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Research shows female project managers earn less (but we might get more maternity pay)

The Arras People 2011 Benchmark Report is out – and this year the study shows some interesting facts about pay.

Pay for female project professionals peaks at the £30k to £40k salary band.  Salaries for women over £65k are rare, and only 15% of women earn over £50k.

Male salaries plateau between £30k and £50k with 47% of the male project community falling into this section.  Another 40% earn over £50k.

Fair enough: you probably will find more women in project co-ordinator or support positions, or in part-time roles.  But when you look at the respondents who specifically identified themselves as project managers, there are interesting parallels.

The gender balance is almost even between men and women earning less than £30k. The most common salary for female project managers falls in the £30k to £40k bracket. We see gender balance again in the £40k to £50k range, but – as reflected in the overall analysis – 30% of male project managers earn over £50k, compared with only 12% of female project managers.

Perhaps it is because we are paid less that women manage the cheap, small projects. Something isn’t right there.

The situation for contractors

The gender pay gap for contractors is widening.  Last year 38% of women earned £349 per day, compared to 32% of men. This year, more men have shifted into the higher paid bracket of £350+ per day, while 49% of women now fall into this bracket.

Only 15% of female contractors earn between £500 and £749 per day, compared to a third of men.

Is maternity pay an excuse for sexism?

Just for the record, sexism at work is not allowed

“Whilst these are interesting changes, it may be in part due to the distribution of gender across roles,” says the survey.  This could well be the case. One respondent reported that ageism and sexism were “still allowed” in the contract market.

Just for the record, sexism at work is not allowed, although you only have to speak informally to women to know that discrimination of all sorts is still very much a part of working life.

Alistair Tebbit, Institute of Directors spokesman, believes sexism at work will get worse with the EU voting to extend maternity leave to 20 weeks on full pay. “It is not desirable for the EU to create a large tax, in effect, on employing women,” he said. “Such a step is unlikely to improve the prospects of women in the workplace.”

MEPs also voted to give men two weeks’ paternity leave at full pay. The European Council now has to discuss the proposals, and this could take some time.

I’m all for laws increasing maternity pay, but I’m also keen to see effort put into enforcing some of the equal pay legislation we already have. In the meantime, women (pregnant or not) have 58 years to wait before they earn the same as their male counterparts. I really hope we can do better than that.

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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.


  1. the scrum mistress says

    14 March, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    If you choose to have a baby then that is your choice and you should take the consequences male or female.

    I do not believe that the government or your company should pay for your reproductive choices. And what you get from the government or company should not play any role in those choices. If you want kid then have a kid but don’t have a kid because you can only afford to have it if someone gives you three months salary or more while you are not working.

    As long as you cannot be fired for pregnancy and there is a reasonable amount of time allowed for the physical demands of pregnancy where your job is safe I am not sure what more an individual could reasonably expect.

    Three months, apart from exceptional cases, is more than enough time off and I strongly disagree with a government body passing legislation that promotes such gross inequality on both sides.

    Men should have the same amount of time off as women. Surely anyone can see that the only way to take maternity out of the equation is to make it equal? That is a no brainer. If men are meant to be taking an equal role in child rearing then give them the time off to do it. Do not give me, as the woman who has already endured 9 months of discomfort and the pain of childbirth, the obligation to take more time off only to make me look like a total failure as a mother when I don’t want it.

    • Rocho says

      15 March, 2011 at 10:04 pm

      I do deeply disagree.
      So you think 9 months of pregnancy are a part of a total failure?… You girls are burying girls. I think some women want to be men (professionally), and they overspend and go too far, exceeding men limits without much sense many times.
      As a man, I consider a new kid is a new resource for the future, so the government should and must and ought to pay and support this birth for the period of time when the woman acts as a mam (the baby is mammalian!), and some time later when she (and her couple) tries to find their new family order.

    • Penny says

      16 March, 2011 at 1:02 am

      Hmmm. My experience was that pregnancy was a doddle – projects delivered better than ever! Hormones meant fabulous relationships with all stakeholders. Rated very highly in appraisal too.

      Then birth and breast feeding and returned to work quickly. Disaster all around! Exhaustion (and baby joy) for months on end. Second time around I took a year off (not all paid) and did some personal development too. This time I came back, inspired and ready to deliver and landed an amazing programme and went on to make a huge difference.

      My story.

      I agree with Rocha. I didn’t just have babies for me, to be my own little accesories. It’s much bigger than that. They are future citizens of our country and I’m proud of how they are developing and their potential. They will pay some of your pensions too I suspect!


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