Have you ever wondered why most project managers are men? Are you considering ways to generate more enthusiasm among so-called womenomics for project management? Women are clearly an extremely valuable, yet so far underutilized, asset for project management. This article delves into the causes and discusses how this can be changed.
- Womenomics – a definition
- The female project manager – the current situation
- Is project management a man’s world?
- A salary comparison for women in project management
- The positive influence of women on projects and companies
- Greater diversity in project management
- Conclusion & recommendations for womenomics & greater gender diversity in project management
This article will give you an overview of the occupational situation of women in project management (statistics and experiences). Read about the specific measures being taken, and how to increase the proportion of women in project management. Let’s go!Read article in German
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Womenomics – A Definition
“Womenomics” – the female shift in business – is a global megatrend that has too long been neglected. Japanese late prime minister Shinzō Abe addressed this phenomenon in 2013 by declaring his intention to focus more strongly on the Japanese leadership’s stated goal of making equality for women the centerpiece of Japan’s economic and growth strategy. His stated goal at the time was to have women occupy 30% of the managerial positions. Additionally, the workforce participation rate for women aged 25-44 was to be increased from 68% to 73% by 2020. The goal: to tap the latent reserves of the female labor force as a production factor to boost economic performance and development.
Maximizing the economic potential was not the only goal, however. Workplace equality, and especially career opportunities, are not only an economic and business issue but even more so a societal one. Can a nation or a company really afford to neglect 50% of its workforce, especially one that is generally very well educated? No society can justify denying half its population equal opportunities for development. Gender diversity is no longer a niche issue. It is now part of the political and economic mainstream and become a major issue in decision-making processes. So now the question is, how have gender diversity and womenomics affected project management?
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The Female Project Manager – The Current Situation
Data on the involvement of women in project management is sparse, to put it mildly. Statistics available from the Project Management Institute (PMI) show that women currently constitute an estimated 20-30 % of the project management staff worldwide. The most recent study produced by the Germany-based “Gesellschaft für Projektmanagement (GPM)” (German member of the International Project Management Association, IPMA) from 2014 came to a similar conclusion, estimating that roughly 30% of the German project managers were female. However, there is good news: the percentage is increasing.
Most of these women migrate to project management rather accidentally. In other words, few of these university graduates originally sought a career in project management. The majority began their career as a technical expert and over time progressed into the role of project manager. This progression in perspective and responsibility is generally accompanied by professional development opportunities. As women begin to assume responsibility for projects, they also work to obtain the associated professional qualifications, for example, through certification programs.
There is a high degree of job satisfaction: These women value the:
- Fact that each project is unique
- Joy of working with others to achieve a goal and produce clear results
- Collaboration with a variety of teams and clients
Is Project Management a Man’s World?
Gender-specific challenges – obstacles – have not been completely eliminated. Project management remains a man’s world. Women managers often report that they first have to assert themselves to gain acceptance and overcome the typical stereotypes. There is also a scarcity of female role models. This is partially attributable to the fact that more women than men face the challenge of achieving a good work-life balance while managing a project.
A Salary Comparison for Women in Project Management
Project management work is lucrative for women as well – but not as lucrative as for their male colleagues. In 2019, the Gesellschaft für Projektmanagement (GPM, see above) published their seventh study of project management salaries and careers. Project managers who were men had an average salary of €87,000. Their female counterparts earned approximately 11% less. The PMI salary report for 2020 determined that the pay gap is even higher, namely 16%. This gender pay gap increases with the level of responsibility and seniority. At the highest levels of project management, this gender pay gap is an immense 26.3%, whereas women are only subjected to a 4.7% reduction for entry-level positions.
An intuitive explanation could be that women and men are subject to the same demands and qualifications as they begin their careers. The gender pay gap that then emerges could be due to women choosing to pause their careers to raise a family and the consequent decision to devote less time to their careers. However, there may be other obstacles for women seeking to advance their career: the reluctance to be in the limelight and assume greater responsibility – both prerequisites for a managerial position.
An international comparison shows the following gender pay gaps:
- Great Britain: approx. 14%
- France: 11.5%
- USA: 10%
- Switzerland: 5.5%
(This is notably the country with the highest project manager salaries for both men and women.)
