Another rationale offered as to why there are few women in project management is that project managers are mainly found in the construction, mining and engineering industries, traditionally male dominated areas and where women are underrepresented. For example, a research by the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Construction Industry: Demolishing gender structures, a study focused on professionals who designed and managed construction projects, found that in the construction industry, only 12 per cent of the total construction workforce of some 1 million were women; professional positions were 14% female and less than 2% in work sites. The research also showed that rigid work practices including long hours and an expectation of total availability or presenteeism, lack of flexible parental leave (in practice due to presenteeism), tolerance of sexism, and accepted informal recruitment processes that favoured men, were all barriers to career progression for women in the sector. These experiences take their toll with women leaving the construction professions almost 39% faster than their male colleagues (Strachan 2016).
It’s not just pay. Women have to face many challenges to achieve senior management role or to become leaders in organisations. Just as women in general management are not breaking into higher ranking positions, women working in project management roles get passed over to head up the project management office or missed out on high profile projects.
Kerzner (2009, p.148) suggest that a key factor to good program performance is the program manager’s ability to integrate personnel from many disciplines into an effective work team by being able to relate to the people to be managed, tasks to be completed, tools to utilised and awareness of the organisation including stakeholders. Women possess these qualities in abundance – developing, inspiring and motivating others; collaboration and teamwork. Women displays initiative, integrity and honesty, core competencies which highlight that women were seen as more effective in getting things done and delivering results (Sherwin, 2014). But the presences of these competencies in women, especially in project management were not sufficient to break through the glass ceiling and sticky floor in organisations.
An influx of women in project management will not automatically result in a cultural change. The key includes increase inclusion; enhance diverse talent within the industry and acknowledgement of the skills shortage with targeted action. Business leaders and organisations must lead in the practise of inclusivity, cultural awareness innovation and nurturing. The limited number of women in project management has been highlighted particularly inequality in pay. Recognising the issue is a step forward but providing strategic approach to resolve through a collaborative strategy framework to achieve sustained change is proposed.