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The Big Debate
Do Women Make Better Project Managers?

Debate participants Ė Ms. Vandana Malaiya, Dr. L. Sharada Ganesh, Mr. Sujith Kumar, Mr. Ganesan Sekar, and Mr. Pascal Dupuis

Mr. Sujith Kumar, location head (human resources), Infosys Ltd., Chennai

Dr. L. Sharada Ganesh, program director (LDP), Tata Consultancy Services
Ms. Vandana Malaiya, director, delivery excellence, global business services, IBM India
Mr. Ganesan Sekar, head, BFSI, Mahindra Satyam
Mr. Pascal Dupuis, general manager, The Leela Palace, Chennai

Mr. Kumar: First of all, why are we discussing this topic? I did some online research on men versus women project managers but didnít find much content on it. My question is: Is gender relevant at all?

Dr. Ganesh: Certain innate traits in women make them stronger project managers. They like to consult and decide, rather than men who like to influence decisions and tell others what to do. Women put their needs later; they are more intuitive, whereas men like to base their decisions on facts and figures. Women want to congregate, unlike men who always want to lead the pack.

Mr. Sekar: Project management is a highly focused activity with a definite objective and both men and women are suitable for it. But I have found that when it comes to change and complexity, women donít do a good job. They prefer projects with a definite scope. Women in business development roles arenít very successful. A project manager learns a lot on the job and when women discontinue work due to social pressures, it is a loss to the project.

Ms. Malaiya: Who manages your home, understands your implicit and explicit requirements and executes them, manages the home finances, takes decisions on anything from holidays to buying a home, tracking and monitoring every aspect of the family, and networks and maintains relationships? Managing the home is probably the most complex project; hence women have inherent capabilities in project management.

Mr. Dupuis: The most beautiful project is to give life and it is always on time. Till the last time I checked, it is still a woman who does it! Whether you are a good project manager depends on what project you are handling and your passion towards it. However, if itís a lady managing a lady, there are problems.

Ms. Malaiya: Very often we push stereotypes. The belief that women will have babies and leave the job is a stereotype. Most of the time she is not even offered tougher assignments because it is believed that she will like a softer role.

Mr. Dupuis: In some fields, men are better suited. Women choose easy options and want what is good for them at the moment. They donít think long term.

Dr. Ganesh: A woman brings in diversity in the thought process and decision-making.

Mr. Sekar: Women have shortcomings, some of it due to societal pressures, but we need to provide them equal opportunities.

Mr. Kumar: I found a 2007 study that said that out of 38 traits needed for a project manager, women fare better in 21 traits. There are fewer projects handled by women that are abandoned. More women-managed projects are delivered on time and there is better scheduling and resource management. Hence, Iíd say women make better project managers.
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