As a consummate project professional, and a woman, there have been challenges on my own personal journey. As a member of Women in Project Management, I have been privileged to work with, and learn from, an amazing network of project professionals, both male and female.
People often see projects as a male domain, but that’s not always the case – I find women are often welcomed onto projects, it could be because they can provide softer-skills that are not always so apparent in the male employees, it could similarly be they have the ability to provide a diverse point of view – to say nothing of their innate multi-tasking skills. It’s not all roses however, there is still a way to go to improve both the number of females in project management, and the level of seniority that they reach. In recent years, women got roles as project coordinators, harking back to the days of office secretaries, and men got the juicy project roles with the high-value projects or complex challenges. This has effectively begun to change for the better, with many females in high-level roles as project managers or directors and doing a sterling job…. Let’s hope that trend continues and we recognise the benefits that can be gained by having more females within the project management workforce:
- Development of a powerful personal and professional profile
- Networking on an even keel with people at all levels of hierarchy
- Providing expertise to facilitate career progression
- Developing resources to improve project delivery
- Build and develop collaborative, nurturing relationships
- Recognised as effective business leaders
- Perceived by direct reports to be the more competent party between male and female leaders
With women recognised as more competent leaders and under-represented in the field, female project managers can deliver team cohesion and successful delivery. Leadership covers a diverse area, and a recent study measured “boldness” in terms of willingness to take risks (calculated risks with project management software). Standard stereotypes equate taking risks as a man’s “thing”, but the study doesn’t support that finding.
The 2016 study by researchers Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman in Harvard Business Review, found female leaders to be “bolder” than their male counterparts. Boldness was defined as:
- Challenges standard approaches
- Creates an atmosphere of continual improvement
- Does everything possible to achieve goals
- Gets others to go beyond what they originally thought possible
- Energizes others to take on challenging goals
- Quickly recognizes situations where change is needed
- Has the courage to make needed changes
The study findings are represented in the chart below:
What’s interesting is that, regardless of whether they are vastly outnumbered or not, having evaluated 7,280 managers, Zenger and Folkman found that the female leaders delivered winning performances against the men in 12 of 16 leadership competencies (the remaining four were deemed equal).
Anyway, as a consummate professional and a woman, I’m proud to recognise that I need to believe in myself, the way that I believe in and support other women in these fields. Let’s go ladies, reach for the stars and shatter the glass ceiling on the way.