The Positive Influence of Women on Projects and Companies
The employment world continues to evolve and is developing into a project-based economy. The percentage of project-related work in the total value added was already approximately 40% in Germany for 2019. Forecasts predict the global demand for project managers to grow by 33% before 2027. The key to gaining a competitive advantage in this brave new world of work is having highly efficient, motivated employees. This is a prerequisite for successful projects. Having qualified women in project management will therefore become increasingly important. They have already proven their worth and are therefore no longer an optional nice-to-have but rather a valuable contributor to the company’s bottom line. There is a good business case for including more women in project management.
Greater Diversity in Project Management
It is a well-known fact that diversity in project management – also regarding gender balance – produces better project results and serves to sustainably incorporate the project in the affected company or organization. Women can deploy their strengths in projects by, for example, bringing people together and driving the collaboration needed to produce a shared achievement. They are skilled at finding fast, practical solutions to complex problems and can communicate well. The latter is a critical asset in project management.
You may also find this article interesting: Project Resource Management – Basics and Methods for Beginners
Conclusion & Recommendations for Womenomics & Greater Gender Diversity in Project Management
You, too, can help further increase the percentage of women in project management. And now, a few striking examples to illustrate some best practices:
- Raising awareness of the scope of activities handled by women project managers and women in project management
There should be clear communication of the scope of activities and valuable contributions made by women, in particular. Many women, and especially younger ones, are still awaiting more comprehensive answers to these questions:
- What is a typical day for a woman project manager?
- What are the benefits and challenges?
- How can I become a project manager?
In addition to the efforts by the PMI Institute, IPMA, and GPM to answer these questions, we also recommend the annual “Celebrating Women in Project Management” initiative launched by the Australian author Elise Stevens, who serves as a valuable role model. Stevens presents successful women in project management 150 days a year on her social media channels. In this book, Sarah Ipek Ozguler interviews 29 women project managers around the world to illustrate their successful career paths. Those aspiring to be project managers can benefit as well from using personal branding to promote themselves and their profession.
- Creating and promoting networking opportunities
Women project managers want to, and must, network and share ideas with other members of their profession in order to learn from each other and help each other. In Germany, this networking and support opportunity for women project managers has been provided chiefly by GPM and its female PM experts. Companies can, and are encouraged to, provide similar forums for sharing ideas and internal networking within their own organization as well.
In addition to networking, women project managers can also develop a mentoring program (that can also be non-gender-specific). Mentoring involves much more than just networking; it offers new opportunities to learn from one another and grow professionally. In Germany, there are now several mentoring program , among which Mentorme is surely the largest and most successful community.
Although there have been promising developments, much more still needs to be done. Hopefully, the hitherto barely tapped resource of womenomics will receive the recognition it deserves and be deployed to utilize this megatrend’s hidden potential to bring economic and societal development to full fruition.
What has been your experience with womenomics in a project environment? Have you dealt with this, and what do you see as the advantages and disadvantages? We would enjoy hearing from you. Please leave your feedback in the Comments section.
(PMP, PMI-ACP, PSM expert / instructor in Agile Methodology)
Antje Lehmann-Benz, PMP, is a project management instructor with a special focus on agile issues and scrum seminars. She also has experience in providing software training (JIRA and Confluence) and consulting. In addition to instructing on frameworks and theory, she is also experienced in the use of agile games and practical exercises to reinforce the knowledge gained.
(consultant for project management and change management)
Darya Schwarz-Fradkova is currently advising public-sector clients. She previously advised commercial clients. She also has a blog on women in project management to draw attention to women in this occupation.
- Frauen erobern die Arbeitswelt (Women Conquer the Workforce)
- Womenomics und die japanische Realität (Women and Japanese Reality)
- Women in Project Management: Future Perspectives
- Women Project Managers: the exploration of their job challenges and issue selling behaviors
- PMI: Earning power, Salary Report 2020
- GPM Salary Survey (2019)
- PMI: A case for diversity (2020)
- Studie zur aktuellen Situation von Frauen im Projektmanagement der GPM (2014) (Study of women’s current situation in project management)
- PMI: Pulse of the profession (2020)
- Ozguler, Sarah Ipek (2019): The Perspective of Women Project Management Professionals