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I was at a networking event for a group of localization project managers at my company, in which a construction project manager was invited to give a continuing education presentation. The event organizer introduced the speaker by saying, “Wow, construction project management, you do a type of project management that’s actually hard.” I thought, “Wow, thanks a lot.” The event organizer is a budget approver in my company, and I’m worried that this implicit characterization of localization project management as easy will lead to them undervaluing LPM work in terms of resource allocation and pay. Do you have any advice on how I can correct this misconception that LPM work is easy?
Dear Undervalued LPM,
The misperception of localization project management as easy has a very real impact on job satisfaction and income. A contributing factor to this misperception is likely the fact that localization is a female-dominated field. CSA conducted a survey that was published in 2017 that found that the language industry is populated by more women than men. While industries that are characterized by women’s work tend to be undervalued through lower salaries (fields like teaching or nursing for instance), CSA found that base salaries in localization are fair, though women face the same glass ceilings and men enjoy the same glass elevators in this field as elsewhere. (See “CSA Research Survey on Gender and Family in the Language Services Industry: Overall Findings.”) The glass ceiling side of this equation is most alarming in my view, since decreased opportunities for promotions have a horrible effect on lifetime and generational earnings.
To illustrate the pay gap for project managers in localization, note the average salaries reported for localization project management – an area of practice in a field dominated by women – in comparison to average salaries for construction and software project management – areas of practice in fields dominated by men. From the data, you can see that you can be a software project manager and likely count on six figures for your work, but if you are a localization project manager who overseas the localization of software, your salary is likely to be much less.
|Glassdoor – Base pay||$89,474||$102,285||$79,427|
|Salary.com – Average||$109,684||$107,737||$67,524|
|Indeed – Average base salary||$81,396||$86,493||$72,136*|
Note: The Indeed salary is for the job title “Localization Manager” rather than “Localization Project Manager.”
Figures compiled on January 10, 2022.
These statistics are provided to corroborate the fact that localization project management is indeed undervalued, but the statistics alone don’t help your situation much, do they? (And in fact, the need to constantly compile new evidence to “prove” that sexism and racism exist is one of the most regrettable obstacles to equity.) What can you do individually to advocate for yourself and to address the misconception about localization project management being easy to ensure that your pay/resource allocation isn’t adversely impacted?
It will likely take a concerted effort over time. Find a selection of resources you could share below that illustrate the complexity of localization project management work. You could also address any similar comments made in the future directly, by pulling the person who said them aside, and letting them know that comments like that one are off target. They are not good for morale, they lead to declines in job satisfaction which result in decreased productivity, sense of ownership, and diminished quality of the overall work product in the end.
That is, characterizing localization project management as easy isn’t good for anyone.
I hope these resources help!
Resources for Advocating on the Professionalism and Expertise Required to do Localization Project Management
- “Demystifying Localization Project Management” by Nataly Kelly – In this article, Kelly states, “Project management is a bit limiting as a term, because it can mistakenly lead people to think of localization as merely managing individual projects, making it sound deceptively simple. ‘Operations’ is much more fitting in my opinion. Business people want to believe localization is a simple process, but ‘operations’ implies greater complexity and helps change the baseline conception from where the conversation unfolds.” She goes on, “Most localization projects are far more complex than they seem on the surface. Project managers have thousands of possible localization workflow and vendor combinations at their disposal to choose from.”
- “The future of project management in the language industry: Rule-Based Automation – vs – AI” by Sophie Halbeisen – In this article, Halbeisen addresses the misconception that project management tasks are so easy that project managers will soon be replaced by automation. She states that actually “Automation accelerates growth, and growth comes with a need for more qualified individuals” – not less!
- “Fortunately, the old narrative is changing” by Alaina Brandt – In this article, Brandt analyzes why some of the names project managers have been called – “file pushers” and “traffic directors” – are so inaccurate. Plus, the article is connected to an entire research study on localization management competencies, which span management, technology, languages, culture, and more.