Traditionally project management has been male-dominated and characterized as a “macho profession. However, as the profession confronts the growing need to manage expectations, relationships and trust, this style of behaviour is being called into question.
Project management is becoming increasingly more female. A recent study of British project managers by Arras People, showed that the number of women in project management has increased from 25% in the year 2008 to 30% in the year 2014 - an increase of 20%.
The rise of female project managers is leading to new approaches and how projects are carried out and managed. This involves leadership style, communication style, meeting style, team composition and development, motivation of people, dealing with complexity, coping with challenges and risks, project reporting, and so on.
Some of the traits that make women natural project managers include:
Women are excellent communicators and a good communicator can create a better atmosphere.There will be more transparency, and team members will feel more comfortable.
When a person can have informal conversations at regular intervals, it will mean that problems that arise can be dealt with immediately without the threat of them negatively impacting the project. In short, projects have a better success rate when open and honest conversations take place.
Because women are natural communicators it also means they are good at motivating others. They take more of a personal interest in individuals, and show sympathy when necessary. Women project managers build loyal, motivated teams who are willing to be flexible and adaptable. In contrast, men tend to motivate by encouraging competition amongst team members and getting them to work effectively under pressure.
Ability to Multi-task
Many women also possess innate multitasking abilities which enable them to deal with changes and unexpected risks and opportunities. Priorities often change in a project, that’s the nature of business. They look at it in a pragmatic way and deal with any changes to staffing, budget or other requirements.
In comparison, men tend to be more competitive and less likely to accept that something is not achievable.
Women can also have the courage to challenge the current status quo in a constructive way and to better deal with challenges and risks, important characteristics for project managers particularly in complex projects.
A common barrier against this development is the so-called “glass ceiling” that keeps qualified women from rising to the upper rungs of the corporate ladder regardless of their qualifications or achievements.
Other barriers include the missing support that women receive from organizations to integrate their work with family life (e.g. part-time jobs, in-house nursery and child care, flexibility policy for young parents) as well as a lack of understanding on behalf of male colleagues and superiors when women give priority to their family responsibilities.
Successful Project Managers
Having the full range of skills and abilities needed to be a good project manager, regardless of gender, leads to more successful projects and a greater balance between men and women.
The key to successful project management is to manage as people, not as males or females. Each gender has its own advantages and strengths. We can learn from each other to utilize our own strengths and learn from the strengths of the other gender.
If you wish to strengthen these and adopt other skills necessary for successful project managing, take a look at our Certified Project Management Diploma course. This course consists of realistic projects and exercises, as well as discussions based on real-life examples. Our expert lecturers share their experiences from the project management field, allowing you to get the knowledge you can easily adapt to your own workplace.
This is an edited version the Hans Georg Gemunden & Yvonne Schoper study “Future Trends in Project Management”