Women manage small, affordable projects: New research on International Women’s Day

2011 marks the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. International Women’s Day is celebrated by people all over the world. They are also eating pancakes, as this year’s IWD falls upon Shrove Tuesday.
Despite the fact that women play an important part in all economic activity, they are not well-represented as project managers. The latest Arras People Benchmark report reveals that although the UK’s proportion of project managers is still below 30 percent, it has slightly increased in the past year.
Richard Stackman and Lisa Henderson have done similar research: PMI memberships contain 70% men and 30% women. Henderson and Stackman published recent research on gender roles in project management. They surveyed 563 project team members and came up with some interesting findings.
Projects less than $1m are twice as likely to have female project managers. According to the authors, this suggests that female project managers are less likely than male counterparts to work on larger, more complex projects with higher costs.

Project managers are more likely to have female members on the same team than their male counterparts.

Female project managers are nine times more likely to work with female team members than male project managers.

Researchers write:
“Female project managers and team members may be trapped within a vicious circle on smaller, less-costly projects, leaving them less marginalized both culturally and geographically from power-gaining experiences …[ The historical “glass ceiling” that was established for women…exists in modern project management as well.”
In short, women are more likely to work in virtual teams and less likely to be involved with smaller projects.
This is bad news for women in project management. This is bad news for organizations that are losing top talent and promoting women to smaller, more affordable jobs with unconscious (or conscious) bias.
Over the past 100 years, International Women’s Day has done a lot to promote the cause for working women. It’s not enough. We all – both men and women – need to support equality at work. Ask for assignments to larger projects. Ask your men to encourage their female colleagues to accept larger projects. You can create a personal development program if you aren’t sure if your team members or you are ready.
Every year, 8 march should be a reminder for you and your organization: What are your efforts to support the career goals and interests of your team members and your female colleagues?

This article was based on research by Linda S. Henderson (2010), Richard W. Stackman (2010). “An Exploratory study on Gender in Project Management : Interrelationships with Role, Location Technology and Project Cost” Project Management Journal Vol. 41, No. 5, 37-55.

Women manage small, affordable projects: New research on International Women’s Day
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