Gender inequality is a problem that impacts on all sectors. No company, organisation or country is immune from the challenges that a lack of gender diversity brings. In an effort to tackle ongoing inequalities the United Nations introduced a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including ‘Gender equality’ (SDG 5 or Goal 5) that aims to: ‘Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.’
In recent years we’ve seen progress of sorts, as the benefits of a more diverse workforce become more widely known. Research has shown that there are major financial benefits for companies to take gender equality seriously. In addition, many companies are now adopting gender targets to increase the representation of women in C-suite positions.
But the pace of change is slow. In 2020, only five per cent of FTSE 100 CEOs were women. The FTSE 250 is even further behind, with just two per cent[i] and in STEM industries, women still only make up 24 per cent of the workforce[ii].
Is this sustainable? Will simply increasing the number of women in senior positions permeate down through organisations to make a difference at a lower level? And does an increase in gender diversity really empower more women?
This is where the project community comes in…
As members of APM’s Women in Project Management Specific Interest Group (WiPM SIG) we are committed to Goal 5, tailoring our objectives around empowering women and demonstrating how project management can be a leading profession for gender diversity and equality.
In December 2021, APM published a blog by Philippa Groome on gender equality in major projects, discussing ways to include equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) in projects. We want to broaden this out to include local and smaller projects, empowering women to work in typically male-dominated industries and utilise the benefits and skills of project management to increase diversity in the workforce.
As project professionals we can include ED&I in projects to support and empower women within the profession, but what else can the project profession do to support Goal 5?
We can get jobs in male-dominated industries, in STEM, and increase the number of women working in these sectors. We can shake up the status quo by working with our male colleagues to share the positives of diverse workforces and discuss our personal struggles. We can also champion our very unique skill set. Project management builds us up to have the business acumen, stakeholder skills and finance knowledge to progress to senior positions within organisations. These skills and experiences should be recognised by organisations to acknowledge the talent that exists within their companies.
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), a women’s job preferences are heavily influenced by socio-economic constraints and traditional gender roles.[iii] Project management as a fairly new profession has avoided many of the gender stereotypes that jobs in sectors such as engineering and construction are still struggling with. When operating globally and on the international stage, either through multi-national companies or international projects, as Philippa discusses in her article, project professionals need to be aware of ED&I agendas. This includes mentoring opportunities and most importantly, ensuring the standards we would expect in the UK or at home are applied elsewhere to maintain a consistent approach to gender equality world-wide.
We are working with educational institutions to promote the project profession and its variety of pathways, encouraging women and girls to choose project management as a career and illustrating the benefits. We will be creating job cards to describe exactly what a job in project management is like and use examples of women who work in engineering, construction and other male-dominated industries to inspire young people and demonstrate that no industry or job is out of reach. Our health and well-being resource seeks to support women in the project profession with key issues that women face such as child-care and mental health.
We hope our coverage of International Women’s Day inspires you to get involved. If you’d like to talk to us more about our work, share your stories or any suggestions on how the project community can support, then please do get in touch at email@example.com.
Further reading on the benefits of a gender diverse workforce and increasing the number of women in senior and executive positions:
- Research: Adding Women to the C-Suite Changes How Companies Think
- 7 benefits of gender diversity in the workplace
- Gender equality in the workplace: going beyond women on the board