Gender and Minority Diversity in New Product Development

New product teams are becoming more diverse and virtual. The opportunities for women and minorities to assume project manager responsibilities are increasing as project firms recognize the need to reflect their increasingly diverse global customers in the composition of their project teams. One of the spillover impacts of globalization of project management is the need to generate a more diverse candidate pool for selection of project and task leaders. But what will more diversity bring to the project management field, especially in the area of project quality management? How will diversity affect the dual quality targets of conformance to specification and customer satisfaction?

Gender and cultural diversity in project management brings both benefits and potential conflicts. For instance, research suggests that in the traditional male-oriented project world, women are now bringing different dimensions to the project management workplace—perhaps more collaborative approaches to problem solving, more sensitivity to teamwork, more focus on new and innovative approaches, and maybe even more focus on scheduling and details. Experience suggests the sad truth that sometimes women have to work doubly hard to justify themselves, their ideas, and their management styles despite their qualifications and background, simply because they often find themselves in historically male project management work settings in new product development. This may be especially true in international project management settings in countries that have fundamentally different views of the role of women in society.

We deal here with women in traditional male new product roles, e.g., mechanical and electrical engineer, and their introduction to project management roles. Five key issues—none of them unique to women—will challenge women as they assume these new responsibilities in project management:

■ Contingency management, being able to use a wide variety of management styles depending on the project situation

■ Working to model leadership behaviors for other women and balance gender and cultural diversity in hiring to the project team

■ Learning technical processes and business systems so they can see the "big" picture and perform with project peers who may have had more experience in broader areas of a given industry sector

■ Adopting central themes that support project success, such as project quality management, and consistently "walking the talk" on those themes

■ Developing their own career paths and development approach, starting with their own approach to key issues such as project quality management

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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