World Women's Day - What does it mean in Project Business Management?

Today, 8 March 2020, is International Women's Day. Some say "So what?" Others consider it important. For the Project Business Foundation, it is an opportunity to talk to women and ask them about their experiences. Here is what they say:

Question 1

The International Women's Day is aimed to ensure women equal participation in business, economy, and politics, and in other areas.  How far away from this goal are we in project business? 

  • When it comes to project business, we are still far away from achieving an equal participation of women in projects as most projects are held by men. For example in a project team especially projects with technical goals, men are perceived to have more “technical know how” than women.
    (Magaret Akintunde, Canada)

  • Unfortunately we are very far from this goal in project business, and this is based on my own experience, three times i was not accepted to be the project manager only because I m a woman, One of the projects was in Iraq and i was nominated as the top three, then a question was directed to me .. “as a woman are you willing to travel to the project site for two weeks per month? “ and my answer was very positive “ yes, i am willing to travel and stay abroad as much as the project requires..” then i got rejected with “sorry a male candidate was selected for this position..!
    (Rufaida Al-Ghazi, Jordan)
  • As per my experience and observation for Asian region, when it comes to core project business management, women are only 5 - 10% engaged.There is big margin to achieve equal and fair participation.
    (Madeeha Khan Yousafzai, Pakistan)

  • There is still some ground to cover, and depending where you are in the world, it can even vary how much ground exactly. As the McKinsey report "Delivering Through Diversity" showed in 2018, ensuring diversity is not just a necessary evil but even vital a to economical success.
    At the same time, it is still too often not given the enthusiasm and interest it would deserve."
    (Antje Lehmann-Benz, Germany)

  • Almost equal.
    (Madhvi Sai Wattal, USA)

  • Farther than what I thought as a female. I have had so many women, from millennials to boomers who state they still don’t feel inclusion. Just look at so many new diversity and inclusion roles are being added. Women of Color (WOC) have the worst representation.
    (Stephanie Samuels, USA)

  • I believe that some really significant strides have been made in the areas of business and economy. Unfortunately, we are still quite far as we still have a world that believes that men are just better in these fields than women are. We still have a world that believes that women make better homemakers, nurses and teachers and not Project Business or Management. As a result, women have to work twice as hard to prove that they can do it just as well as men. With regard to politics, we are still very far away because even fellow women cannot trust that they can be led by women.
    (Abigail Sandala-Mwape, Zambia     

  • I think that project business would like to have more women on board, but that the image of project business can still discourage some women. For women, it's not always clear what it means to work in project business, and what the advantages of the role could be.
    (Elke Spinnewyn, Belgium)

  • Let’s look at the statistics first. The 2020 Arras People Project Management Benchmark report shows that the % of women completing the survey is at 27% in the UK and has remained consistent since 2006.
    It depends upon the organisation as to when we achieve equal participation. Some organisations have made significant improvements whereas other organisations are struggling to achieve equality.
    There are some many factors that contribute to this issue, that is not easy to speculate about when this will happen.
    I would love to know what % of women are members of PMI globally – I suspect that it is not 50/50.
    (Elise Stevens, Australia)

Question 2

Sources such as the PMI Project Management Salary Survey and other project management associations still report a gender payment gap. Do you experience this too? If yes, what do you think is the reason?

  • I remember this same topic been brought up at the 2019 international women’s day conference I attended where most women in attendance had indicated their male counterparts earn more salary than they do even thought they are in same roles. I believe the reason for this is because most organizations still operate with status quo and perception that mean tend to do more work than women hence they deserve more compensation. even those organizations who know this needs to change are been slow to implement the required change; maybe because of how much it will cost them. Also I believe women needs to voice out more on these issue so our voices in one accord can be heard for the change we desire.

  • Well there is no salary gap in terms of gender for the same level of positions, however, high positions which are highly paid are made exclusive for men.

  • Gender payment gap is vivid across all regions and same goes for Asia. The evident reason is culture and traditional mindset that women will not stick to their career long term. We all are supposed to have self-awareness for zero gap in salary based on gender and if we say it otherwise, we must speak for right thing at right time.
  • No.

  • Statistics say .79 cents to a males $. Many times women don’t ask or expect more.

