Is it okay to use the "F" word in project management?

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Well of course using the "F" swear word is not advised in many environments, and certainly not in everyday conversation! What I'm talking about is a word that is often just as controversial, and in fact many women hesitate to use it even though it's a word that offers a quick shortcut for describing what has been defined elsewhere as "a woman who supports other women". 

Yes, gentle readers, that word is 'feminist'.

For some their image of feminism is attached to the idea of bra-burning and a strong politics. Sorry people, but the bra-burning idea is an overstated legend (a small nugget wrapped up in a wad of media hyperbole, and often launched in the general direction of women).

So what does it mean to be a feminist in project management?

Well, as I said, one definition, and the one I like to use, emphasises that it's about supporting each other. Like a good idea finding its time, the recent book by Sheryl Sandberg, former COO of Facebook has launched a lot of women-focused groups where mutual support is the order of the day.

Now I can hear a few male voices in the background mumbling about why we need to focus on women – after all, "there's no discrimination against women in our company". Thing is fellas, there's a long way to go for a lot of women, and until we reach the place where all and any discrimination(s) are eradicated, we need to keep shining a spotlight on all the places, times, and examples where women still come up against the glass ceiling, the concrete ceiling, and the glass cliff (yes – real problems with snappy descriptions!).

So being a feminist (in project management and wider) means supporting women in their endeavors to challenge all forms of discrimination and domination (and that benefits men too). So how about we think of feminism this way – supporting the use of the F word is supporting the ideals of what makes for a just and civil society and a better workplace for all.

Dr Irene Swarbrick

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Posted by Irene Swarbrick on 20th Nov 2013

About the Author
Irene is passionate about helping project professionals to develop and grow into their leadership identity, and their confidence with managing behavioural aspects of teamwork. She consults with the successful, proven, and quantifiable framework developed by Dr Charles Pellerin - The Fifth Force, Team (Social) Context, which has helped 1000's of teams, from NASA to global industries.

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