Women in project management – Interview with Lindsay Scott

Glass breakers Lindsay ScottPlease introduce yourself and your relationship with The Glass Breakers networking group.

I’m Lindsay Scott, Director of Arras People, a project management recruitment and careers specialist in the UK www.arraspeople.co.uk

I’m part of The Glass Breakers group due to my work in and around project management over the last 15 years.

Is the number of women looking for project management roles on the increase?

At Arras People we’ve been monitoring many stats about UK practitioners, over the last nine years of the Project Management Benchmark Report the gender splits between male and female practitioners has been roughly 70:30 in favour of men. Interestingly in this year’s Benchmark Report we focused on the next generation and were surprised to see current student ratios at 53:47 – in favour of women. Whilst this is current student level ratios we will have to wait and see how the ratios end up in the next 5 – 10 years.

Do you think that it’s necessary for women to make an effort to “stand out” from their male counterparts when looking for a project management role?

Personally I don’t think women need to be making any special efforts – after all, would a male project manager be even thinking about gender when it comes to finding a new position? No, what they are thinking about is ‘am I better than the competition and do I have the right kind of experience and skills this company is looking for?’

With over 12 years’ experience in recruitment for project practitioners I would say that the most marginalised group is actually over 50 and male.

How would you advise women to develop their CV for a project management role?

Again, the advice doesn’t differ for male or female. It’s all about writing a CV that a hirer will want to read. That’s the mistake that many people make – they write a CV from their own perspective, failing to remember that actually they need to put themselves in the hirer’s shoes.

As a female working in project management, have you ever felt that there was any competition with men? E.g when going for a promotion?

No – I can honestly say hand on heart I’ve never experienced any bias based on gender.

Why do you think the project management field is male dominated?

I think it’s a legacy thing – the project management industry in the UK decades ago was heavily associated with traditional male dominated sectors – construction, rail, manufacturing etc. Today, project management is across nearly every sector you can think of, so naturally you will see an increase in female project managers. I also think the education establishments have also helped in opening up these once male dominated sectors to female workers. More and more women are working in these fields and it is only natural that they will be considered to PM posts alongside their male counterparts.

The Glass Breakers group’s name is derived from the political term “glass ceiling”. Can you explain in what way this still exists for women in your industry? Also have you experience the “glass ceiling” first-hand?

I haven’t experienced the glass ceiling first hand because I choose to remove myself from corporate nonsense like this and set up my own business! The way that it can choose to manifest itself in the project management industry is for example; women who choose to take a career break to bring up a family, invariably lose a few years of experience which does put them behind males of a similar age. I guess with this kind of situation, the woman is at a disadvantage but then again it is personal choice.

I still think there is a gap between project management and positions within a business that would claim to have a ‘ceiling’, for example if you’re staying within the project management field there really is nothing to stop you climbing to the top of the PPM tree as long as you’re great at your job. If you’re looking to pursue board level roles, that’s a different ball game altogether – after all, is project management a good enough grounding to pursue an executive level role?

From your experience within project management recruitment, do you think men and women are given an equal chance with employment?

As mentioned before I think the over 50 and male thing could be true but it is difficult to tell sometimes. What I mean by that is often the over 50 and male candidate has convinced themselves that they are not going to get the job and that they’re being discriminated against before they’ve even applied. It’s a reason or excuse. Actually a negative or ‘hard done by’ attitude is just as likely to cost you the job as your age.

The only place where I see – mainly women – having problems is the route back into work as a working mother. The industry as a whole does not really have many part-time PM roles, making it difficult in the early days back to work where getting the balance between work and family life is tricky. It’s funny because I don’t see why project management doesn’t produce more part-time opportunities because it is achievable.

Do women find it more difficult to be employed in senior project management roles?

Never seen this as an issue with the many women I’ve worked with over the years.

How much do you think the industry has improved in terms of gender equality in project management?

Again, over the last 12 years, I personally haven’t seen that much gender inequality – perhaps because in the last decade project management really has exploded and can be found everywhere. In the odd cases where candidates have spoken about their experiences, it seems the most impacted area is that of the PMO and some of the roles still being seen as a secretarial role and therefore something that is more naturally suited to a female. In all honesty, these kind of out-of-date bigoted views just seem archaic to me and it’s only a matter of time before these types of people will be retiring! Bring on the next generation!

It is a fact that men generally earn more than women. What is the pay gap like in the project management industry?

Take a look at the Benchmark Report – bottom of page 22! Yes there definitely is! However it is to do with the type of roles they are working on.

If you have any other comments that you think would be interesting to add, please do.

There’s loads more stuff in the Benchmark Report about gender if you’re interested – please feel free to use any of it.

How can our readers contact you?

Via Twitter @projectmgmt


Lindsay Scott

Lindsay Scott, Director of Arras People, the programme and project management recruitment specialists. You can find out more about Arras People and follow me on Twitter and Google

More in the series

Click here to read Women in project management – Interview with the founder of The Glass Breakers women’s network

Click here to read Women in project management – Role models, perceptions & career progression

Click here to read Women in project management – representing the voice of women

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