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Empowerment and the advancement of women in project management

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This year we’re celebrating 25 years of the APM Women in Project Management Specific Interest Group (WiPM SIG). It has been an exciting journey for the SIG over that time and it has achieved a lot. I was motivated to join the WiPM SIG because I wanted to support the advancement of women in project management and encourage more women into the profession.

Project management has traditionally been perceived as a male-dominated profession; I think this view is changing, which is hugely positive – you only have to look at the pipeline of talented women coming into project management to see that the times are changing. But old habits die hard in some cases and this can prove challenging. For me personally, the challenge has been twofold - convincing people that I had enough knowledge and experience to contribute to the project and often convincing myself of the same thing!

I guess at the end of day it comes down to empowerment – in other words, how empowered you feel to make the choices you want to or having the confidence and environment in which you can succeed. While changes in behaviour and attitudes can take time to work through, there are a number of small changes that everyone can make to influence decisions at organisational level to empower more women and the teams they lead.

I have done a lot of recruitment in my last two roles and have ensured that we approach each candidate without bias – the biggest challenge has been getting female candidates to apply in the first place! I have also run several International Women’s Day events at work which included internal, external women and students – the aim was to showcase what we do and highlight to that audience the exciting opportunities that exist in Aerospace and Defence.

But we shouldn’t get too hung up on the idea that empowerment is a women-only issue; it goes much wider and the positive change it brings can benefit everyone involved. I’ve always believed that empowerment isn’t just for women, it’s a gender-neutral description that should apply equally to men and women from all different backgrounds.

From a WiPM SIG perspective this is a conversation we have a lot – how do we become more inclusive and give other minorities a safe space to have conversations and raise issues they may not do through other streams? This is a core message we’re keen to promote, not least through the hugely-successful annual WiPM conference, which attracted record numbers this year. I fully expect interest in this area to continue for the foreseeable future, along with the work to tackle the wider diversity issues.

Ultimately, I’d like to think we’ll arrive at place where there is no longer the need for a group to support women in project management, as the scales should have tipped to have equal numbers of men and women in all project management positions, and women (and all aspiring project managers) will see project management as a number one career choice.


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