PM data dive

Jan 06, 2020

Women PMs are hungry for leadership and management training, and want their firms to do more in that regard.

Zweig Group just released the 2019 Project Management Report of AEC Firms. This research publication contains data gathered from a survey of 144 different firms and covers topics related to project management practices and the experience of being a project manager in an AEC firm.

In light of the diversity tenet of Zweig Group’s mission and our commitment to promoting inclusion and finding solutions to solving gender-related recruitment and retention issues, via our new ElevateHer initiative, we decided to dig deeper into this data set.

The following three important questions help illuminate the experience of being a project manager:

  1. What is your biggest challenge as a project manager?
  2. What was your biggest fear about becoming a project manager?
  3. What is the most important thing your firm could do to improve project management?

We divided responses to these questions by respondent gender. Twelve percent of project managers were women and 88 percent were men. While the biggest challenge for women project managers was “managing my time” (67 percent), the biggest challenge for men was “managing client’s expectations” (49 percent) – something that only 17 percent of women said was their top challenge. While 50 percent of women selected “managing team members” as their top challenge, that dropped to only 33 percent for men. We were surprised to see that 15 percent of men responded that “staying within budget” was their biggest challenge – something selected by 0 percent of women.

Men and women project managers also had vastly different experiences when it came to their biggest fears about the job. Concerns about supervising staff were the top issue for 60 percent of women, but only 12 percent of men. No women were afraid of “difficulty meeting budget/time goals,” but 25 percent of men had this concern. More than double the amount of men compared to women were concerned with “getting away from the design/technical work I love,” (44 percent compared to 20 percent).

When we asked this group “What is the most important thing your firm could do to improve project management?” women were most likely to answer, “provide more leadership training” (71 percent women, 45 percent men) and “have clearly defined expectations” (57 percent of women), but men were more likely to answer “hire more experienced staff” (58 percent). Men were also more likely to suggest “ more administrative staff to projects,” an answer chosen by no women.

While we can’t conclusively answer what causes these gender differences, it’s clear from these results that women project managers are hungry for training related to leadership and management – leading and managing people is a top challenge, a key fear, and the thing they think their firm could improve upon.

Christina Zweig Niehues is Zweig Group’s director of research and e-commerce. She can be reached at

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.