Celebrating Women in Project Management


For the last four years, I’ve published my annual women in project management blog for ProjectManager.com. Even after all that time, women in project management are still a hidden key to our global and economic sustainability.

This year, I’m going to spotlight an initiative called #CelebratingWomeninProjectManagement launched by Elise Stevens, CEO of FixMyProjectChaos. Stevens is a podcaster, author, speaker and works with women in project management to reinforce within themselves their true value to their team, company and industry.

This initiative is shining a light on women in project management and highlighting influential women’s voices from our community.

It’s Time to Change the Ratio

A question that I’ve pondered over lately is “Are women continuing to make great strides in our project management community?”  A recent McKinsey report, called “Women in the Workforce 2018,” states that “progress on gender diversity at work has stalled.”

So, what must organizations do to change the ratio?  The McKinsey report says, “To achieve equality, companies must turn good intentions into concrete action.”

There is plenty of data and reports on the continued failure of organizations to address diversity from the bottom to the top and in between. It can become a blame game, or it can become a realization that a change or transformation is required today and in the future.

Many organizations are developing initiatives to be more inclusive in their cultures to improve the diversity and engagement in their workforce, and some countries and states are enacting policies around the makeup of boards to be more diverse. It’s a process, a mindset and a shift to keep our global economy sustainable, innovative and engaged.

Women have choices and can help change this ratio. It’s a choice for women to raise our voices, serve on boards, be empowered women and much more. There are many women globally leading initiatives to shine a spotlight on women, including one of the largest initiatives launched on Twitter in 2017 by Dr Kirstin Ferguson called #CelebratingWomen, which resulted in a book in 2018 called Woman Kind.

Related: Advice for Women in Project Management

Celebrating Women in Project Management

An Interview About Women in PM with Elise Stevens

Project, program and portfolio managers could use a fresh perspective on women in PM, so Stevens took some time to chat with me about her initiative. Here’s what she had to say:

Naomi Caietti: “You celebrated over 40 women in PM in 2018. What perspective did you gain from shining a light on women in PM? Can you tell us about what inspired you to launch a Women in PM Initiative for 2019?”

Elise Stevens: “I was disappointed by the lack of women’s voices online in blog posts, podcasts and webinars. I kept thinking that there are all these fabulous women working in the field of project management, and we hardly ever get to see or hear about their stories: what it is like to be a woman working in the field of project management, what the strengths are that we bring to the profession, and why we bring much needed team diversity.

My overall impression of conferences, papers, books and social media channels is that there are great women doing great things, and yet we never seem to hear about these achievements. I wondered why women are under-represented in the profession. Is it the lack of visible female role models? If most of the voices are male, then women will struggle to be seen and heard, and to feel inspired by the great achievements of both men and women.

If we look at the project management conference environment (apart from PMI Poland and APM in the UK) there appears to be few events where women get the opportunity to learn from other women about how to have a great career in project management, and how to deal with issues that specifically relate to women.

It was time to do something about this imbalance and showcase women’s achievements in the field. International Women’s Day offered a fantastic event to tie into the initiative.

The profiles offered a channel that women can express in their own words the achievements they have made, and how to support other women to flourish in the profession. The project attracted a global response which was awe inspiring.

Being able to share all the fabulous profiles and showcase so many great achievements was beautiful, and highly satisfying. It has been a tremendous inspiration to my followers to see all these incredible women, from all over the globe, share their stories.

My goal for this year is 100 profiles, and I’m looking forward to seeing what this year’s initiative can achieve. Be sure to follow me online to join in; I’m looking forward to seeing the amazing women who step forward to register!”

Naomi Caietti: “Can you share your perspective on trends or recent reports about what organizations are doing to leverage the talent women bring to help businesses achieve the bottom line?”

Elise Stevens: “I find it amazing that we are still having conversations about why women add value to the economy, in 2019.

