Guiding girls to the project profession

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Project management certainly doesn’t sound as exciting as building something or going shopping! How do we promote project management to children, and girls in particular?

I led a Girlguiding unit for 30 girls aged 10-14 (Guides) in north west London, and one activity we’ve run with different groups is the ‘construction game’. A tower is made from newspaper and put in another room. The Guides get themselves into teams and one person from each team can go and look at the structure for two minutes. The aim is to recreate the structure in your team.

How do you select the person to go and look at the structure? How do you agree who is the team leader?

Then there are the other roles to share out – the buyer of materials (shopping!), the keeping of the account (finance!), the monitoring of time, and the building of the tower. Should you spend more money ‘buying’ more newspaper? Should you spend more money ‘buying’ more time? Should you save some money and hit the original deadline?

In the end it’s less about which group built a tower like the model, and more about how each group worked as a team – the sense of achievement that comes when a shared goal is realised.

The Guides would never see this as project management, but that’s exactly what it is. They enjoy the variety of roles, taking responsibility for different parts of the ‘project’, and above all they enjoy working as a team and achieving a shared goal.

Giving children more hands-on experience is an approach we could all be taking. Trying things out, giving it a go and living the experience would make project management more real.

Girlguiding asked over 2,000 girls and young women aged 7 to 21, both inside and outside guiding, how they feel about the specific and emerging pressures facing them today, and what these mean for their happiness, wellbeing and opportunities in life. Since 2009, Girlguiding has delivered the Girls’ Attitudes Survey – research asking girls and young women how they feel about their everyday lives.

Our recent report shows that three in five (61 per cent) girls and young women aged 11 to 21 feel, or have felt, under pressure to make decisions about their future career. Just under half (47 per cent) have felt pressured to follow a particular path, such as going to university. A significant minority (26 per cent) don’t feel opportunities are presented to them to explore different skills at school, college or university, or careers targeted traditionally at men. Some (41 per cent) think there are still certain subjects or careers people expect them to do because they’re a girl.

This can’t be right and we can all help change this for the better.

Many in the survey suggested ways that society could treat girls more equally, from changing the mindset that women aren’t as good as men at certain things (such as building or fixing things), to ensuring equal pay across the workforce and being able to study and have careers that are often targeted towards men.

Girls want an end to the damaging stereotypes that limit their opportunities. They want to be valued for themselves, and not judged or told they must do certain things because they’re girls.

During these COVID-19 times, children have had to try to manage projects – managing online learning from home with others needing laptops or Wi-Fi (resource management), learning to mix doing work and taking breaks (time management), planning their work and monitoring their own progress. If we can better equip our young people to manage the projects in their lives, our industry will have made a key contribution to sustaining and supporting future generations.

Many of us come into contact with children through our families and friends’ families. Let’s start there and make a difference to the lives of young people.


Image: Lorelinka/Shutterstock

Amanda Medler

Posted by Amanda Medler on 16th Oct 2020

About the Author

Amanda Medler is an Honorary Fellow of APM and the chief guide of Girlguiding, the UK's leading charity for girls and young women. She has been involved in guiding her whole life and has been a Girlguiding qualified trainer since 2003. In addition, Amanda is a senior consultant at Adapta Consulting, an organisation that specialises in working with charities, membership organisations and other not-for-profit organisations. She has also been worked as a senior project manager for Citizens Advice.

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