Role of women in project management

Role of women in project management 29.03.2018 - Two professors from the Technical University of Berlin conducted a study in which they investigated trends in project management. Future trends up to 2025, i.e. for the coming years, were observed and analysed. Among the 14 different trends identified was also the statement that there was a tendency for more and more women to discover the professional field of project management. Employment statistics show that more and more female project managers have been found in recent years and it looks as if this development is set to continue. This is probably mainly due to the fact that the trend may indeed intensify significantly, because we are still far from seeing as many women as men flock to this field of employment. But why is that and how will this trend continue?
Machos are no longer in demand
As recently as 1995, project management was described as a macho profession, not only at the regulars' table, but in a specialist book by Cartwright and Gale. Fortunately, much has happened since then in terms of equality. The industry as a whole underwent a change. The warhorses once referred to as macho managers who want to make a quick profit and only use the word compromise with loathing have not been in demand for a long time anyway. Perhaps this change in the requirements for a managerial job has also ensured that more women are now interested in the professional field of management. Today, the requirements include willingness to compromise, negotiating skills, diplomacy, inventiveness, creativity and cultivating contacts as well as determination and specialist knowledge. The requirement profile for project managers has changed towards all-round genius and typical "male" characteristics are no longer paramount (quite apart from the fact that this is only a prejudice anyway).

Change in the job description and change in statistics
The job description of project manager has thus changed over the last 20-30 years from pure planner and project manager to a kind of mediator, diplomat, analyst and creative. Expertise and social skills are equally important. The will to lifelong learning has become essential. Is that one of the reasons why women are more interested in this job? Surely the job description appeals to different minds than it did 20 years ago. Thanks to an increasingly tolerant society, women in management positions are becoming more and more accepted in the world of work. Apart from the family environment and the usual prejudices, there are therefore significantly fewer hurdles for women to take up a managerial profession. And this is also reflected in the statistics examined in the above study. The percentage of working women under 30 is generally rising steadily.

There is an increasing proportion of women specifically in project management. In the UK, for example, 25% of project managers were female in 2008, compared with 30% in 2014. This represents an increase of 20 percent in just six years. If we now look at the numbers of Master's students in the project management courses of study, these are currently 53%. The younger generation has therefore recognised that project management is not a purely male domain. Anyone who is willing to acquire specialist knowledge and work in an interdisciplinary environment can be successful in this profession. The statistics thus suggest that the proportion of female project managers will rise to 35 to 45% in the coming years and that a balanced gender distribution will gradually become established.
How do women change the professional environment?
The fact that the job description of project managers is constantly changing is due on the one hand to new technologies, new trends and methods, but perhaps also to the fact that gender equality in general is increasingly advancing. It is often the case that teams consisting exclusively of men have different manners than mixed teams.
There is no doubt that diversity gives a project a positive impetus. In a creative environment where inventiveness and innovation have the highest priority, very different people, views and methods must be able to come together. Many studies have shown that women are more willing to use unusual methods and adapt their leadership style to the circumstances and personal circumstances in the team. Of course, many men are also able to motivate their teams in a personal and sensitive way.
Researchers also investigate the relationship between a higher proportion of female executives and the change in meeting culture or the assessment of risks and uncertainties. Some studies have shown that women tend to be more willing to question the current project situation completely and to look at all possible ways in a constructive way. Often women are able to deal with enormous risks more easily than their male colleagues. What is the reason for this remains to be figured out. In any case, women who have these skills are ideal for the job as a manager.
Time of change
What is certain is that a lot is constantly changing in project management anyway and that there are countless interrelations and synergies between the various trends. It is to be hoped, therefore, that not too many of the 53% of female Masters students who are seeking a career as a project manager will allow themselves to be held up by various barriers that still effectively prevent women from taking on leadership roles in our society.
At the management levels, most of which are dominated by men, rethinking often progresses only slowly. The poor compatibility of childcare and work and the still stereotypical gender roles are obstacles for many women. In Germany, male project managers are still paid on average 16% better than female project managers - and the female project managers also know this. Many may not be tough enough in salary negotiations, but perhaps a lack of self-confidence is closely related to traditional gender roles and it requires committed mothers and fathers who teach their daughters from an early age that they can achieve anything a man can.

So let's hope that the trend continues and that project management can benefit even more from diversified and innovative teams in the future. Another note to employers: According to surveys, female project managers are happier in their jobs than their male colleagues. This also makes them more loyal to their employer and less likely to change jobs.

« Back to overview

The IAPM certification

The certification can be taken via a reputable online examination procedure. The costs are based on the gross domestic product of your country of origin.

From the IAPM Blog

Become a Network Official

Do you want to get involved in project management in your environment and contribute to the further development of project management? Then become active as an IAPM Network Official or as a Network Official of the IAPM Network University. 

For better readability, we usually only use the generic masculine form in our texts. Nevertheless, the expressions refer to members of all genders.