Women in Project Management

Opportunities for Leadership Success



By Michael J. Littman, Ph.D.
SUNY Buffalo State, Fellow: Brandeis University, USA

Lorena D. Mathien, Ph.D.
SUNY Buffalo State, USA

Ezra S. Littman, M.S.
SUNY Buffalo, USA




There is an increasing gap worldwide between employers’ need for skilled individuals in project management and the availability of professionals to fill these roles. This indicates significant current and future opportunities in the field of project management.

It is vitally important and ethically sound to close the current opportunity gap for women in project management by providing women a chance to utilize their leadership skills for successful project execution and completion. Since studies have shown women are as competent, or more competent, leaders who are typically underrepresented in project management, it would be vital to consider increasing the hiring of female project managers for the sake of gender equity, ethical leadership, and project success. This is a strategy to reduce the opportunity gap for women and the continuing need to fill professional positions in project management.

There are several recommendations made to utilize the leadership skill sets of women that can meet the projected need for female project managers. Of the various skills required by project managers, three categories of skills include: 1) main leadership skills, including communication and ethical behavior, 2) relationship skills, including collaboration/teamwork, inspiration/motivation, and development of others, and 3) task skills, including delivering results, analysis, and problem solving.

Key words: project management, women in project management, leadership skills

JEL code: L21, L29, M14


Results from the Project Management Institute (PMI) study “Job Growth and Talent Gap 2017 to 2027” (PMI, 2017) indicate that there is widening gap worldwide between the industry need for skilled project managers and the availability of professionals to fill those roles. This points to significant current and future opportunities in the field. There are several catalysts for this gap, including:

  • A dramatic increase in the number of jobs requiring project oriented skills,
  • Attrition rates, including professionals retiring from the workforce, and
  • A significant uptick in demand for project management talent, especially in rapidly developing economies such as China and India (PMI, 2017).

Also of importance is the gender inequality in hiring for positions in various fields, including project management leadership, which has been historically male dominated. According to one study, reported by Berger (2016) there is a large gender disparity across all major sectors within the leadership of the project management field. Based on the top five project management industries, construction is 93.5% male and 6.5% female, telecommunications is 73.4% male and 26.6% female, consulting services is 71% male and 29% female, while information technology is 68.7% male and 31.3% female. There is more parity in in financial services where it is 52.1% male and 47.9% female (Berger, 2016).

Based on their skills, background, and experience, women are in a strong position to succeed as project managers when provided the opportunity to lead larger projects in more venues, as mentioned above, as well as in the growing field of health care. It is important and necessary to reduce this opportunity gap for women in project management.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study was to analyze leadership skills important to project management success and review the most valuable set of skills that can be exhibited by women leading to personal and career growth on a path for success in project management.  This will help reduce the gap in opportunities for women and reduce the gap in employment shortfalls in project management.


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Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper was originally presented at the 9th Scientific Conference on Project Management in the Baltic States at the University of Latvia in April 2020 and published in the journal “Project Management Development – Practice and Perspectives”, ISSN 2256-0513.  It is republished here with the permission of the authors and publisher.

How to cite this paper: Littman, M.J.; Mathien, L.D.; Littman, E.S. (2020); Women in Project Management: Opportunities for Leadership Success; presented at the 9th Scientific Conference on Project Management in the Baltic States, University of Latvia, April 2020; republished in the PM World Journal, Vol. IX, Issue VIII, August.  Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/pmwj96-Aug2020-Littman-Mathien-Littman-women-in-project-management.pdf



About the Authors

Michael J. Littman, PhD

Buffalo, New York, USA


Prof. Dr. Michael J. Littman (SUNY: Buffalo State, USA. University of Haifa, Israel)Michael J. Littman, chair and associate professor of business, is recognized for his consistently superior, student-focused, and innovative teaching skills, sound scholarship, and exceptional level of service to Buffalo State students. His strong commitment to students’ starts with advisement, extends into the classroom, and stretches to their post-graduate careers.

Prof Littman has a long record of positive impact on student growth and performance through a variety of offerings, including freshman seminars, senior seminars, honors sections, and graduate-level courses, plus courses cross-listed in history and communications. He has taught 42 different undergraduate and graduate courses at Buffalo State. The focus of his teaching has been to instill and develop the positive personal and professional skills that students need for a rewarding role as ethical leaders in their profession and community. He has also mentored international faculty through the Fulbright program and African Regional International Scholar Development Internship program.

Littman also has a strong record of scholarship that supports his excellence in the classroom. He is an internationally recognized scholar and consultant who is often requested to collaborate with a European network of partners. He has participated in projects in the Netherlands, Latvia, and Germany. He has a long history of being a requested reviewer by journals and textbooks in a variety of business areas. He also has served his community as a two-term president of the Williamsville Central School District Board of Education and has served as a member of the Buffalo’s Superintendent Advisory Council on Occupational Education.

Prof. Littman can be contacted at LITTMAMJ@BuffaloState.edu.


Lorena D. Mathien, PhD

New York, USA


Dr. Lorena Mathien received her Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Buffalo (UB) in Operations Management and Strategy (minor: Management Information Systems) in 2012, her MBA with a concentration in International Business from UB in 1996, and her BS in Marketing Management from Syracuse University in 1992. She maintains her CPIM (certified in production and inventory management) certification from APICS (American Production and Inventory Control Society) and her PMP (project management professional) certification from PMI (Project Management Institute). She has over 20 years of industry experience and independently contracts on smaller projects with local companies. For more, visit https://business.buffalostate.edu/faculty/lorena-d-mathien


Ezra S. Littman

New York, USA


Ezra S. Littman, M.S. holds a Master’s degree in Real Estate Planning and Development from the School of Architecture at SUNY Buffalo. He earned his B.S. from the School of Management at SUNY Buffalo in International Business and also studied at the Singapore Institute of Management. Ezra had co-authored several papers in business and project management. He is a licensed real estate agent and entrepreneur.  He can be contacted at ezralittman@gmail.com.