The 3 pieces of research I point to are:

  1. McKinsey’s Report – Women in the Workplace 2018
  2. Deloitte Access Economics – Westpac Diversity Dividend Report 2017
  3. Workplace Gender Equality Agency Dashboard Report 2017/18

All these reports highlight the economic benefits to organizations and the overall economy for having greater diversity within organizations. Having greater diversity within organizations does lead to greater diversity of thought and approaches. Thinking about new and different ways of doing things can only be beneficial to organizations. The WGEA report highlights that over 70% of organizations have a policy for gender diversity but no KPIs or measures. I know a lot of organizations say they’re big on diversity, but I think it is fake diversity. I am sure some women somewhere are getting all the help they need to progress their careers, but it’s not happening to the women I know.”

Naomi Caietti: “Are you seeing trends that are helping women be more successful in organizations or male dominated professions?  Can you share your four ‘takeaway messages’ and your call to action for women?”

Elise Stevens: “My four takeaway messages are:

  1. You need to take control of your career and invest in your skills: it is unlikely that the organization you work for is going to invest in career development.
  2. Invest in your network.
  3. Be generous to other women: it is important that we all support each other.
  4. We all need to work together to challenge existing cultural “norms” and promote greater flexible working for men and women.

Here’s my call to action: Project management is a great career, let’s all work together to improve the diversity of the profession. It’s time for women to dream big in the industry, and to know that they can achieve their career goals.”

Voices in the Community

During my research, I reached out to a few influential female leaders in project management across the globe to get the pulse from our community. Here are their thoughts and insights on two important questions:

Why is it important to shine a light on women in PM?

“Project Management is a natural place to lead from. When we shine a light on women in project management, we showcase women as leaders.” –  Kate Anderson, co-host of the Project Manager Happy Hour podcast.

“Because for years women haven’t been very good at getting into the light, for lots of different reasons. I started blogging partly to bring a bit of female perspective to a profession that—on the outside—looked very male. We need to showcase project management for the welcoming, flexible, accessible, challenging, wonderful world that it is, so we attract the top talent into jobs, and showcase that it’s a role women can excel at.” – Elizabeth Harrin, director, Otobos Consultants Ltd.

“I believe that it is important to shine a light on people doing great things—whoever they are. If rising to the top on merit and having our ideas heard with openness are not the norm, we need the power of outside voices to draw attention to female successes. Having an outside endorsement helps women—and men—reach their full potential.” – Ruth Pearce, Project Motivator / Coach /Author

“People are a lot more likely to aspire to something if they see others like them achieving it. The Project Management Institute has found that 87.7 million project-management orientated roles will be needed by 2027.  There is a significant skills gap, and we need to look to provide equal opportunity for women and other under-represented groups to thrive and contribute fully to the profession. Project management is also a huge driver of change. One of the basic tenets of change management is that people generally do not like feeling like change is being ‘done to’ them. If we don’t consider the contributions of such a significant part of the population, we are likely to miss key tenets and continue to underperform in project delivery and outcomes.” – Karlene Agard, senior risk and value management consultant

What do you think has been the greatest impact you’ve seen women in PM make in your industry, organization or globally?

“The National Conference for Women in Project Management celebrated its 25th year in the UK last year. It has grown from small beginnings to an award-winning event. Last year’s conference talked about empowerment and the global challenges of gender and inequality. Events like these inspire and challenge women to support themselves and each other at work—I think the impact the different conference organizing committees have had on women in PM over the years is far broader than they might appreciate.” – Elizabeth Harrin

“The biggest impact I have seen from women in the field in the last few years is the material—books, presentations, papers—that are coming forth. We start with the influencers in leadership thinking such as Amy Edmundson with her latest book The Fearless Organization, Susan Cain with her book Quiet and Theresa Amabile and her book The Progress Principle. Then as we look at the professions we see that trend growing too with writers in the field of project management such as Barbara Trautlein  (Change Intelligence), Naomi Caietti (Transform Your Project Leadership), Susanne Madsen (The Power of Project Leadership), Belinda Goodrich (Kick-Ass Project Manager) and Dana Brownlee (The Unwritten Rules of Managing Up). Women are bringing a focus on the human side of professional roles.” – Ruth Pearce

As women continue to expand their footprint in the field of project management, they’ll add innovative ideas and perspectives. One thing that is a common denominator for women and men is having the right tool for the job. ProjectManager.com is a cloud-based software that gives you a real-time dashboard, kanban boards and online Gantt charts that facilitate accuracy and collaboration. Try it today with this free 30-day trial.

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