Project Management Institute

Women in Project Leadership — Gaining Ground

Transcript

Narrator

The future of project management is changing fast. On Projectified with PMI we’ll help you stay on top of the trends and see what’s really ahead for the profession—and your career.

For an easy way to stay up to date on Projectified with PMI, go to iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play music or PMI.org/podcast.

Stephen W. Maye

Hello, I’m Stephen Maye and this is Projectified with PMI. I’m here with my co-host, Tegan Jones. Tegan is an editor for PM Network. Today we’re talking about women in project leadership and there is a lot to unpack. Tegan recently did a piece on this for the magazine and she looked at the statistics, the news, the current events and — most importantly, talked to women in leadership in the field. Tegan, I know you’ve gotten deep into this topic. What have you learned?

Tegan Jones

The women that I talked to for that story in the May issue of PM Network® had a lot to say about gender equality in the project management profession. A lot of positive things came out of those conversations, but there was also a bit of concern about the slow pace of progress in certain areas. For instance, when it comes to women in leadership roles in organizations, several women said that they really didn’t feel that they always saw women in decision-making roles, which made them feel like they didn’t always have the support network that they needed to grow and to reach their career goals.

Stephen W. Maye

You know it's interesting to connect that to the phrase, I'm not sure who popularized it, but the idea that example isn't the most important thing, it's the only thing. So when you don't have an example, then it's very difficult then to sometimes see yourself or to feel yourself propelled forward into a role.

Tegan Jones

Yeah, I think that’s true. And there’s data to show that this is reality for women. PMI's 2018 Salary Survey, for example, found a significant gender disparity between men and women working in project management roles around the world. For instance, in Australia and Brazil only one in five project professionals are women. And when you look at the UK, it’s more like one in four.

But it’s not really just about these sheer numbers. We're seeing that gap in regards to salaries, as well. So in the U.S. the pay gap is a little over 11,000 dollars—which means women are making roughly nine percent less than men for the same job.

And we see a similar trend in Europe. In Germany, for example, women make about 10,000 Euros less than their male counterparts, and that translates to a roughly 12 percent pay gap.

Stephen W. Maye

What do we think, what is the research telling us about what the contributing factors are, or the ones that really matter? Should we actually expect this to be consistent with percentage of the workforce? Should we expect those things to be the same, or are their reasons why we shouldn't?

Tegan Jones

I think that's a really great question and there’s definitely some data out there that offers us some insights. For instance, Hired, which is a career marketplace for the tech sector, recently looked at some of these issues in its Salary Survey.

And what it found was that, controlling for the fact that its candidate pool does skew more towards men, it found that women were still underrepresented in the pool of people interviewed for a given position 16% of the time.

And companies that use Hired interviewed only men for a given role 46% of the time. So that’s pretty significant to me.

But the bit from the survey that I found most interesting was actually related to pay. So Hired found that companies offer men higher salaries than women for the same job 63 percent of the time, right, that seems unfair. But it also found that two out of three women are going in and asking for less money than their male peers. On average they're asking for six percent less for the same role.

So some of this is coming from women themselves actually undervaluing their own accomplishments and being less aggressive during the hiring process. So I think that, in some ways, the conversation does need to start with women understanding what they’re worth, looking at this research, seeing what the average salaries are and going in and saying this is what I would like to be paid for this job.

Stephen W. Maye

Yeah, you know it's interesting if I just think about sort of basic economic forces, kind of basic supply and demand forces, basic forces that drive prices up and down and what that does, what, how that relates to buying trends, you know wouldn't we think that as much as it may be a negative thing that women are often, according to these statistics, asking for less, wouldn't we think that asking for less would actually be driving up the representation?

Tegan Jones

Yeah, you probably would. And I think that that's where we start to see that this isn't just an economic issue, right. Market forces aren’t the only things driving this trend. There are cultural and social elements to consider, as well. And I think those are the things the we need to look at a little more closely to see why organizations aren’t always doing everything they can to increase the diversity of their talent pool or cast the widest possible net.

Stephen W. Maye

You know I think there's kind of a bottom line here which is that it is really incumbent upon all of us that have some influence on these things to take seriously the candidate pools that are available to us, that broad candidate pool. And to recognize that if we can do that, if we can kind of train ourselves to take that seriously, we create the opportunity to find the best talent across a broader pool of people. And in the process introduce an element of diversity that should be a powerful force in trying to drive our work forward.

