Angela Minzoni AlessioEarlier in the month, International Project Management Day included as one of its themes, the role of women and project management. Angela Minzoni Alessio (PhD), a Parisian industrial and business anthropologist, spoke to me about the differences in how men and women approach project risks.
Angela, you have spent a lot time researching the differences between women and men in project management and risk management. What is the main difference in the approach of male and female researchers and practitioners to project management research?
The overwhelming majority of authors on risk and project management in academia or firms are men. They use expressions like frameworks, plan, control, master… This has led to a loss of awareness about the male-gendered way that this vocabulary is used. Men tend to be interested in concepts such as mapping, quantitative representations and competition. Women’s articles (or corporate ones) will focus on topics like training, ethics and networking.
What does this mean for the study of risk management?
This mainly male scientific knowledge production does not make reference to the human risk equation, illustrating the narrow focus of current risk management practice.
Okay, so risk management practices are linear. This is due to the fact that it is mostly men who have researched them. If I can simplify and summarize your years of research, it will be! How do women and men approach risks differently?
The difference is actually upstream to risk management, which requires a holistic approach to strategy and management. Women view risk management as a collective challenge rather than an individual one. The goal is to create a sustainable policy for all stakeholders, not just a new step in personal power.
Xian Zhang, a female orchestra conductor is a good example. Let’s take a look at her expression and movements. Everything tends to the listening and harmonization of the musicians. There are no heroic, jerky or staccato movements that seem almost as fast as the majority of male orchestra conductors.
Xian Zhang, soloist Karen Gomyo. Photo credit: heartonastick on Flickr ( we transpose this attitude to risk management, we observe women will tend to be less impulsive and more willing to listen and explicitly acknowledge feelings such as danger and fear. This attitude is also favorable to the disclosure of errors, which is an essential step in risk management. However, women can still adopt male standards because of the social context in which risk is embedded.
It is worth mentioning intangible risks management, and as an example strategic and competitive intelligence. In this field, men tend to reproduce traditional military/aggressive-defensive masculine patterns whereas women seem to design specific approaches to intangible risks based on dynamic coordination, sourcing and networking.
However, men can manage the risk management you claim is especially for women – if they consider the human element and work collaboratively.
Yes. It is rare to see male managers opt for more sensitive and intelligent risk management strategies than the traditional ones that are based on generality, control power, attacks, bravery, and power.
Why do you think there are such distinct patterns in the way men and women manage project risks?
Women have been taught, even if not explicitly, over the generations to care for their own lives as well as the lives of their children. It is a very important thing.

How women and men manage risk differently