Having recently watched Maiden, a documentary about the first all-female sailing crew in the Whitbread Round the World Race, I was struck by how far gender equality has progressed. Although the crew were all female, the project manager was male which got me thinking about our industry and how the project profession in the UK has made significant improvements in equal gender representation.
Jan Adams, scrum master, Dorothy Laidler, project manager and myself, Freya Corner, project manager are members of the APM South West and Wales Committee and found our way into project management in different ways. Here we share how project management is a fantastic career option at any point, career progression and how our industries can further improve diversity.
Getting into project management
Jan: I began by studying golf at university but wasn't enjoying it so decided to leave; looking for something more challenging and meaningful. I came across a project management apprenticeship opportunity, went for it and I was successful in the interview. I have progressed across a six year career and worked in five different industries in numerous roles.
Dorothy: I also found project management later on in my career after starting off in event management. A break in my career led me to explore project management as an exciting challenge to refine the skills and experience I developed whilst being an event manager. An opportunity to complete my Level 4 Diploma in project management at Indigo Telecom Group gave me the opportunity to expand my current skillset and become a project manager.
Do you feel you have a clear path to career progression?
Freya: We have different views on this. In many organisations the structure is flat, meaning that there are several project managers reporting up to the programme manager. This could feel quite limiting as there isn’t much scope for promotion, however there is normally a good structure of regular meetings that allow you to discuss your career development plans with a manager.
In your opinion, have organisations been successful in welcoming diverse teams and individuals?
Jan: Depending on the company, the progression route has not always been clear. Some are very good at defining and communicating this, whereas others can leave us unsure of how to progress. The important career move we can always make is to move externally to a more challenging role. This lets us experience new ways of thinking and continually learning. It may also help with achieving personal, professional or salary goals.
Dorothy: Within my sector I know the path I need to take for career progression and where I want to be, however the more senior roles are currently limited for opportunities. It’s important to continue my learning and experience within the projects I manage, so when I find the opportunity, or it finds me, I can progress in my career.
Have you seen adequate diversity?
Jan: From my experience so far, I would say sectors vary in their levels of diversity. The sexual wellbeing industry, I currently work in, has a very diverse workforce – this may be as it’s a relatively newer industry. The project profession has made great progress on diversity. It offers a variety of roles and entry routes. This encourages and develops individuals from diverse experiences.
This year’s International Women’s Day aim is to ‘break the bias’ so here are some tips we and our colleagues could do to break the bias
Dorothy: We should apply/aspire for roles we might not have usually gone for, perhaps due to being fearful that we didn’t suit the mould of that particular job. This will help ‘break the bias’ and inspire other individuals to go for job roles they might have always wanted to do, but felt like they aren’t suited for.
Jan: Ensure you make the same time for your virtual colleagues as with in person colleagues to give both the same opportunities. Many of us have been working from home, which is generally enjoyable but the criticism remains: there’s no room for a casual conversation while getting a coffee. Working from home can feel very transactional and casual conversations build relationships that can lead to career opportunities. I have read a few articles recently about how women are more likely to work from home. We should aim to improve our virtual networking and make time for our virtual colleagues. This will help ensure that opportunities are available to all.
Freya: Both Dorothy and Jan make excellent suggestions - I’d definitely echo the sentiment of going for opportunities even if you feel you aren’t a perfect match as the experience of applying to something new is only going to be a good thing. As a remote worker I have been lucky as our team have a daily standup to allow for those ‘casual conversations’ Jan mentioned. I’d definitely encourage everyone to schedule a catch up (whether that be 121 or getting a team together) to check-in, especially if you are part of a hybrid workforce.
For anyone reading this considering a career in project management I would thoroughly encourage you to explore the opportunities out there, either via an apprenticeship or applying directly to an entry level position. The Association for Project Management also has great advice such as:
- How to get a job in project management
- Six tips to work your way up the project career ladder
- The project management career path