Tegan Jones

I think that’s absolutely right. So, that’s why I want to take a moment here and switch gears and start looking at some of the really impressive project work that we’re seeing from women out there in the field. I want to start in Toronto, where there’s a woman named Carrie Fletcher who heads up the PMO at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

I was able to meet Carrie last year because her organization was the winner of the 2017 PMO of the Year award. We went out there and we filmed a video at her organization, and she’s a really amazing woman. And I caught up with her again a couple of weeks ago to talk about her experience coming up as a woman in project management and how she was able to build this world-class PMO—while also maintaining some semblance of work-life balance.

Stephen W. Maye

Sounds like great stuff. Let’s take a listen.

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Tegan Jones

The World Economic Forum says it could be another century before women reach true economic, educational and political parity with men.

And despite ongoing protests around pay gaps and social inequality, research shows that the global gender gap is still growing. Saadia Zahidi, one of the authors of the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap report, recently spoke to Bloomberg about this trend.

Saadia Zahidi

It represents a stalling of the momentum around gender equality, which is one of the main findings this year. And it basically calls to action governments and businesses leaders and others to really start looking at this issue a lot more seriously.

Tegan Jones

But what would that look like? Many say that it starts with putting more women in leadership positions. And there’s a big gap to fill. McKinsey recently found that, even though women make up 47 percent of entry-level hires in the U.S., they hold only 1 in 5 senior executive positions. But the real issue might be something even more basic.

Carrie Fletcher

Rightly or wrongly or whether it’s perceived or not, you do feel that you have to work that extra bit harder to prove yourself. So, for example, I knew that I could come in at a certain time in the morning and leave at a certain time due to daycare, for example. But that meant that I, you know, very rarely took a lunch break, or very rarely took breaks, because I wanted to show that I can get everything done, and I can get it done still within an eight-hour workday. But that may be perceived to be a shortened workday to some.

Tegan Jones

Carrie Fletcher is the senior director of the enterprise project management office at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She launched the organization’s PMO in 2012 and, since then, she’s helped it grow into one of the world’s best. But that didn’t come without sacrifice.

Carrie Fletcher

There’s times, I will not lie, where I feel spread very, very thin, and there’s a constant struggle. And when I speak with my other female, you know, senior leader colleagues, that we never feel like we're doing enough justice everywhere.

But you've got to learn where you put in 150 percent and where you can survive on only putting in 50 or 60 percent. And that’s not to say that you're skating by or not taking responsibility or accountability on things, but you can’t do every single thing every single day perfectly. That’s really the—the truth of it.

Tegan Jones

She’s definitely a woman with a lot on her plate. But that’s part of why she thinks project management is such a great profession. It gives her the chance to have a meaningful career—but also have a life outside of work.

Carrie Fletcher

For example, I know of individuals who have worked frontline clinical, maybe had to work 24/7 type of shifts overnight. They can now use their clinical skillset and bring it into project management in healthcare, but then it gets them into a more nine-to-five, Monday to Friday type role, with the exception of when things are rolling out or implementing.

And so you can take maybe a—a current skillset or profession that you have, but then turn that into a role in project management that maybe supports work/life balance a little bit better.

Tegan Jones

Fletcher also referenced social skills. In her mind, many women naturally excel in areas like communication and conflict resolution, which are really the same skills they need to be strong project leaders.

Carrie Fletcher

Women are very good at building relationships, and building relationships and trust in project management is one of the keys that we've seen to being able to execute successful projects. So use those natural-born skillsets that you have, and then bring the rigor of project management to things, and you'll pretty much be unstoppable.

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Stephen W. Maye

I like what Carrie is saying about prioritization. You know, it reminds me of Greg McKeown’s book, Essentialism, where he makes this point that, look, prioritization wasn’t even a plural concept until very recent history. You know, the idea of a priority was to recognize that there was something, a single thing, that was most important. And I think there’s a message embedded in what she’s saying, that we need to get clear about that. And we can get clearer about that. And when we do, it allows us to start recognizing that there are other things that are still out there, they’re still on our radar, but they have to take a back seat.

Tegan Jones

Right, and another thing that really struck me about Carrie was not only was she very good at identifying what that priority was, she was able to communicate what she needs really well to the people around her. So even though she’s trying to navigate all of these different responsibilities, she was able to really set expectations with everyone equally. It’s a super impressive skill set.

Stephen W. Maye

Well, yeah, and isn’t that key? I mean, so often, I think we miss the opportunity to be clear about what we need. And sometimes that’s not just personally. It’s being clear about the resources we need to actually accomplish the goal, accomplish the business objective, accomplish the project objective. But it applies at both the personal level and the professional level. And isn’t it amazing what you get when you ask.

