27 July 2020 | 10:00
Yvonne Schoper

How much do Agile Project Managers earn in comparison to others?

This is only one of the questions we were looking into in our 7th bi-annual salary study of GPM, German Project Management Association.

Never before did so many people participate in the career and salary study in project management in the German-speaking countries: this time 1,650 Project Managers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland actively participated in the survey. For me, this is a clear indication of the increasing relevance of the profession of the Project Manager in our societies. And a reason to thank all those who took part in the survey.

But is a career in project management financially worth it? Our results certainly confirm many project managers in their career choice. We can demonstrate that further education in project management and subsequent certification is reflected in significantly higher incomes. It is interesting to note that especially the holders of agile certificates have higher salaries. Agile competencies seem to be a clear asset for a career in project management. But project managers trained in agile methods not only earn more than their colleagues, but they are also more successful with their projects than others. In increasingly volatile, uncertain times this is not surprising, but our study is the first to confirm this assumption.

On the other hand, it is astonishing that agile process methods are mainly used either in small and in very large companies, but little in medium-sized companies, which after representing the backbone of the German economy. It is worrying that only just half of the companies surveyed have a generally positive attitude towards agile approaches. Our study shows for the first time that it is, in particular, the agile mindset of the senior management that is a key prerequisite for the success of agile methods. There is an urgent need for action here to convince the top managers of the benefits of agile process models.

The majority of project managers in companies have apparently recognized that agility is not an “either/or” issue, but that all available project management methods should be applied to the respective project in such a way that the greatest benefit is created for customers and organisations. This new project design competence is already part of the current ICB4 of IPMA and demonstrates that individuals but also organizations need to continuously develop their dynamic capabilities in order to stay competitive.

It is also thought-provoking that despite the intense equal pay debates and anti-discrimination initiatives of the recent years, female project managers still earn 11.3% less in Germany and as much as 21.5% less in Austria than their male colleagues. The greatest difference consists in the variable salary components: in Germany the difference is 37%, in Austria as much as 56%. The fact that such serious gender differences in salary still exist in Central Europe in 2020 must be brought to the attention of project managers, their superiors and the human resources departments in organisations, but also in unions and to politicians.

But there are also positive developments: the entry cohort of young women earn as much as their male colleagues. It is to be hoped that this new generation of self-confident women will be the first who does not have to experience the phenomenon of the glass ceiling themselves. Current gender studies and also my personal experiences with female students show that young women do not have any awareness of discrimination. This is good and bad at the same time: good because it shows that these young women have been treated equally in school and university, but bad because they thus lack the sensitivity to any subtle form of discrimination in organisations.

This is only a small part of the many interesting results of GPM’s current career and salary study. GPM members have free access to the salary study, non-members can order it from GPM. The comparison of the own salary with that of other project managers serves as a good personal orientation and can thus serve as a sound basis for the next salary negotiation.

23rd July 2020
by Yvonne Schoper

Written by
Yvonne Schoper

Dr. Yvonne Schoper is Professor for International Project Management at HTW University of Applied Sciences Berlin.
Dr. Schoper holds a BSc in Engineering Management, an MSc International Business and a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering.
She worked as a project manager for BMW where she was responsible for several international automotive development projects in USA and in Germany.
Since 2009 she is associate Professor for Project Management at the Tongji University in Shanghai (China).
Her research interests are intercultural project management, future trends in project management, women in project management and the further development of the profession of project managers.
From 2012-2015 she was Executive Board member of GPM Germany where she was responsible for research. Since 2015 she is the delegate of Germany at IPMA´s Council of Delegates. Since 2016 she is member of the Presidential Advisory Board of GPM.

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