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What can we do to encourage women into IT project management?

Last week, the BCS’s Project Eye blogged about the low numbers of women entering science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) to pursue careers. Project and programme management is still required in this fields – so given that women choose project management as a career, why aren’t they choosing it in STEM areas?

I’ve teamed up with Dr Brendan D’Cruz from Newport Business School to try to look at this a bit further. We’d like to do some academically rigorous research into readers’ perspectives on a number of issues, and we hope to usefully gather the views of both men and women. We want to start by gathering your general thoughts on what employers, individuals and universities can do to support and encourage women into project management in IT and other areas. The focus is on IT because that’s what we both know best.

Leave a comment below or drop me an email and Brendan and I will use those (and the comments on the Project Eye blog) as the basis for working out what themes we should be researching.

This is what we are thinking about at the moment:

  • Why do women pick IT project management as a career, and what makes them leave or stay?
  • Should companies provide ‘extra’ support like women’s networks and mentoring schemes? Is there any evidence that these are successful and do they just discriminate against people who don’t take part?
  • Is there still a glass ceiling and what can we do about it?

Given my previous articles on the fact that women manage the small, cheap projects and women’s pay doesn’t match men’s, I think you’ve got a fair view of my opinions about equality at work. However, for me, this investigation is about what practical steps are required to make a difference. If you have any suggestions, let us know! Thanks.

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About Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth HarrinElizabeth Harrin FAPM is a professional project manager and award-winning blogger behind A Girl's Guide To Project Management. She's passionate about demystifying project management and making tools and techniques work in the real world. She's also the author of several books including the PMI bestseller, Collaboration Tools for Project Managers.
Elizabeth lives in the UK with her family. She uses her organisation and project management skills at home, and also to help other bloggers at Totally Organised Blogging.

Comments

  1. Tammie says

    30 November, 2011 at 2:36 am

    Hi Elizabeth,

    Just found your blog and I love it!  I’ve always been interested in technology and realized the roles I developed within organizations fit a PMs job discription (when I eventually found it).  I was performing PM work for many years before I found the profession.  I am now in a position to develop PMs on my team including those just entering the profession.  Womens leadership is a passion of mine so I observe gender differences on my staff.  PM work seems to offer women a variety of tasks to multi-task which seems to suit natural tendicies experienced outside the office.  More recently, PMs that are able to collaborate effectively and build connections with the entire team seem to be consistently sharing success stories.  We need to share with women that work as an IT PM is rewarding.

    • Elizabeth says

      30 November, 2011 at 6:35 pm

      Tammie, I agree. Working in IT as a PM is rewarding, regardless of gender, and if it encourages more women into IT that is an excellent thing.

  2. Shelly says

    25 November, 2011 at 12:40 am

    Hello Elizabeth! I know you are UK based and I am an American currently based in Shanghai, but thought I would share my experience as a female PM and make some observations what might be changing for girls. 

    In a good PMO (with our without a formal organisation), I have always observed that the best PM’s end up on top. Regardless of sex. But it’s that next tier down of PM’s, the 60% of your PM staff that gets the real work done, where I think the problem of equality is much obvious. 

    In terms of the future, I wanted to share the work I do on behalf of the Girl Scouts of the USA program (GSUSA). Girl Scouts of the USA is one of 145 member organizations of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS). The UK equivilant of Girl Scouts is Girlguiding UK.  The new GSUSA program has a component, called “Journeys” that really focus girls on taking action in their community.  These take action projects require the girls to plan out a project, assign roles, and follow-through. These projects are incorporated into each level, and I have been personally involved with girls as young as 8 who are able to plan and execute small projects. I have been leading girls on these “Journey”s for two years now and I wanted to share with you what a difference I have seen in the girls who have been involved in this in those two years. I know that when I was young, I never had an ANY opportunities like this.

    But the generational gap is not what is really exciting/interesting to me. What is more telling for me is to compare this girl-led program to the Boy Scouts of the USA program with which I also have direct leadership experience with. There is a significant difference in how girls and boys approach a project such as a community service effort. The boys are all about the “checklists”. Their program gives them specific hours, specific activities, etc. that must be completed to achieve their reward (a badge). The girls approach is much more flexible. The Girl Scout program has been modified to allow for this flexibility that girls seem to require in order to be really thrive! And as an experienced Project Manager, I recognize a lot of the same tendencies in the girls that I do in adult PM’s. We tend to brainstorm wider ranges of solutions and then hone in on solutions. 

