In amongst team members and assists in resolving problems

In this
modern day of equality, there are significantly fewer women holding managerial
positions, particularly in the area of project management. A question that is
commonly raised is whether female project managers are the equal to male
project managers or do women bring new characteristics to the field of project
management, or are they similar to the men? Traditionally, project management
has been a male-dominated industry. Women have been poorly represented in
management fields, technology, construction, and engineering sectors.

Studies
of gender in project-based work started to appear in the literature in past
decade. The number of gender studies in the project management is either
minimal or limited to inequality in employment, salaries at work organizations,
etc. As the modern industry has progressed to become project-based and global
in its organizations, the importance of project management and project managers
are realized. This emergence of interest corresponds to the high growth rate of
the project management profession in the workplace.

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Communication

Communication is a very important skill for
project managers. A good communicator helps in creating a better atmosphere,
making team members comfortable. It increases transparency amongst team members
and assists in resolving problems immediately without the threat of them
negatively impacting the project. In short, projects have a better success rate
when open and honest conversations take place.

In John Gray’s popular book Men are from
Mars, Women are from Venus: he outlines the underlying differences in
communication styles between men and women. He suggests that men and women vary
in their communicating approaches as they have different styles, goals, and
values. (Gray, 1992). Women are more expressive while interacting with others,
and foster an intimate bond while communicating. They use their communication
skills to enhance social connections and create new relationships. Research
shows that women use less powerful speech, they tend to swear less, interrupt
less, and speak more politely. This may be because of their perceived lower
status to men or due to societal norms that enforce gender status hierarchy. As
a result, women find it difficult to network in male-dominated environments and
lack in making the right contacts that would assist them to get on in the right
environment.

 

On the
contrary, men tend to be strong communicators who can deliver their message
authoritatively to achieve tangible outcomes, leading to better results. They
are not acquainted with informal conversations and communicate in a way to
exert and maintain a dominant status. Men are goal-oriented, they value
independence, self-sufficiency, authority, competitiveness, and portray analytical
problem-solving skills. They apply these skills while decision-making and
evaluating information in adversarial situations.

When either men or women attempt to resolve a
problem, men tend to provide a solution while women seek compassion and empathy
(Gray, 1992). Such divergent opinions can often create a rift between either
gender, as each of them view conversations differently.

 

Leadership Roles & Managerial Differences

 

The
experiences of women in both the traditional and non-traditional project
environment offers an opportunity to investigate the importance and nature of
gender relations in organizations. In 2008, the Project Management Institute
(PMI), had registered 500,000 members worldwide, of which 70% were male members
and 30% female members. In addition, PMI’s 2008 Pulse of Professional Survey
reported 68% of Project Management Professionals are males and 32% are females.

This suggests that project management is a male?dominated
profession with significantly fewer women than men in the area of project
leadership.

A study conducted by McKinsey & Co.

states that the disparity between men and women is seen at an entry level,
where men tend to get easily promoted to higher executive roles as compared to
women. Women experience leadership roles at different stages than that of men.

Eagly (2012) explains the ‘Glass Ceiling’ effect that sets a limit on how high
a woman could expect to soar in the corporate world. He suggests that women
face challenges at all levels of the organization and not just at the top executive
levels. This may be possible because
many women feel they are not credited for their contributions in general meetings,
boardrooms, and executive offices. Women are known to have greater responsibilities
towards their families that may curb their ambitions for higher roles.

 

Although there are a few
industries in which women work as project managers, there are sufficient resources
that prove women can be efficient project managers. The
case study in Taiwan construction industry proves that even though construction
industry is male-dominated, female managers can prove to be effective when it
comes to conflict resolution (Tsai & Chi, 2009). Women project managers are able to motivate their team members by
being sympathetic and taking a personal interest in their team members. Similarly,
women are good at multitasking abilities as it can enable them to deal with
change, unexpected risks, and opportunities. Another study described in Harvard
Business Review in 2016, states that female leaders are “bolder” as compared to
their male counterparts. They defined boldness as capabilities to challenge
standard approaches, encourages others to take challenging goals, courage to
make needed changes, etc.

 

Case Study

Mulenberg
presents a case study which compares the characteristics features of women and
men project managers in NASA. This study consists of sixteen project-cases, wherein
eight projects are managed by women and the other half are managed by men. Each
member belongs to different NASA Enterprises and
Centers, has a varying age, educational backgrounds, and types of projects
managed. This study focusses on characteristic features of each project manager
such as leadership, ego resilience, educational qualifications, etc. that are
explained below.

Demographics: The demographic profile of a project manager
may affect how he or she recognizes the importance of project success factors. The
relationship between demographics and project success factors may vary as each individual
may perceive similar situations in a different manner. Demographic data was
collected to determine if any similarities or differences in the backgrounds of
these managers can contribute to the success factors for a project.

Leadership: Project managers are responsible
to demonstrate management and leadership skills. Leadership
is a quality that leads to a successful completion of a project by enhancing the
project team’s performance for maximum effectiveness. This can be judged by how the project managers utilize
their team’s strength in making an informed decision and execute it
effectively. For the purpose of this case study, the leadership scores were calculated
using a set of twenty questions as explained by Jerrell/Slevin Leadership
instrument. (Slevin & Pinto, 1988)

 

Ego Resilience: Ego resiliency is a
capacity that allows people to recover from difficult situations and adapt to
changing environmental demands. People who do not respond well to an ambiguous
environment are not considered as resilient. On the other hand, people who have
resilient egos can adapt easily to uncertain situations. The ER89 Ego
Resilience instrument measures how well people respond to ambiguity and
uncertainty in their surrounding (Block & Kremen, 1996).

 

In conclusion, it was observed that both
men and women were identical in terms of their leadership scores, ego
resilience, civil service grade level, and personality type. Most women had a
varied and higher education level as compared to men. It was seen that the age
range was lower for the women in comparison to men. This may be due to women
entering project management in NASA began in the later years or as a result of
many women moving out of NASA project management. Despite evidence that women
and men are equivalent project managers, the progress of women towards top
levels remains slow but steady.

 

Conclusion

There are many published sources that explain the rationales
for differences in men and women project managers. Distinct
communication styles and influential tactics have caused a difference in the leadership
styles amongst male and female managers. Stereotypically, men are associated
with qualities like strength, task-oriented, competitive while women are considered
to be sympathetic, co-operative, and loyal. Although these qualities contradict
each other, it is important to create a balance between both cultures to
resolve disputes or crisis in an organization. In order to eliminate gender
stereotyping and bias, companies must proactively engage in initiatives that will
promote the growth of female leaders.