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Project management

12 inspiring women in project management

Rachel Hakoune 8 min read
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Women have shattered the glass ceiling across skill sets and industries, reducing the gender gap in many business practices. Women often lead by teaching and are adept at scheduling, budgeting, and multitasking, which can make them ideal candidates for project management roles. Women-led teams are less likely to experience unforeseen costs, potentially because female leaders are effective communicators. Plus, women can be strong collaborators and team motivators, resulting in more efficient, accurate project delivery.

Let’s celebrate accomplished women in project management who continue to revolutionize project management techniques and theories. We’ll also touch on how can help women (and men) manage projects and lead teams.

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12 women leading the way in project management

1. Rebecca Winston, Esq., JD

Rebecca Winston is a juggernaut in the project management field. She has more than 30 years of project management experience and specializes in the public sector. Her expertise lies in project management in research and development, environmental restoration, and national security. She periodically advises the National Nuclear Security Administration, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on a variety of topics, including program and project management, risk management, and vulnerability assessments. Winston has been an active Project Management Institute member since 1993. She helped found its Women in Project Management SIG and served as its first co-chair.

2. Carol Bell

As an award-winning project manager, Carol Bell’s career was groundbreaking for women in project management, particularly in the construction sector. She won awards in the property category of the Women in the City Awards, and the Association for Project Management nominated her as one of the top 10 most influential Project Managers in the UK. Her strengths focus on risk and value management.

3. Lynda Bourne, PMP, DPM

Lynda Bourne is a project management pioneer. She was the inaugural recipient of a Doctor of Project Management (DPM) at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Melbourne. With more than 20 years of experience, Bourne focuses on the human aspects of project management and is currently the training director at Mosaic Project Services in South Melbourne. She has also published multiple books on project stakeholder relationships.

4. Christine Wang, PMP

In 2000, AT&T’s California office promoted Christine Wang to global markets project manager for AT&T’s California office. She was the only team member with Project Management Professional® credentials. Wang also made AT&T’s global markets project management procedures more robust by creating standard templates, project plans, and timelines. Today, she is AT&T in Hong Kong’s Assistant Vice President of Global Connection Management Carrier Relations.

5. E. LaVerne Johnson

E. LaVerne Johnson wanted to provide high-quality training and business solutions to organizations seeking enhanced operational efficiencies. She established the International Institute for Learning in 1991, which now has over 500 full-time employees distributed across more than 150 countries. The ILL is a global leader in training, consulting, coaching, and tailored course development, including project, program, and portfolio management. Johnson’s outreach isn’t limited to the business world; she encourages project management interest in high schoolers by offering four academic scholarships named after Dr. Harold Kerzner, a pioneer of the project management sector. Students apply for the scholarship by writing 500-word essays about project management.

6. Joan Knutson, PMP

Industry thought-leader Joan Knutson is an authority on project management. She is an author on the subject, including her top-selling book, Succeeding in Project-Driven Organizations.

During her 30 years in the industry, she has created and developed more than 20 training seminars for businesses and the public sector. She founded Project Mentors, Inc., which offers training products to companies looking to improve their product development processes. She branched out by presenting tailored courses to virtual classrooms for Villanova University and the Project Management Institute. Knutson is currently an adjunct professor with the University of San Francisco and continues to develop its Masters of Science degree program in Project Management.

7. Rosabeth Moss Kanter

While many people may recognize Rosabeth Moss Kanter for her scientific works in sociology, she’s also an innovator in change management who established multiple change management theories that have improved today’s business landscape.

Kanter’s Change model notes that organizations must share information from the top down so all employees can align with organizational goals.

An article in Management Today once noted she was “perhaps the first woman to achieve genuine management guru status.” Boston Magazine named Kanter one of the 50 most powerful women in Boston. She has published several books on change management and related topics and has earned accolades such as the Intelligent Community Forum’s Intelligent Community Visionary of the Year Award and the Academy of Management’s Scholarly Contributions to Management Award. Kanter also holds 23 honorary degrees from universities and colleges.

8. Rita Mulcahy

With more than 15 years of practical project management experience under her belt, Rita Mulcahy spearheaded study materials for project managers taking the PMP certification exam. After founding RMC Project Management in 1991, she developed the PMP Exam Prep Study Guide, one of the top go-tos for PMP candidates. Mulcahy also often spoke at conferences and authored the book PM Crash Course. In addition to the PMP exam prep study guide, she created several project management study tools, including instructor-led courses and e-books.

9. Janice Thomas, Ph.D.

Janice Thomas, Ph.D., is one of Canada’s top project management educators. She found that continuing education courses for experienced project managers didn’t exist, so she developed the online executive MBA in Project Management program for Athabasca University. Her course goes beyond the basics of project management to allow seasoned professionals to bring their skills to the next level. Thomas believes that the project management profession benefits from having a deeper understanding of academic theory.

10. Lori Roland, PMP

When Lori Roland accepted the Director of Program Management in Gillette’s oral care division in 1997, the division didn’t have an established project management office. She quickly built her team from the ground up — 12 North American and European project managers. Her leadership increased product-to-market speed by 47%, with more than 130 products added to the division’s catalog. Roland is currently the Strategic Program Manager of Global E2E Patient Engagement for Janssen.

11. Carol Wright, PMP

Carol Wright heads IBM’s Project Management Center of Excellence and boasts more than 25 years of project management experience. She joined IBM in 1978 as an associate programmer and moved up the ladder to her current role. She co-wrote a white paper that recommended IBM add the Project Management Center of Excellence to its employee offerings. Once IBM gave Wright and her co-writer the green light, they built the foundation for the IBM project management center that exists today.

12. Kathleen Hedges

As President and CEO of Program Management & Controls, LLC, Kathleen Hedges understands the tightrope project managers must walk to prove project management’s worth to executives and program engineers. She founded the Program Management & Controls service in 2013. It offers program management, strategic planning, and project controls support for companies contracting and proposing on the federal, state, commercial, and international levels. Hedges has more than 30 years of project management experience and is an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego.

This is certainly an impressive list, and these women have accomplished plenty that female project managers can learn from. But how many women are actually taking jobs as project managers, and is it a good career choice for you?

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FAQs about women in project management

What percentage of project managers are female?

As of 2020, there were 603,120 project managers employed in the U.S. Of those, 38.1% were women. However, the number of female project managers is slowly growing. The percentage of women in project management roles in 2010 was only 33.25%.

Is project manager a good career?

Project management is in high demand in several industries, and experts forecast the project management sector will grow by another 30% by 2027.

While a gender pay gap does still exist between pay for men and women, females in the project management industry tend to earn competitively compared with women in other sectors.

That all makes project management a potentially stable career option for those that have the organizational and leadership skills — or the desire to learn them through education and professional development.

Project managers of all types can turn to for innovation and success

Project management promotes strategic alignment, ensures better leadership and project direction, and provides for clear objectives and planning. Organizations that trust and encourage project management processes often see an uptick in ROI thanks to budget-conscious project managers, more efficient project turnaround, and more robust stakeholder communication.

Whether they’re women or men, though, project managers are only as effective as the tools they use. supports those in project management roles with tools such as our project tracker and visual milestones templates. Our project resources help you centralize and plan projects from conception to completion, automate project approvals and tasks for a more streamlined approach, and monitor performance to support strategic decision-making.

Rachel Hakoune is a Content Marketing Manager at Originally from Atlanta, she is finding the balance between southern charm and Israeli chutzpah.
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