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
- Average age of respondents: 40.8 versus 42.6 for men
- Education: 37% of women have an academic degree in project management versus 42% of men
- Certification: 72% of women hold a project management certification versus 76% of men
- 57% have a PMP versus 64% of men
- 5% have a CAPM versus 2% of men
- Average years working in project management: 9.8 versus 11.4 for men
- Average years in the workforce: 17.3 versus 19.2 for men
- Employment status: Women are more likely to work full time for an organization (+5.7%) and less likely to be a consultant/contractor (-4.6%)
- PMOs: Women are more likely to work in an organization with a departmental PMO (+1.7%) or both departmental and enterprise PMOs (+4.2%) and less likely to work in an organization with only an enterprise PMO (-6.0%)
- Leadership positions: 20% of women vs. 23% of men report some level of management role such as PMO director, portfolio manager or another type of manager (e.g., development, product or functional manager)
Regional and Industry Differences
The gender gap in project management is universal. Male project professionals outnumber females in every region around the world (see Table 1), but the disparities are greatest in the Middle East and North Africa, Asia Pacific and South Asia. Gender gaps are lowest in North America, sub-Saharan Africa and China.
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
Salaries and Certifications
Globally, women earn about 20% less than men for work of equal value, according to the United Nations. For female project managers, the pay gap in most countries is below the global average but significant, nonetheless.
Female project managers earn less than male project managers in every country surveyed, according to PMI’s most recent salary survey. This pay gap can vary greatly from country to country, as shown in Table 3.
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
Education and Career Paths
How do women enter the project management profession? As noted in the snapshot above, women have fewer years of work experience and are less likely to have a degree in project management. This may indicate that women are likely to be “accidental” project managers, beginning their careers in other fields before being introduced to project management. Organizations that have difficulty filling open roles or are looking to increase diversity should consider recruiting women from related fields and provide the training they need to become project managers.
Women Show an Edge in Agility, Technology and Power Skills
Despite their smaller presence in the project management workforce, women report utilizing agile and hybrid approaches more often than men and are more likely to work for organizations that apply these approaches. Correspondingly, men report higher use of traditional/waterfall approaches, and are more likely to work for organizations that use these approaches (see Table 4).
These skills and experiences are critical in leading complex projects, enhancing organizational agility and leading digital transformations. Experience with agility can offer an advantage as many organizations cite increased agility as critical for growth. It’s also the top expected outcome from digital transformation initiatives, according to a recent PMI Brightline report.
Women are also more likely to work for organizations that leverage advanced technologies in the management of projects (see Table 5). This experiential advantage can benefit organizations as they move toward increased technology adoption and seek the improved outcomes and efficiencies that advanced technologies can provide.
When it comes to power skills, male and female project managers agree on the top four power skills that help them accomplish organizational objectives: communication, problem-solving, collaborative leadership and strategic thinking. However, women are slightly more likely to see the value in each of these power skills (see Table 6).
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.
About the Research
In March and April of 2022, PMI conducted and deployed the PMI Annual Global Survey on Project Management to 8,313 project professionals (individuals who use project skills to deliver change), including 1,927 respondents who identify as female. The survey explored multiple facets of project management, including key drivers of project success, power skills, evolution of the PMO, adoption of standardized project management practices, and professional training and development.