  • No I have not experienced this in my institution. However, what I do know is that when I started my career as a Town Planner, my superiors would rather work with my male counterpart who had lower grades, and less experience than I did. This drove me to doing PMP as I believed if I got this credential it would get me a better job and I would have proven myself to some extent. I was one of the first thirteen people in my country to obtain the PMP Certification. I was recently engaged as the first PMP trainer for an organization that has been in existence for over 19 years and at the beginning of the training I was undermined by my students. It was only after the second day of training that they realized that I knew what I was talking about that I actually got their complete attention.

  • I think one of the reasons is that there are more men who take up a senior role in the project business. Personally, I experience myself often as a younger person then my male colleagues. Beside this, project business expects sometimes to work long hours, to travel abroad, to work on projects further away from home. Because of this, women sometimes go home earlier to pick up the kids at school, or they refuse to do a business trip abroad because it's practically not feasible in combination with their role as a mother.

  • I am not sure if I have been subject to a gender pay gap.
    I do know that other women have been subject to gender related pay discrepancies. This has manifested in the following ways
    1. A female senior leader not being able to negotiate similar packages to the men at the same level. The HR person would not budge on the $$$ and it was only later that she realised how big the different was between herself and others was
    2. Women often have lower paid roles due to lack of promotion opportunities
    3. Negotiation ability – for some women asking for a high salary/rate is not something they are comfortable with.

Question 3

What needs to be changed to give women equal opportunities in both project management and project business management?

  • What needs to be changed to give women equal opportunities in both project management and project business management? There is need for rapid change in the mindset of key decision makers who can influence and promote the involvement of women projects.There is requirement for a deliberate action to involve more women in projects and project business management. Women should be encouraged to participate in projects and reminded they are valued and needed in project business.

  • Well I don't really have specific solutions or recommendations, but there should not be discrimination on gender basis in project management and any other career, there should be enough awareness that as long as I'm applying for this position. It means I have read the requirements and accepted the conditions, even if the project required working in dangerous areas or have very special conditions .. no one suppose to judge if a woman can handle it .. except herself ..!

  • Change is possible by educating at individual level and then at societal level. Organizations should ensure compliance that fair rights of hiring, same salary and career exposure opportunities will be given to each gender. Each individual person, be it a man or woman, if sees deviation for their own-selves or for others , they will speak and bring this matter in knowledge of relevant people.

  • It is definitely important that there is equal representation of gender in project business. There also has to be the same amount of respect towards women working in project business that anyone would show men in that business. We are all professionals who manage our daily lives, work and private. It should not affect business decisions if a woman is also a mother as it would that a man is also a father. We are definitely not at that point yet. Another wish would be that I hope one day project management and project business management will be less about having to prove yourself by all means towards customers and business partners, and instead more about authenticity, honest collaboration, and a willingness to help each other.

  • Trusting their natural capacity to handle multiple scenarios that are placed in front of them.

  • Role models to pave the way. PMI at Global had almost no PMI Fellows that were female and no keynote speakers female just TEDX.

  • Mindset and attitude are the biggest factors that need to be changed. I feel we also need to give men and women a level playing field when it comes opportunities. If we employ women only because of their gender therein lies the inequality. Equality is something that we need to inculcate in people starting from the time they are kids. When we stop using men as the standard, when we embrace the femininity of women and not only consider them “strong” when they act, look and dress like men only then can we attain equality. ATTITUDE no matter how hard really is the key to obtaining REAL change.

  • Two things: 
    1) A mindset switch for both men and women. As a woman we often feel inferior than our senior male colleagues. We must dare to make ourselves visible in the market as senior project managers. Also men can help in this mindset switch: by accepting that women can be both a female project manager and a mother who is available for her children during evening hours.
    2) More female role models who inspire and drive other women to climb up the ladder. I think we're already on the right track, because the vision of many companies on flexible ways of working has been changed in a positive way during the past years.

  • For me there are things women can do and there are structural issues that need to be resolved, to provide women with equal opportunities.
    Here is my list:
    1. We need to give ourselves permission to be boastful about our achievements and be comfortable talking about them
    2. Women need to support other women to achieve
    3. Organisations need to have the difficult conversations about what the diversity situation is in their teams, why that is and what they can do to fix it
    4. Establish why senior women are leaving the profession and do something about it
    5. Take advantage of opportunities

Many thanks to the women, who shared their experiences and opinions here. 

Image: Shutterstock - sirtravelalot