A reminder that project management is a compelling career for all

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Project management has traditionally relied on recruits with a background in STEM.

Coming shortly after the immensely successful APM Women in Project Management Conference, which showed the very real and encouraging statement that can be made for, and by, women in this profession, Ada Lovelace Day is an opportunity to reaffirm that project management is a compelling career for all. 

Ada Lovelace Day, an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) aims to increase the profile of women in STEM, encourage more girls into STEM careers and support women already working in STEM. 

Our 2016 salary and market trends survey found that:

  •  67% of females earn less than £50k per annum as opposed to 40% of males. 
  • 23% of males earn £75k+ but 8% of females.
  • 11% of males earn £100k+ against 3% of females.
  • Only 1% of females are project directors or board members compared to 4% of males.

We want to do a deeper dive to understand what is going on and why.

But the situation is clear.  As you can see from our own survey, women are under-represented, paid less, are less experienced and occupy a lower proportion of senior jobs.

Partly the stats result from project management having been historically a second career. To take one example – women account for 8% of professional engineers, and only 6% of professional engineers are from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds – so it is hardly surprising that the diversity challenges of other professions bleed into ours.

Of course the gender gap is part of a wider, national problem.

The Chair of a House of Commons Select Committee said in August: 

“Thousands of expectant and new mothers have no choice but to leave their work because of concerns about the safety of their child or pregnancy discrimination. Shockingly this figure has almost doubled in the last decade, now standing at 54,000.”

The same committee reported that:

“Government recognises the value of modernising the workplace, but is still not taking the steps needed to ensure flexible working is offered to all employees. 

“Moving to a culture where flexibility is the norm, and employees are judged on outcomes rather than presenteeism, offers a tremendous opportunity to tackle the gender pay gap.”

And consider this:

  • Only one in four employers studies gender pay differences among their staff.
  • 24% of girls’ entries to A levels are in maths and sciences compared to almost four in ten for boys.
  • A girl is four times more likely to study A-level physics if she attends a single-sex, independent school compared to a mixed state school.
  • And only 9.7% of executive directors in the FTSE 100 are women, dropping to only 5.6% in the FTSE 250.

So we can draw these conclusions.

Women are behind in promotion and progression because they literally pay a higher financial forfeit for taking time off for families.

This is not unique to project management, but as a profession, we still need to look this straight in the face.

We must work with other professional bodies to support their work to diversify their professions. 

And we must do more to make project management a career of first choice for more young people in the UK.

For more information on APM's work with STEMNET and to register as a STEM Ambassador click here 

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Posted by Sara Drake on 20th Oct 2016

About the Author
Sara Drake joined APM as Chief Executive in February 2015. Sara was previously managing director of the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), a Chartered body and the largest planning institute in Europe with 23,000 members, and the Home Builders Federation which represents the UK’s new house builders. Sara’s early career was spent in business development in the media. She holds an MA in law from the University of Cambridge and is an Hon. Fellow of Kingston University.

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