Project Management, Women, and India

Soma Bhattacharya in black and white

This is a guest post by Soma Bhattacharya, the project manager behind Stepping into Project Management.

I returned home to India to find it very different from what I had left behind 6 years ago.

India is growing everyday and considered the hub of outsourcing for IT and other domains.

I grew up in a household of PhD’s and with my mom a research scientist, yet I knew very early on that we were not part of the norm for the majority of households during that period of time. A very small percentage of women went out then and were considered professionals.

Today things are very different. My friends in India are all happily employed with high paying jobs that lead to a fine balance of living the life of traditional expectations and Friday hangouts at pubs, expensive restaurants, coffee shops and hours of MAC shopping.

Amidst all the growth in the changing work culture, women and project management is a rarely seen combination. Deepa Koshy, a PMP with 11 years of experience work experience in India thinks that, “women are opting out of high profile/responsibility positions to be able to balance home and work”.

Professor Pawan S. Budhwar from Aston Business School, is an expert on human resource management issues in India. In the study Women in Management in the New Economic Environment, he and his research team point out that, “developments in information technology and related services sectors are helping women in India to move out of their traditional household roles and develop a career in organizations” (cited in the Society for Human Resource Management).

It’s true, and clearly women with higher education have more interest in independence, are career-oriented and focused on moving up the ladder. The key challenge for women who are also managers is managing both their traditional role as the home maker and their career.

I personally know female managers in the IT sector who are tired of fighting to keep up with their current roles and are more intent on leaving the job than continuing. Children end up being a very important reason. While men continue with their growth and job profiles, women get tired of juggling high pressure professional roles and continue being the primary sole caregivers at home. Some quit and some downsize their careers.

As Deepa Koshy rightly puts the reason behind it all is that, “there is thinking that the money the woman earns is dispensable in a dual income household. This seems to be a justification for opportunities for growth going for men (because they have a need for it!)”

While women in India continue to grow, look beyond their current roles, change their wardrobes – the fight to make a place for themselves in projects is not easy. Female Project Managers barely make it onto the magazine covers, don’t get the best projects and are considered not the right fit to travel for work.

But hopefully the next couple of years will bring in more change for women and project management, as Deepa concludes: “I think we are definitely on a growth trajectory with respect to this issue as can be seen in the increasing number of women in project management and other leadership positions. So I definitely see light at the end of the tunnel.”

Soma Bhattacharya runs the blog Stepping into Project Management, and the project management mentoring site of the same name. This aims to match up newbie project managers with experienced professionals for knowledge sharing and mentoring.