The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is inclusion…

The struggle for gender equality has been the pioneer for all the other aspects of diversity and inclusion we now recognise in the developed world. The way diverse groups increasingly find a voice, the policies governments and corporations adopt to accommodate the needs of diverse groups and the rhetoric of diversity owe a massive debt to generations of women, who refused to be side-lined.

Yet the gender pay gap persists and other, more subtle discriminations refuse to go away. One that I first began to bring attention to more than a decade ago is the role of project teams in organisations. Various studies indicate that women are much less likely to be given big projects to lead[1], or to be invited onto projects that are most likely to be reputation-building. Given that promotion is less about doing your main job well (that’s a hygiene factor), such projects are the key to positive visibility. 

Over the past decade I have probably discussed the idea of taking a proactive approach to gender composition of reputation-building projects teams with at least 200 large employer organisations. I’ve raised the topic in conferences to thousands of executives and HR professionals. I’ve suggested that top management should identify those projects, which have most reputation management potential and monitor these regularly.

Not one organisation has informed me they have done anything to implement what should be a fairly simple approach. It could be that many organisations are doing this, but not shouting about it. Or it could be that it’s just easier to sweep the issue under the carpet. I’d like to hear from any company that has taken the concept seriously – their example needs to be recognised!

I’d also value hearing opinions and experiences that shed light on why this is such a difficult issue to address – and what conversations need to happen to change that!

© David Clutterbuck 2024

[1] For example, Where are the women in major projects leadership?Association for Project Management September 2018






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