‘Think equal, build smart, innovate for change’, the UN Women’s theme for International Women’s Day 2019 articulates succinctly what being a female project manager is all about.
Building and borrowing from this theme, let’s look at some tips for women in project management in today’s competitive and dynamic business environment.
10 Tips for Women in Project Management
- Think equal. Let’s be honest, it is about the best project manager for the project – not about being female. Like any role, being a project manager is a combination of skill, experience and often personal tenacity. Think equal – be equal.
- Get a Mentor (but understand first what a mentor is). Don’t be afraid to ask someone who you admire and who inspires you as a project manager to be your mentor. Recognise though that a mentor is not going to tell you what you should do next on your project or make decisions for you. Think of your mentor as a trusted advisor who you can bounce off ideas and benefit from their experiences. A good mentor listens rather than talks, and provides guidance, motivation, emotional support; they are your role model.
- Know thyself (both strengths and, yes, weaknesses). Regardless of our gender, we simply cannot excel at everything. Be honest with yourself and recognise areas you need to work on, whilst making the most of your strengths. Don’t try to over excel on your strong areas at the risk of neglecting others.
- Continuous learning and training. Never underestimate the importance of upskilling, continuously learning and improving. Experience is important but so too are training and accreditations to not only demonstrate your commitment to project management, but your ability to adapt and apply leading global best practice. Consider, for example, your exposure to agile – are you comfortable in a project running in an agile environment? Alternatively, how about working in a PRINCE2® or PRINCE2 Agile® project? Ensure you take the time to put together a training plan for your own personal development. Invest in yourself.
- Empower your team. Projects are about people: the customer, subject matter experts, and other stakeholders. Empower, respect and support your team. Be transparent with your team, encourage transparency from them (think status updates) and foster a ‘no blame’ environment.
- Be seen to be doing (not just talking). The 17th proverb ‘Actions speak louder than words’ still rings true today. If you commit to do something – do it! Words are meaningless until you act upon them. Gain a reputation for being a ‘doer’, not just a ‘talker’; be someone who makes things happen.
- Be respected for who you are. Don’t try to fit in or expect to be liked by everyone. Projects impact many people; as a project manager you cannot please everyone. Gain respect for doing the right things for the project and the organisation and delivering. Don’t sacrifice credibility for like-ability.
- Be a leader, not just a manager. Being a project manager (PMs) isn’t just about managing tasks like scheduling and reporting. Successful PMs are project leaders, inspiring, listening, motivating and supporting their team. At times this may require you to be empathetic but tough, flexible but organised, diplomatic but upfront, driven but collaborative.
- Build smart and innovate for change. Projects are about change – be it to people, process or technology. But they shouldn’t be about change for change sake or re-inventing the wheel. Focus on the goal of the project and what value means for your customer. Be smart, build smart.
- Believe in yourself. You have the skills, training and experience. There are many great women PMs out there.
To paraphrase the UN Women: To empower a female project manager is to empower an organisation.
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