Tegan Jones

Yeah, it really is, and that’s a theme that our next correspondent touches on, as well. Lindsay Scott works for a recruitment firm in London and she’s a regular PM Network® columnist. Her column answers questions that readers have about their careers, and she’s always got really great advice. So I asked if she had any thoughts on maybe what trends might be influencing women in project management. And, of course, she did.

Stephen W. Maye

Well I am eager to hear her perspective. Let’s see what she has to say.

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Lindsay Scott

Hello, Hi, I'm Lindsay Scott. I'm a director for Arras People, which is a company based in the U.K. We’re a specialist recruitment agency focused on project management. We have an annual benchmark report called the Project Management Benchmark Report and we've been doing this for the past 12 years. And one of the things that we've always covered is how gender differences play out in the project management profession.

It's one of the interesting things we've seen around the whole project management profession is that, you know, is this, some legacy stuff, that projects and program management careers have always been seen as a second career. So people, what they mean by that, is that people's first career is in things like construction and engineering, which were, you know, male-dominated industries. And it's almost like that legacy is potentially where, you know, we see these figures still at a quite high level between males and females.

However, there was also gender stereotyping in terms of some of the roles. So, for example, and it's probably not, no surprise, but from a project supporting type level you see that there's more females working in that kind of space which means that, you know, those supporting level roles are also at a at the low end of the salaries. But also things like you find that more females work in the public sector, for example. And that's mainly because of things like, they're having the flexibility and the organizational culture is perhaps what they prefer to look for in terms of fitting in with their ideal career choice. However, those kind of sectors are going to pay less than private sectors.

So again there's just different figures and the really interesting one that came out of a recent report is that actually when it comes to permanent salaries, that's where you see a difference between the men and the women. However, if you look at people working in project management as a contractor or a freelancer, their salaries or their rates, their day rates and things are very comparable. So there's not much difference between male and female.

The other thing that we see a lot more as well and I've never really understood this is that projects, by their very nature should be allowed to, you know, have working practices that are flexible in terms of things like working hours. In my whole years, many years of recruiting, I could tell you on one hand how many part-time positions have come into our recruitment firm. And actually I think that's what is impacting you know really impact women more. For example, if you have taken time out for your raising a family it makes it, you know, that often they're wanting, you know, to ease themselves back into a role rather than, bang, we're straight into a big project. And, you know, it's about being, thinking about going forward. I believe that there will be changes because I just think that the next generation coming up will probably demand more of it. That's what I'm just hearing about generationally what the next lot of the workforce will be looking for. And I think organizations will have to think better about how they can bring in flexible working because ultimately there's going to be more women in the workforce anyway going forward. So it's like how do we, you know, make sure that we've got the best people being able to work in the best way.

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Stephen W. Maye

So it sounds like the big takeaway here is that this move toward greater flexibility isn’t going away. And that, really, what we’re going to expect is an increase in the demand, the need, the request for greater flexibility coming from both men and women.

Tegan Jones

Yeah, I think that’s exactly right. And I think that as more young people come into the workforce, we’re going to see this even more. They’re really looking for companies to focus more on the results they deliver rather than exactly when and where they’re working.

Stephen W. Maye

Yeah, we could debate all day long about whether we have too much flexibility or not enough flexibility, and what forms that might take and the implications that may be related, but I think the one thing we can all agree on is that it is about the results. It is the results that matter.

Jane Canniff is a deep-skilled project and program management professional who started out in the IT world, and built an impressive career there, rose to senior ranks there, quite young actually. And then, by choice, stepped away from that to go build a career in the non-profit sector. Specifically, the international development space, serving World Vision and CARE for over a decade. She has met with us, talked with us of course and shared some really interesting advice for women and really anybody who’s planning a career in project management and project leadership.

Tegan Jones

She sounds like a really fascinating woman. Let’s have a listen.

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Stephen W. Maye

Jane, it’s not overstating it to say you’ve built an impressive career in both the for-profit and non-profit space, and I think you have a lot to contribute to this conversation about how women can succeed in project management and really in the broader view of project leadership. So I really appreciate you being here.

Jane Canniff

Thank you so much for having me Stephen.

