Are Women Actually Better Project Managers Than Men?

In most cases, business leaders are disinterested in broader social issues, so naturally, most of them claim that they don’t see any large differences between genders.

In today’s corporate world – no matter the industry – as soon as women start climbing up the corporate ladder, they seem to vanish without a trace.

Are Women Actually Better Project Managers Than Men?

When you look at the lowest levels of the corporate totem pole, around 50% of employees are female. But as you start moving and looking at each successively higher level, you soon realize that the number of female workers shrinks at the top.

As a matter of fact, according to Fortune, just last year, women held only around 4.2% of CEO positions in America’s 500 Fortune companies.

What’s worse, as recent Harvard studies have shown, business owners still excessively hire male over female workers for the same roles, even when they are equally qualified.

Genders in Project Management

As you’re about to see, project management isn’t particularly immune to the trends we mentioned above.

A 2010 study published in the Project Management Journal, discovered that we still have a huge gender disparity across basically every sector within the project management industry. Here are the results for top five project management industries:

  1. Construction: 6.5% women – 93.5% men
  2. Consulting: 29% women – 71% men
  3. Financial Services: 47.9% women – 52.1% men
  4. IT sector: 31.3% women – 68.7% men
  5. Telecommunications: 26.6% women – 73.4% men

The numbers are downright disheartening. However, when we take a step back from gender stereotypes and take a look at results from a couple of recent studies, we’ll see that women can be far more successful in project management than men.

In fact, it turns out that women could possible surpass their male counterparts in the project management field, should they get the right opportunities. Women, for instance, a perceived as more respected and capable business leaders than men.

Creating New Stereotypes

Let’s shift our focus at a recent study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, which examined how both male and female leaders are perceived in their industries by their colleagues, assistants and even themselves.

Unsurprisingly, the surveyed male leader had great opinions about their leadership skills – a vast majority of them, perceived themselves to be outstanding. Men actually rated themselves highly than women both in lower level and senior leader positions.

But when examiners surveyed assistants how they viewed their female and male bosses, they discovered that female leaders are perceived as far more competent. The irony is, we’re now seeing a new stereotype that actually supports the view of female competence.

Even though we still don’t have enough evidence that shows any significant correlation between genders and project failure rates, there are in fact, a ton of studies that show the link between project success and respect between employees and the higher-ups.

The Risk-Taking Gender

Team chemistry us certainly a huge part of leadership, however, it isn’t the biggest and the most important one. Project leader’s willingness to take calculated risks driven by analytics and a secure project management solution is a huge part of being a successful team manager.

In popular culture, men are almost exclusively viewed as more of risk-takers, but newest findings, once again, don’t support this stereotype either. One study, published in Harvard Business Review revealed that women in the business world are, as the researchers put it, “bolder” than their male colleagues.

Female leaders are in fact, more willing to take huge turns and completely change the course of their team for the sake of the project. As researchers explain, this is a strong indicator of quality leadership. Moreover, the study also revealed that women are more likely to:

  • Display honesty in their workplace
  • Work on developing their skills
  • Inspire and motivate their colleagues
  • Build relationships in the workplace
  • Drive collaboration and teamwork

What Does All of This Mean?

The bottom line is this – as you’ve seen, a number of different studies have shown that women, if not more, are at least as competent as their male counterparts – the problem is, they simply aren’t given the same opportunities on expensive, high-risk projects across almost all industries.

Most of this stems from age-old stereotypes that women don’t have “what it takes’ to be true leaders. Some people still even fear that women are completely incompetent… That’s why so many women out there almost fear to pursue careers in project management.

One thing is sure – biology definitely isn’t a problem for any current or future business leaders. And if current companies want to have a clearer path to success, they need to stop undervaluing women’s achievement in their industry. Companies that continue to do that are definitely missing out…