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What women think men think about us

Last week I wrote about some research from the Project Management Journal by Charlotte Neuhauser, PMP. It looked at the leadership behaviours valued by women and how frequently we apply them.

Neuhauser’s research also asked female project managers to report on how they thought they were perceived by men. Here’s what her study had to say.

Women say: Men don’t think women are weaker project managers

I’m glad we believe men have the sense to think that women are adequate as project managers, as we don’t apparently believe that about ourselves. As I reported last week, 75% of women surveyed believed that women think women are weaker project managers than men. How can we believe we are worse than men but at the same time think men see us as equals? I don’t get it, and I’m sure it’s not a compliment to male intelligence. It could either be interpreted as men being too stupid to recognise our faults, or as women being too harsh on each other.

Women say: Men don’t take women seriously

59% of survey respondents believed that female project managers are not taken seriously by men. I don’t think that this is a statistic limited to the project management community. I expect it applies to professional women in a range of careers.

However, the figure was much lower than I was expecting, which is great. I would have liked to see the breakdown of results by age, as I have a feeling that the younger you are, the less men are likely to take you seriously at work.

Women say: Women are less committed than men

The question asked here was a long one. Female project managers “have less organisational commitment and professional capability than their male counterparts”. This had the strongest, clearest response from the women surveyed, with a massive 95% of them agreeing or strongly agreeing with this.

There’s no rationale given for this in the research, so here are some reasons why I think women believe this about themselves:

  • We are more committed to our families than our employers
  • We see men working while other women take parental leave for family emergencies
  • We don’t define ourselves by our jobs, so this translates to “not being committed”
  • We don’t see women being promoted as often as men, which leads to “having less professional capability”
  • Perhaps men are better at covering up their faults at work and don’t beat themselves up about them so much.

But in reality, who knows why the women surveyed thought that men were more committed and professionally better than they were? Maybe they had all gone out for team manicures while the men stayed in the office and slaved away. Maybe the women surveyed genuinely were pretty rubbish at their jobs, working in teams with over-performing male colleagues.

PMJ research

61 women were asked to respond to these questions: this is what they said

Neuhauser says:

The sample of this study had a stronger belief that they are weaker project managers than they believe men perceive them to be. Comparing that response with the perception of this group that women have less commitment and professional capability than men seems to point out a reinforcement with their self-perception of less competence… It is perplexing why female project managers view other female project managers as weaker than their male counterparts and yet do not perceive males viewing females as weaker.

In short, I would conclude, the research study didn’t turn up anything useful or conclusive and further research should be done to find out if there really is anything to this.

What do you think – is it worth doing more research into this subject or not?

Read the research: Neuhauser, C. 2007. Project Management Leadership Behaviours and Frequency of Use by Female Project Managers in Project Management Journal, 38(1), pp21-31.

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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. Inocencia Belamide says

    29 May, 2012 at 11:41 pm

    Thanks for the information. Personally I do believe it depends on the person’s character and his relationship towards his work regardless of the gender. 

  2. Jane Bolam says

    2 May, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    Has research been done on how women perceive men in the workplace?  Rather than a gender trait surely how someone is perceived should be based more upon their character and ability.  We know women are different to men but that does not make either gender better than the other.

    • Elizabeth says

      3 May, 2012 at 4:30 pm

      I’m not aware of any research on how women perceive men in the workplace, outside of this study. Unfortunately people do make generalisations about “men” and “women”. I don’t think this researcher was saying that either is better in reality, but that people have perceptions of how men and women act in a project management setting.


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