Traditional project management roles tended to be in construction, engineering or transport and even IT project management was, and still is, male-dominated although less so than other industries. But the project management landscape has changed significantly in the last 10 years mainly because so many businesses now take a project-based approach.
Many more women now work as project managers than they did a decade ago. With well-defined career progression and continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities available in the form of professional certifications from organizations like the Project Management Institute (PMI) and the Association for Project Management (APM) now could be a good time to think about a career as a project manager.
But why would a women want to go into project management and what makes them good at it when they do?
Obviously, men and women are different and each bring different, and necessary, skills to the project manager role but increasingly it is being shown that projects succeed not because they have used the right methodology or put together a highly skilled team but because of how that team works together and because of how they interact with clients and stakeholders. And the person who ensures the team work co-operatively and collaboratively, and communicate well with other interested parties, is the project manager.
Women, especially those with experience bringing up a family, have plenty of experience getting individuals with differing points of view to see each other’s perspective. They have plenty of experience in making sure things are done on tight schedules with a limited budget. And they have plenty of experience in listening to the needs of others.
Projects invariably never quite have enough resources, whether that is time, money or people; they often have competing stakeholders who want their own objectives met at the expense of other aims. Into this arena women can bring people skills and “soft” skills that can mitigate the problems that so often arise on projects such as missed deadlines, lack of team motivation and poor communication. That’s why a project management career is perfect for many women.
There are plenty of project management courses that can teach you the methods and processes used to manage projects in a business environment and women can add to that good communication skills, motivational skills and creating an environment where everyone wants to, and can, succeed. These are often natural skills that make woman successful project managers.
Being a good communicator in business does not mean being talkative; it means communicating what needs to be communicated in the right way (verbally and written) and at the right time. It also means listening; listening to clients and stakeholders about what they really want to achieve with a project; and listening to team members when they have concerns – either about the work itself or about more personal (but still important) issues. Women are much more inclined to have casual conversations, with no hidden agendas, than men are so they can often detect problems early on that could sink a project if left to fester.
Some of the best ways to motivate a project team are easy and cost little or nothing to implement. They could be just a simple thank-you for a job well done or going the extra mile to meet a project deadline. It could mean taking the time to listen to concerns or new ideas – to really listen, and take any necessary action afterwards. These are all areas that women are typically good at.
Of course, good project management requires establishing a solid project management framework and using a tried and tested methodology such as APMP, PRINCE2 or PMP but neglecting the soft skills means you will only ever be a good project manager and not and exceptional one. Applying these skills does not reduce the women’s authority instead it can earn her a reputation as an effective project manager and help grow a successful career.
That doesn’t mean all women could be good project managers or that men cannot also be good project managers but it is a particularly good career choice for women.