Is it okay to use the "F" word in project management?
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
- Kulich, C., G. Trojanowski, M. K. Ryan, S. Alexander Haslam and L. D. R. Renneboog (2011). "Who gets the carrot and who gets the stick? Evidence of gender disparities in executive remuneration." Strategic Management Journal 32(3): 301-321.
- Legault, M.-J. and S. Chasserio (2012). "Professionalization, risk transfer, and the effect on gender gap in project management." International Journal of Project Management 30(6): 697-707.
- Rudman, L. A., C. A. Moss-Racusin, J. E. Phelan and S. Nauts (2012). "Status incongruity and backlash effects: Defending the gender hierarchy motivates prejudice against female leaders." Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 48(1): 165-179.
- Ryan, M. K., S. A. Haslam, M. D. Hersby and R. Bongiorno (2011). "Think crisis–think female: The glass cliff and contextual variation in the think manager–think male stereotype." Journal of Applied Psychology 96(3): 470-484.
- Smith, R. A. (2012). "Money, Benefits, and Power: A Test of the Glass Ceiling and Glass Escalator Hypotheses." The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 639(1): 149-172.
- Styhre, A. (2011). "The overworked site manager: gendered ideologies in the construction industry." Construction Management and Economics 29(9): 943-955.
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This is the Women in Project Management SIG Spring Newsletter 2017 published in April.