The Rise of Female Presence in the Project Management Field
I started my career 25 years ago as an engineer in Brazil. At the time, there were only a few women in the engineering field. As an entrepreneur, consultant, and investor, I have worked closely with women whose roles include subject matter experts, project managers, corporate board members, and senior executives.
Over the years, I have watched several women professionals grow, including my own daughters, one mechanical engineer by education and PM by choice, and the other in her last year of the high school moving into the biotechnology field as an aspiring scientist!
I have witnessed women increasingly gain power in the corporate world that had been previously denied to them. They have taken ownership of global companies, countries, and institutions. During my time in the United Nations and at the Brightline (a Project Management Institute Initiative), I have observed a conscious and intentional effort to promote, hire, and empower women to actively work and participate at every level in the organizations.
I have utmost respect and confidence in women project managers who have revolutionized various fields with their brilliance. Several women are spearheading the changes in the workplace and workforce. And now more than ever, we are seeing more women making their mark on the project management sphere.
But what is the percentage of women project managers around the world?
According to a “not so recent” study from PMI in 2008, the gender breakdown of PMI membership is 70% male and 30% female. In the United States, the figure stood at 33.5%.
Using Latin America as an example, merely 11.3% of Latin women are employed in the project management industry. Only a few Latin women graduates seek a career in project management.
This scenario is evolving. A more recent study from Zippia shows how the gender balance has changed for project managers in the past decade. Women project managers have increased to 41.64% in 2018 from 38.91% in 2008 in the United States. Progress has been made, but a lot still needs to be done!
Though gender should never influence pay, it does, especially in a country like Brazil. The experience level is the most crucial factor in determining the salary, the more years of experience, the higher your wage. Since women have been historically under-represented, this area hits them harder
There are many challenges that women in business face, especially women in IT, engineering, and project management. A typical company has a hierarchical structure, and within that structure, the glass ceiling is a metaphor representing barriers that have prevented women or minorities from reaching the top.
Many studies have shown the case of gender bias at the top level in organizations. Ensuring proper career progression helps in shattering the glass ceiling. The change at the top cannot happen if we do not bring women on board in the first place. Today’s leaders (men or women) need to promote gender diversity at all company levels, not just the top and bottom.
How can they do that?
Being aware of this issue is their duty to create and promote an environment where women can network and build professional relationships without being devaluated, harassed, or bullied.
Remember that diversity is not enough. Inclusion is as essential as diversity to bring about lasting effects.
Finally, I am optimistic that my daughters will see a more human work environment with less prejudice and more receptivity. Perhaps this post will make you look around yourself to see how many female colleagues are around.
My hope is that this could trigger positive action that will work towards overcoming the historical preconception of a male-dominated society.
This is something all of us must put at the top of our agendas.
PS: I would like to thank my two daughters Ana Carolina and Gabriela Vargas, and my dear friend Yavnika Khanna for their support and perspectives on this topic.