Gender equality in project management has made undeniable progress. More women are entering the profession, many hold senior positions previously unavailable to them, and companies are publicly championing the benefits of diversity and inclusion at every level.
But the pace of change is slow. Despite some positive developments, our experts agreed that much more needs to be done.
The ‘leaky pipeline’
The panel agreed that there were still barriers to women advancing to the highest levels of the profession. For example, the majority of women in construction and engineering leave within five years of joining, according to the Smith Institute, a public policy think tank. Likewise, other sectors face a comparable situation, and the inevitable consequence is a lack of women rising to the top.
DEFRA’s Jenn Harris noticed this ‘leaky pipeline’ when she began her career in construction. She said she was surrounded by young, ambitious women who had completed apprenticeships and come in as trainees. But there were very few women in senior positions and almost no women directors.
“Clearly, the profession was leaking female talent,’ Jenn said. “I began to look at the barriers for women entering, but also to them progressing and remaining.” Her review of gender disparity in the workplace, which became her master’s dissertation, examined the differences in self-perception between men and women in construction. Her findings confirmed that the women surveyed tended to follow more ‘zig-zag’ career development paths, and that ‘global self-worth’ (professional self-esteem or self-confidence) of women over the age of 40 is the lowest among all ages, while men’s remained relatively constant throughout their lives.
Whether this is because of caregiving responsibilities, career plateau, burnout, or other reasons, the fact remains that many women tend to leave the industry before their male counterparts.
Fortunately, we are seeing a steady trend towards greater gender equality across the project profession. Changes in workplace culture, diversity and inclusion programmes, gender-neutral hiring and evolving leadership styles have created a more supportive environment for women. The landscape is moving alongside wider societal changes, reflecting groundbreaking shifts in attitudes, and our panel outlined some developments that are paving the way for a better, brighter future.
Gender equality in project management has made undeniable progress. More women are entering the profession, many hold senior positions previously unavailable to them, and companies are publicly championing the benefits of diversity and inclusion at every level. But the pace of change is slow. Despite some positive developments, our experts agreed that much more needs to be done.
Meaningful change requires a collective effort. And the responsibility falls on individual project practitioners as well as organisations to play a role in effecting change. As well as advocating for gender equality, sharing our experiences, and supporting relevant initiatives, we all have an obligation to contribute to a work environment that’s free from bias and discrimination, which benefits everyone involved.