Stephen W. Maye

So you came up through EDS and then Headstrong, a very successful consulting firm and technology firm, especially in the financial services sector. You worked as a coder. You've worked as an engagement leader, as project manager, program manager, as a lead of, in various capacities, and of course, you rose to a principal level very young. And you built a very successful career there, as a very young woman in really both of those organizations. And then Headstrong before moving into the not-for-profit sector. Tell me about that experience. Really, that period of your life that led up to when you finally made the decision to transition over to the time that you spent serving CARE and World Vision.

Jane Canniff

My initial career with EDS was probably more about survival than anything else. And as a woman, I instinctly [sic] felt as though I had to work harder than my male peers. In the technology environment, there weren't very many other women. And so, there was this underlying sense of, I have to work harder than a lot of the people around me. And I would need to ask other women if they felt like that was true, but I felt as though I was rewarded for the work that I did —  that I was promoted fairly equitably in comparison to my male colleagues — but it was really when I transitioned into what I would call more traditional consulting and began to apply those skills that the game really changed for me. And I mean that in a positive way. So when I started at James Martin & Co., which later rebranded to Headstrong, there were no limitations put on me. It was really what I wanted to put into it and what I wanted to do. It was completely up to me.

Stephen W. Maye

I've read articles and I've listened to speakers who offer career advice that's really specific or unique to women. Where do you come down on that?

Jane Canniff

I don't think my advice is gender specific. I really encourage people to be intensely curious about whatever industry they're working in from a project management perspective, meaning, you know, if they're in the construction industry, learn all that you can about construction. If it's healthcare, learn all that you can about the healthcare industry. Don't just be an administrator of projects in a healthcare environment, if that makes sense. Because I think it makes a project manager so much more effective at their craft if they have an understanding of the business. And it's not that there isn't a place for what's probably called project administration, and I guess that's probably where I delineate between project administration and project leadership. You need all of those roles, and it's not saying one is more important than another, but if you really want to be someone who leads projects, then you've got to have that curiosity about the business. And you've got to want to provide value to the people around you on a day-to-day basis.

Stephen W. Maye

You know, in the corner of a quiet coffee shop when it's private and you're able to just speak frankly to — and let's assume — a young woman coming up who has the potential to build a career in this space or has an interest in building a career in this space, what do you say to her that you don't say from the presenter's podium? What's different there?

Jane Canniff

You know, if we're honestly sitting in a quiet coffee shop and there's no microphone, no recording, one of the pieces of advice that I would give to a young woman coming up in project management, but also just in the business world, is to always take the high road. And in some cases for me, that's meant not meeting, you know, with any of my male colleagues behind a closed door by myself — not meeting out for lunch with any of my male colleagues by myself. There was a certain awareness built into me early on that I just could not afford to have any question mark in that area. And so it was a choice that I made early on that I would be very cognizant of my male counterparts and how we were meeting and what the environment was. And then also that I would make an effort to get to know their significant other.

Stephen W. Maye

I think that's a very personal, a very private view into choices that you've made about how you were going to conduct your work, how you were going to conduct your career, and really, in many ways, your life. I really appreciate you sharing it.

So Jane, is there a particular woman, whether in the project leadership space or in business more generally that has inspired you or established a standard for you really by her story or by the path that she's chosen? Who stands out for you?

Jane Canniff

I find that many more of the female heroes that I've met have not been in the news. They have not been headliners, and you won't find them probably in your podcasts. And they are the women who I have met who have never had a single opportunity presented to them, but who have had to go out and make opportunities happen.

And so, when I look for inspiration, when I look for what next step do I want to take in my path, those people provide my inspiration about sticking to it day in and day out. There are others that I've seen in the organizations that I've worked either in or with who have inspired me from a thought leadership perspective and who also helped me see where I might be able to take my career in the future. But from a personal perspective, I think my inspiration comes from meeting and getting to do life with people who don't necessarily look a lot like me and who have had different life experiences than me, and that's what helps me keep it all in perspective.

Stephen W. Maye

And with that, Jane Canniff gets the last word. Jane, it has really been a pleasure talking with you. I have been looking so forward to this conversation since you first agreed to come on the podcast and talk with me. The opportunity to talk with you, both about your work in global development space and of course this discussion about women growing successful careers in the project leadership space, this has been terrific for me and I know a real value to anyone who hears it. So thank you so much for your thoughtfulness, for your time and contribution, and really for your candor. Thank you so much for being here.

Jane Canniff

Thank you so much for the opportunity, Stephen. I really appreciate it.

Narrator

For an easy way to stay up to date on Projectified with PMI, go to iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play music or PMI.org/podcast.