The State of Women in Project Management, 2023
Women still hold significantly fewer jobs than their male counterparts, despite global equality movements and diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) programs taking hold in the workplace, as noted in our Global Megatrends 2022 report. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), the global labor force participation rate for women is just under 47%, compared with 72% for men.
This gender gap in employment is even starker in the field of project management where male project managers outnumber female project managers by 3:1, according to recent research from the Project Management Institute (PMI).
While this glaring disparity has immediate negative implications for project teams – 88% of project professionals say having diverse project teams increases value – it may also hold the key to solving an ongoing crisis for organizations. Global labor disruptions triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic persist, impacting a growing demand in project management-oriented employment, where PMI research projects that 25 million new project professionals will be needed by 2030.
To better understand the current state of women in project management and where opportunities exist for both female workers and organizations, we looked at data from over 1,900 female project professionals who responded to the PMI Annual Global Survey on Project Management in 2022.
PMI’s global snapshot shows:
- Male project managers outnumber their female counterparts around the world and in every sector, but the gaps differ greatly by region and industry.
- Women earn less than men and are slightly less likely to have a project management certification or a project management degree.
- While there are far fewer women in the project workforce, they are only slightly less likely than men to have a leadership role.
- Women are more likely to report using agile and hybrid approaches, working in organizations that use advanced technologies, and placing a higher value on power skills.
Supporting positive business results
Similarly, gender disparities exist across all industries, but impact some sectors far more than others (see Table 2). In many industries, male project managers outnumber females by more than 50%: construction, transportation/logistics, energy, aerospace, manufacturing, automotive, information technology, telecom and consulting. Healthcare is the only industry where the gap is less than 20%.
Alleviating labor shortages
Gaining project management certifications can help women shrink the pay gap. PMP certification holders earn 16% more on average than project professionals without a PMP, according to PMI’s salary survey findings. Women seeking to increase their earning power should consider a PMP or another project management certification to demonstrate their value and expertise.
On a positive note, despite the gaps in earnings and certification, our data shows that the disparity in leadership roles is relatively small. Twenty percent of women report some level of management role, compared to 23% of men. Leadership positions include PMO director, portfolio manager, product manager, functional manager and development manager.
While the total number of female managers is still significantly lower than the number of male managers due to the overall gender disparity in the profession, this data shows that women are being provided opportunities to advance their careers and contribute at more strategic levels within organizations. This opportunity to move into leadership is a selling point hiring managers should emphasize when seeking to recruit more women into project management roles.
Reshaping the workplace
Consider which of the power skills listed in Table 6 are the most critical in achieving your organization’s strategic objectives.
Key Takeaways and Next Steps
A diverse workforce opens the door to more productive teams, greater employee satisfaction and better organizational outcomes. While male project managers outnumber their female counterparts around the world and in every sector, organizations should promote a sense of urgency and take action to address these disparities:
- Evaluate employment and salary disparities for female project managers in your organization, and work with human resources to increase equity.
- Support and encourage female project managers in seeking certifications.
- Work through internal DE&I initiatives to recruit and retain more female project managers. Consider women with applicable work experience who can be upskilled into project management roles.
- Provide leadership training for female project managers. These development opportunities, along with favorable metrics demonstrating female leadership in the organization, can be valuable recruiting tools.
Women project professionals can also take greater ownership of their careers by seeking certifications to help elevate both their profile and their earning potential. Further, joining or creating networks focused on supporting female project professionals can help women identify career opportunities, encourage learning and development, and help one another address the disparities they face.