Male vs. Female Project Managers


I have previously written two articles about what particularly masculine attributes make men successful project managers (“Do Men Make the Best Project Managers?”) and what particularly feminine attributes make women successful project managers (“Do Women Make the Best Project Managers?”). Many of the comments and tweets that these two articles generated suggested that masculine and feminine personality traits can appear in both men and women.


So I thought it would be interesting to share my thoughts on the balance of masculine and feminine traits in both genders and what combination might make the ideal project manager. Although defining an ideal project manager is not particularly easy as the type of project manger best suited to project management will vary depending on the type of project and the type of industry.


Some of the male dominated industries such as engineering and construction are better suited to a project manager with a high proportion of masculine traits (although that doesn’t necessarily exclude women) simply because they speak the same language and handle projects in a way that project teams are familiar with. Of course, that doesn’t mean it is the best way but projects usually have plenty of hurdles to overcome without adding unnecessary ones.


So what are the traits typically associated with each gender?


Feminine traits

°         Good Communicators

°         Collaborative way of working

°         Motivating teams by taking a personal interest

°         Making the complex simple

°         Defusing conflict

°         Innovative and creative


Masculine Traits

°         Authoritative Communicators

°         Competitive behaviour creates an environment for success

°         Motivating teams by encouraging everyone to achieve their best

°         Effective persuasion skills

°         Challenge existing practises

°         Risk-inclined


It is obvious from these lists that plenty of men possess “feminine” personality traits and vice-versa.

So a female project manager adept at building loyal, motivated teams, creating a working environment that encourages creativity and innovation, and who can defuse conflict and prevent it from de-railing a project might be particularly successful if she is also an authoritative and convincing communicator who relishes challenge and risk.


Similarly a man who has strong persuasive skills, encourages competition within the team to create a “can-do” attitude and takes calculated risks might thrive as a project manager if he also takes a personal interest in the team members and encourages individuals and teams to work collaboratively.


For any project manager to be successful they also need to stay focussed on the business objective, to ensure they deliver what is actually required, and keep the budget and schedule under tight control.


There is much that can be learnt about project management on one of the many project management courses available but the personality traits, whether masculine or feminine, that influence the success of a project are much harder to learn.