2005 was the year I was in highschool, looking for a university. I visited college after college in New England to search for that feeling you get when you “know” you’ve found the right campus. It was a school called Wells, in New York. It had just changed from a women’s college into a coed school. All the classrooms I saw had 100% female students. Only three men were on campus.
The tingle was triggered by the desire to receive a women’s education. I ended up at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, a single-sex college. It was a great education. I think it was better than the one I received at University of Chicago for my masters degree. The classes were small and focused on cooperative learning. The academic rigor was far superior to that at other schools. Agnes Scott was a college that truly changed my life. It was free from many of the distractions that are common in American higher education (such a heavy drinking culture, Greek lifestyle, and 20-something guys).
While I was touring Wells at the time, Larry Summers (then-president of Harvard University) was also getting into trouble. Although the actual quote is lengthy and convoluted, he delivered a speech at a Boston conference on the role of women scientists. Summers acknowledged that corporate structures are more likely to support married men than they are for women, and he made a reference to “nurture Vs nature” by saying that he believes women are biologically less able to succeed in science than men.
He was forced to resign the next year.
Summers’s statement has elicited mixed reactions from me. Summers’s statement is something I have mixed feelings about. I believe that men and women have different brains, which is why I think I benefited from singlesex education. There was no shortage of women who excelled in science and math at my college, particularly at a higher level than similar programs at coeducational schools, from graduate school acceptance to the number of conference presentations. It is not clear if single-sex academic success is due to differentiated teaching, a more academic setting, or simply self-selection through enrollment.
The debate about biology versus socialization goes back to 2005, but it is complicated by politics, discrimination, stereotypes, and other issues.
Many business leaders are disinterested in wider social issues and claim that they don’t see gender. Yet, they still hire more men than women for the same jobs, even though they’re equally qualified.
This trend is not unique to project management. One study found that there is a significant gender gap in project management across all major sectors.
The top five project management industries are 93.5% male, 6.5% female in construction, 71% female and 29% male in consulting, 52.1% female and 47.9% male in financial services, 68.7% female and 31.3% male in information technology, and 73.4% female and 26.6% male in telecommunications.
Female project managers also have lower expectations of their job after being hired than their male counterparts. For example, female project managers are less likely to be hired for projects that cost $1 million or less than their male counterparts.
This is a sad trend. If you look at actual quantitative studies and not gender stereotypes, you will see that women are actually well-equipped to manage projects.