    Sorry for the long commentary, but thought since you are doing some research of your own, you might want to check out the research that was done to modify the GSUSA program. I know they spend a significant amount of time and money looking at the psychology and science about how to turn girls into leaders. If you want more information, please email me at smbjob@bramerspace.com

    • Elizabeth says

      26 November, 2011 at 8:36 pm

      Shelly, thanks for your comprehensive reply. The GSUSA program sounds really interesting, so I will add it to the list of things to research further as Brendan and I look into what can be done to get more women into IT project management. Thank you.

  3. Jess says

    23 November, 2011 at 7:14 am

    Hi Elizabeth,

    I’ve only just found your blog but I thought I should contribute! I majored in IT because I love STEM and thought IT was most likely to get me a decent paying job. Now I’m a business analyst moving towards project management because I don’t have the time to keep up with all the latest technology trends in order to stay in a technical role.

    I am finding it difficult to get information on what employers are looking for in a PM. Hence my finding your blog. It certainly wasn’t a career that was promoted when I was at school. Working on dull projects that you don’t believe in can only sustain you for so long and the thought of being able to work for a company with interesting projects that I am passionate about it very appealing. I do believe that is possible within the IT industry though – at least I hope so.

    I also find that women in management positions react differently to me than they do to male colleagues. Perhaps it’s like a challenge to them?

    Also, the link to ‘Women’s in Project Management Group’ on you resources page seems to be broken.

    Jess…

    • Elizabeth says

      24 November, 2011 at 8:11 am

      Hi Jess, thanks for contributing! Working on interesting projects is certainly possible in IT and there are lots of great initiatives around. I’ve updated that link, thanks for pointing it out. Sadly, the Women in PM Group of PMI no longer exists.

  4. tarjinder kaur says

    23 November, 2011 at 6:09 am

    Hi Everyone

    All above comments on the topic of “What can we do to
    encourage women into IT and Project Management” are quite interesting.
    As I am doing my research on the topic of Women in STEM and PPM
    (Project/ Programme Management); I have found this blog very useful for
    me to follow up my research.

    Would you like to go for a survey that lasts for 5 minutes only. Please click the link below:

    http://www.surveybob.com/surveybob/s/0a35c069-f0b3-493f-aab9-19e11017e120.html

    Your contribution will be highly appreciated.

    Regards
    Tarjinder

  5. tarjinder kaur says

    23 November, 2011 at 6:09 am

    Hi Everyone

    All above comments on the topic of “What can we do to encourage women into IT and Project Management” are quite interesting. As I am doing my research on the topic of Women in STEM and PPM (Project/ Programme Management); I have found this blog very useful for me to follow up my research.

    Would you like to go for a survey that lasts for 5 minutes only. Please click the link below:

    http://www.surveybob.com/surveybob/s/0a35c069-f0b3-493f-aab9-19e11017e120.html

    Your contribution will be highly appreciated.

    Regards
    Tarjinder

  6. Hannah Molette says

    14 November, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    How do you break into the field of IT Project Management without being IT Expert, I feel as if I need to pursue another degree in BIS/MIS to get my foot in the door???

    • Elizabeth says

      14 November, 2011 at 10:02 pm

      Hannah, I think IT PM is moving towards being able to link business requirements to technology. If you look at how the role of the CIO has evolved in the last couple of years the emphasis is less on how much tech you know and more on how much you can understand how technology helps deliver business results. Projects are all about business results, so if you can act as a conduit between what the rest of the business wants to achieve and how technology can help them get there, then you don’t need to be a tech expert. Good luck!

  7. Mike Clayton says

    11 November, 2011 at 11:38 am

    Elizabeth
    I think the problem starts at the earliest stages of nursery and school.  An interesting article in Scientific American Mind (I’d have to dig though back copies so email me if you want me to) discussed how both boys and girls would each choose the less interesting of two toys if shown a mock advert showing the better toy being played with by the opposite sex.

    From Day 1, nurseries and primary schools should be encouraging girls to play with STEM-related toys, to make it wholly ordinary for girls to do science-y, engineering-y, technolgy-ish activities.

    Once girls get to secondary school, the horse has bolted and the ratios are skewed.  

    Mike Clayton

    • Elizabeth says

      13 November, 2011 at 10:07 pm

      Mike, that sounds like an interesting study, thank you. Let me find out a bit more about the direction this research is going and if I need the reference I’ll get in touch.

  8. PM Hut says

    11 November, 2011 at 7:35 am

    HI Elizabeth,

    I think project management (especially IT project management) is a great career for women, as PM is all about organization/communication skills, which are usually innate skills in most women.

    PS: I am seeing more and more women (in Canada) taking an IT Project Manager role.

    • Elizabeth says

      11 November, 2011 at 10:59 pm

      Good news about Canadian jobs. Is this your observation or do you know of any research on recruitment over there? I think IT PM is a great job, for both men and women.
      Thanks for your comment!

      — Sent from my Palm Pre

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