back and build alliances. Make the men on your team look good; let them know they can count on you. Let them know you’ve got their backs too.

It’s past time for us to see more women in male-dominated professions, so we are here to support you. Leave us your comment, story, or question so we can help you conquer that next stage of your career.