South Africa’s manufacturing sector, which contributes around 14% to GDP, is still struggling to recover to pre-pandemic levels amid persistently high levels of load shedding and failing infrastructure.
Women hold significantly fewer jobs than their male counterparts, despite global equality movements and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) programs taking hold in the workplace.
According to the International Labour Organisation, the global labour force participation rate for women is just under 47%, compared with 72% for men. This gender gap in employment is even starker in project management, where male project managers outnumber female project managers by 3:1, according to recent research from Project Management Institute.
In a sector marked by a talent shortage, the statistics point to underutilisation of skills which women bring to the Project Economy and the loss of diversity in a male-dominated environment. PMI’s Talent Gap report predicts that the number of jobs requiring project management-oriented skills, from economic growth to retirement rates, will create a global need for 25 million new project professionals by 2030.
To better understand the current state of women in project management and where opportunities exist for female workers and organisations, PMI looked at data from over 1 900 female project professionals who responded to the PMI Annual Global Survey on Project Management in 2022.
The gender gap in project management is universal. Male project professionals outnumber females in every region worldwide, but the disparities are most significant in the Middle East and North Africa, Asia Pacific and South Asia. Gender gaps are lowest in North America, sub-Saharan Africa and China.
While women have advanced in the sector over the past few decades, George Asamani, MD, sub-Saharan Africa, PMI, encouraged more women to take advantage of the gains that stem from certifications. “While there is a glaring disparity which has immediate negative implications for project teams, 88% of project professionals say having diverse project teams increases value. Workplace gender equality is not just about inclusivity; it also has a compelling commercial imperative.”
In industries like telecom, information technology, construction, transportation/logistics, energy, aerospace, manufacturing, automotive, and consulting, male project managers outnumber females by more than 50%. Healthcare is the only industry where the gap is less than 20%.
“Women in project management must not be a numbers game. While it is important to have more female representation, we need to look at how we can build capacity and create opportunities for education and training and for women to take on leadership roles. We have a thriving volunteering community in our Chapters across 21 countries in the region which advocates for more women in project management and actively nurtures and supports the wealth of talent and enthusiasm through networking, events, town halls and webinars,” adds Asamani.
PMI’s global snapshot shows that male project managers outnumber their female counterparts worldwide and in every sector, but the gaps differ significantly by region and industry. The report also found that women earn less than men on average and are slightly less likely to have a project management certification or degree. While there are fewer women in the project workforce, they are slightly less likely than men to have a leadership role.
According to the United Nations, women earn about 20% less than men for work of equal value. For female project managers, the pay gap in most countries is below the global average but significant. According to PMI’s most recent salary survey, female project managers earn less than male project managers in every country surveyed.
In South Africa the salary difference between the female and their male counterparts is 14%.
“Stimulating dialogue on female representation in the workplace, especially on occasions like International Women’s Day, is crucial to driving awareness. Achieving gender balance in the sector won’t happen by accident, and deliberate actions must be taken to change the status quo. The Women in Project Management report offers hard evidence of where the gaps are and should help organisations take deliberate and strategic actions to fill those,” says Innocentia Mahlangu, vice president Professional Development, PMI South Africa Chapter.
“Agenda 2063 is Africa’s blueprint and master plan for transforming Africa into the global powerhouse of the future. And achieving the goals therein rests on managing the flagship projects. Organisations need to be intentional about building inclusive workplaces. We can and must do better.”
On a positive note, despite the gaps in earnings and certification, data shows the disparity in leadership roles is relatively tiny. 21% of women report some level of management role, compared to 23% of men. Leadership positions include PMO director, portfolio manager, product manager, functional manager and development manager.
While the total number of female managers is still significantly lower than that of male managers due to the overall gender disparity in the profession, the data shows that women are being provided opportunities to advance their careers and contribute at more strategic levels within organisations. This opportunity to move into leadership is a selling point hiring managers should emphasise when seeking to recruit more women into project management roles.
“The lifeblood of decision-making is data. We hope organisations use the findings to move the needle on female representation in project management,” concludes Asamani.