Why Does Product Management Have So Few Women? How Kellogg is Changing This

Why Does Product Management Have So Few Women? How Kellogg is Changing This | Product Design & Innovation | Emeritus

Just a decade ago, the product management space had a healthy ratio of men to women. But in the last few years, a sudden gap has emerged! So much so that presently, women hold only 35% of product management positions. Moreover, the sector is severely dominated by men, who hold approximately 64% of higher-level product management roles. So what happened to the mystical, powerful women in product management? Where are these missing women?

According to Deborah Liu, former Vice President, Facebook App Commerce, when she joined PayPal in 2002, the balance between men and women was 50-50. Today, women only account for 35% of product management roles and are primarily in entry-level positions. 

What’s the reason behind the sudden decline of women in this particular line? Let us find out more. 

Tech vs Business Acumen

Back in 2004, when Google was at the forefront of training Product Managers (PMs), a revision in requirement criteria mandated product managers to have a technical background or degree in programming. This trend of requiring technical degrees for project managers spread throughout the industry. Even women with thriving product management careers at other companies could not switch companies as PMs. They had to settle for different roles as they did not possess technical degrees. 

Many women joined this exodus. Katherine Woo, Head of AirBnB Open Homes, previously worked as a Product Manager at Facebook, where she led Social Good Efforts. She also led major product teams at PayPal and eBay.

She told Liu, “I interviewed for a Product role [at another company], but I kept getting asked technical questions.”

‘You guys know I’m not technical, right? So if you’re looking for someone technical, you shouldn’t be interviewing me.’

‘Well, at least you’re self-aware,’ said the interviewer.

It wasn’t a pleasant experience, and I could see some people becoming discouraged from pursuing PM due to it.”

Another such anecdote comes from April Underwood, former Slack Chief Product Officer. She started as an Engineer at Travelocity before becoming a PM in a gender-balanced team. Despite having coded previously, she later joined Google as a Partner Technology Manager because she lacked a CS degree. “PMs need to be able to drive change via influence and they need to exhibit strong leadership qualities,” she explained. “It’s a role that is difficult to define clearly, and it can be difficult to assess the likelihood of success, so as a safety net I believe hiring managers are subconsciously inclined to resort to pattern matching and hiring candidates who look like them.”

So, what is the ground reality today?

Product Manager Women Product management used to be a very gender-balanced industry. Today, it’s up to organizations to reintroduce the same opportunities to all genders. Years later, the sector conceded that many successful product managers did not really have a CS degree and gradually dropped the requirement. Still, this small change had a long-term repercussion for women. 

According to LinkedIn Talent Insights, only 39% of product managers identify as female. However, when you delve into the reasoning behind this statistic, you will find that: 

  • Out of the limited number of women with a technical background, there aren’t many learning opportunities specifically for women in tech to transition to being women in product management 
  • There are various executive education programs globally, but their target audience is rarely women 

However, despite losing precious years, things are finally looking up.

Why is gender equality in product management important?

According to a McKinsey report, when industries achieve and sustain gender equality within organizations; particularly when women hold higher-level positions: 

  1. Profit performance increases by 15%
  2. Customer experience improves
  3. The company can retain skilled and talented employees

When asked what was driving women out of product management when the required criteria for a product manager changed overnight, all women echoed the same answer – lack of support and isolation. 

So, where do women learn how to advance to a position in product management? How do women switch careers from programming to product? What about women who want to apply for a promotion in product management? 

Kellogg Executive Education’s Professional Certificate in Product Management: Women’s Cohort, provides precisely the kind of support women seek and teaches necessary skills to upgrade and advance their product management careers.

After a successful run with their Professional Certificate in Product Management program, Kellogg Executive Education, a globally recognized top-tier school, realized that they needed to provide a women-centric program for women to rise and shine based solely on their merit.

Interested in this course?

Why has a women-focused product management program been launched? 

Due to changes in technical requirements for PMs, women don’t seek product roles because they are seldom considered serious applicants. Therefore, Kellogg developed this women-only program to help accommodate the return of women in product by equipping them with the hands-on skills required to excel in this field.

How is this program relevant today?

  1. It’s one of the only two programs globally to focus on women in product
  2. There is a 32% rise in product manager positions in the US alone
  3. Organizations such as Women PM and Advancing Women in Tech have pledged to transform the face of future leadership

Who can apply for this program?

  1. Emerging women product managers with one-10 years of work experience
  2. Women with a STEM background and work experience of one-10 years looking to switch careers 
  3. Women in product management adjacent roles such as the following looking to transition into product management:
    • Project managers
    • Program managers 
    • Web developers

Where can you apply for this program?

If you’re interested in joining powerful women in product to become tomorrow’s leaders, click to learn more about Kellogg Executive Education’s Professional Certificate in Product Management: Women’s Cohort.

Are you ready to transform your career?

Join the future of product management and be a part of a supportive community through this six-month online program for women in product! 

Interested in upskilling and becoming future-proof? In partnership with Kellogg Executive Education, Emeritus offers an extensive portfolio of online education programs. Explore all online Kellogg Executive Education programs here.

Browse all online product design courses offered by Emeritus. 

Ready to learn?

About the Author

Managing Editor, Emeritus Blog
Anwesha is our in-house expert on careers, trends impacting the workforce, and what makes content tick. As a journalist and content creator for 10+ years, Anwesha leaves a bit of herself in every story. Her superpower is to take the bare bones and turn it into a winning narrative for brands. Her passion to tell stories of human triumph led her to Emeritus where she continues to weave engaging tales. Anwesha is also a doting dog mom and hopes to make her boisterous canine a pawfluencer.
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