Gender equality in the work place is a massive topic in today’s world. The movement for gender equality is bigger than ever and this has been emphasised recently in Hollywood (even the Queen got paid less than Prince Philip!) with reports and stories of the gender pay gap in that sector being bigger than anyone could’ve imagined.
Despite things getting better for women since the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 many still feel like the workplace is not an equal place for men and women.
So how is gender equality in project management? During our Project Management Benchmark 2018 Report and in previous years we took the opportunity to ask Project Management Practitioners about gender equality and the potential challenges for both men and women.
When we gathered our data we found that there has been a consistent 70/30 male to female split across the total population of practitioners over the last 12 years. When asked, 63% of participants believed that there is no gender bias in Project Management (see figure on the right). However of those that believed there were, 39% of women believed there was bias compared to just 20% of men.
When asked if they had ever been defined by gender stereotyping in their career (see bottom right), overall 79% said no (when you break that figure down, 62% of women said no compared to 87% males). Of those that said they had, the biggest cohort was by both colleagues and the organisation they worked for. Of those that been defined by gender stereotyping in their career, the biggest group were the under 35 year olds. We also asked if anyone felt their career had been limited in anyway – the choices were conscious/unconscious bias; glass ceiling; sticky floor and discrimination. We found that 46% of female participants felt conscious/unconscious bias had an impact on their career compared with 31% of male participants (see below left). 30% of Females also said no external factors have impacted their career.
When looking at salaries across the board we found that women do earn less than men.
You need to dig deeper though to understand that the salary differences are based on many different factors. For example, there are more women working in the supporting roles in project management, which naturally has lower salaries than those working in delivery roles. This pulls that average down. More women work in the public sector where we know salaries are lower than those working in the private sector. Women also earn less than men in permanent positions but that changes when we look at the freelance market.
Contract or freelancers both men and women have comparable rates of pay for the same type and level of work.
Another interesting point from the data is also that the pay is comparable when you look across Project Manager roles. There are however big differences in pay between the genders in roles like Change Manager and PMO Manager.
After looking at the data and of course speaking to many project practitioners over the course of the years, we wanted to find out more about specific challenges;
So what challenges do women face in project management?
Firstly, many of the roles available to Project Managers don’t offer the flexibility needed for life commitments such as taking time out to start a family or looking after elderly relatives. Of course, this can impact male practitioners too, but it is still women who predominantly opt for time away from their career for these reasons. Flexibility in terms of working hours, location and commute time can make working in a full-time project management position tricky.
A lack of part-time options in project management also impacts that flexibility. Women looking to return to work are often looking for this option but, for what seems like unknown reasons, many organisations don’t offer part-time opportunities in project management roles – especially in Project Manager and other senior roles. It’s a fine balancing act raising a family and progressing your career and without that flexibility many opt to leave project management all together and find alternative opportunities that do give this flexibility .
There’s a legacy to project management that for many people working within the industry at the more experienced level today, is that their project management career is a second career. Their first careers stemmed from the more traditional and male dominated sectors such as engineering, construction, manufacturing and transportation. There are still less women working in these industries today, and less still that are Project Managers. Of course, we hope to see that change as education and opportunities in STEM will continue to attract girls and women to these topics and industries. That leads us to certain corporate environments, culture and by extension, the flexible working practices– which are a preferable choice for women with, for example, family commitments. Take the Project Management Benchmark Report data that shows that more women are likely to work within the public rather than private sector – because of the flexibility it affords? But flexibility comes at a price – a lower wage?
But flexibility in the way we work is not just a female challenge. The way we work – or want to work is changing. Employment is becoming more flexible, no longer do we have a job for life and other needs are required other than the ability to earn a large wage. Morale boosting interesting work that challenges and stretches us whilst giving organisations high performers to tackle increasingly complex and complicated projects doesn’t need to fit within the constraints of the 9 to 5 anymore. We constantly hear that organisations must up their game in order to attract the best talent and to remain competitive. So how will working within project management change for women in the future? The same question can be asked about the next generation of PM’s (the under 35 year olds) who already expect flexible working to be the norm And how do we address the ticking time bomb of an aging project management workforce too?