APM Salary and Market Trends Survey 2020 


The project profession, like many other others, faces a challenge to increase the diversity of representation at all levels. There are encouraging signs though. Our survey reveals that over three-quarters of black, Asian and minority ethic (BAME) respondents are feeling positive about the future, while over a fifth of young professionals coming into the profession are from a BAME background.

But there is still work to do. Our research also reveals a section of the profession feel excluded and concerned that their background will serve as a hindrance to career progression. Some feel employers need to do more, not only to attract a more diverse cohort, but also to open doors to better career progression for all.

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 about the future

Seventy-six per cent of BAME respondents feel positive about the prospects for the profession, compared to 67 per cent of white respondents.

The most optimistic group were Black/African/Caribbean/Black British respondents where 81 per cent believe the profession will be enhanced over the next five years.

Asked how individual project professionals view their own prospects, white respondents (82 per cent) are slightly more likely to be satisfied with their own role than their BAME counterparts (78 per cent).


Makeup of the profession by ethnicity

The survey revealed that the profession broadly aligns with the UK’s overall ethnic makeup. Eighty-six per cent  of project professionals are white – reflecting the broader national picture – with 12 per cent identifying as BAME. Of that group, Asian/Asian British – Indian respondents were the most numerous at 27 per cent of the BAME total,  followed by Black/African/Caribbean/Black British – African (19 per cent). And as further evidence that the profession’s mix is changing, almost one in three project professionals from a BAME background (31 per cent) have joined the profession in the last two years, versus 19 per cent of their white counterparts.

Project management’s BAME representation of 12 per cent compares well to other professions . According to official industry bodies, just under 13 per cent of practising barristers in 2018 were from BAME backgrounds; six per cent of partners from the top 10 accounting firms come from the BAME community; and staff from the Asian, Black, Chinese, Mixed and Other ethnic groups made up seven per cent of people in the ‘very senior manager’ grade in the NHS, and 12.5 per cent in senior grades.

Nearly half of the profession’s BAME cohort are young: 15 per cent are aged 18 to 24, and 32 per cent are 25-to-34-years-old (compared with 16 per cent aged between 45 and 54).


Impact of ethnicity and social background on career development

The way in which some project professionals of a BAME background perceive their own prospects for advancement makes for sobering reading. Most concerning is the fact that 28 per cent of BAME project professionals believe that their ethnicity has had a negative impact on their professional development (compared with 18 per cent who believe it has had a positive impact).

Within the BAME cohort, Black/African/Caribbean/Black British respondents feel the most frustrated: they were the group most likely to say that their ethnicity has had a negative impact on their professional development (39 per cent). And it’s a concern to others: 26 per cent of British Asians felt the same way.

The results show a discrepancy on income. The average salary for a white respondent is £47,500, while BAME respondents receive an average salary of £42,500. This may be a contributing factor as to why half of BAME respondents are considering a job change in the next 12 months, compared with 31 per cent of their white counterparts.

Forty-two per cent of respondents believe that their social background has had a positive impact on their professional development, although a similar number believe it has had neither a positive nor negative effect (43 per cent).

There is a shift in confidence towards those in the younger age brackets, with almost half (49 per cent) of those aged between 25 and 34 feeling the positive effects of their social background, compared with just 33 per cent of those aged between 55 and 64, which suggests that, for some people from less privileged backgrounds, the barriers are beginning to dissipate.

How diverse and inclusive is the profession?

When asked how diverse the profession is, BAME viewpoints contrast with those of their white counterparts. On a scale where 0 is ‘not at all’ and 10 is ‘completely’, 38 per cent of BAME professionals gave a score between 7 and 10. However, that should be compared with 47 per cent of white professionals.

As a whole respondents felt the profession was more inclusive, but a difference of opinion still exists with 39 per cent of BAME respondents giving a score between 7 and 10, compared to over half (52 per cent) of their white peers.

So while a number of those from a BAME background scored the profession favourably on its diversity and inclusiveness, clearly many respondents feel the profession needs to address some of the perceived embedded biases.

Ways to make the profession more diverse and inclusive

The survey data suggests a difference of opinion on the ways to make the profession more diverse and inclusive. Tackling this understanding gap is vital to ensure effective measures are taken in driving diversity and inclusion. While a significant proportion of BAME and white respondents agree that mentoring and the provision of relatable role models would be useful, there is a clear distinction on the need for revised recruitment policies.

Mentoring – both classic and reverse – is the most widely suggested solution to improving diversity and inclusion, with 43 per cent of both white and BAME respondents saying the use of an advice and guidance programme can effect real change. However, beyond that the splits appear: 28 per cent of BAME respondents feel employers should consider changing their recruitment practices, while only 18 per cent of white respondents see that as a solution. Whereas 39 per cent of white respondents favoured a revision to employment policies, 26 per cent of BAME professionals felt this was important.

Significantly, a big discrepancy centres around the importance of diversity-related networks, with a growing number (35 per cent) of BAME respondents suggesting their use within organisations, with only 18 per cent of their white colleagues agreeing.

Taking a lead

We held a series of focus groups across the UK, bringing BAME professionals to the table to get a better sense of what their challenges are. By doing that we are able to better understand BAME viewpoints but also educate our employers on ways in which they can support the diversity agenda. We have also set up a LinkedIn group where those interested in BAME issues can network. And we have encouraged wider participation in networks like this – we cannot find the solution unless we include everyone.

That is an ongoing process, with continual feedback. And we play a vital role as the honest broker in this debate, bringing different sectors, APM members, government and non-governmental organisations (NGO) into the debate and facilitating honest conversation and measuring progress. We are also committed to highlighting the many examples of good practice where they exist.

These findings can make for uncomfortable reading. But gathering this insight is vital in driving change. The levels of optimism around other aspects of the profession – the pipeline of work, the supply of good jobs, the impact well-run projects can have on society – must not obscure the work necessary to attract as diverse a range of talent into the profession as we can.

But this is a sensitive topic. It touches on some uncomfortable areas: implicit (and explicit) bias; structural barriers to equality and diversity; resistance to change and the frustrations felt by those from different ethnic backgrounds looking to forge a career in project management. To tackle this we need the engagement of everyone involved. Surveys like this and others help: only by gathering better data on the issue can we bring about change. But everyone involved in the profession needs to work together to bring about real and sustained changes in culture and practices. Only by doing that will we see a diverse workforce valued for its difference rather than aiming to ‘fit in’. So getting involved in the conversation is vital to allow us to monitor and benchmark progress as it happens.

The findings in this year’s survey play a crucial role in unearthing a whole host of unknowns from those working at the sharp end. Without gathering this data we would be blind to the challenges facing those from different backgrounds, be that ethnic, social or any other type of protected characteristic.

APM Salary and Market Trends Survey 2020   Download the report

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