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Are you part of it? Change and diversity

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The SWWE branch were pleased to host this joint event with the Women in Project Management (WiPM) SIG at corporate member, Atkins, as part of the WiPM SIG’s 21 Anniversary celebrations. 

Our speakers tonight were Teri Okoro, chairperson of the APM WiPM SIG and Sobitha Sashikumar, head of prime, collateral and operations portfolio management office at RBS Markets and International Banking based in London, who together discussed Change & Diversity.

Sobitha has extensive experience in the banking and finance sector and is currently responsible for the delivery of centralised PMO services with teams based in London and India.

Teri started proceedings by providing an overview of the WiPM SIG and an update of the SIG’s strategy; the focus of which is around profile, culture and working collaboratively. To celebrate the 21st anniversary of the WiPM SIG, a number of events are being scheduled around the UK with the main celebration event taking place on 25th September in London. Teri also discussed a number of initiatives that the SIG are going to be rolling out to encourage more women and girls to consider project management as a career choice, such as videos, publications and more joint events. At this point Teri handed the floor over to Sobitha and her presentation, Are you part of it? Change & Diversity.

Sobitha started off by explaining her view of diversity – who you are i.e. ‘brand you’, with the key message that diversity should embrace and accommodate differences. The audience were then encouraged to discuss in pairs why they had chosen to attend this event which was then opened up to the floor. Reasons provided ranged from 'finding out why the WiPM SIG existed', to 'what was being done to promote WiPM', to  'working across different cultures (within and outside the UK)', and 'general interest in the topic of diversity'.  

Sobitha then looked at the different classifications of diversity which sparked a lively discussion regarding personal experiences (both positive and negative), some of which clearly demonstrated the need for organisations to both embrace diversity and ensure that there are clear policies in place to support it.

There are many words that can be used to describe diversity including such varied words as 'environment', 'omitted', 'included' and 'status'. Sobitha used a Wordle example to show just how many there are. The audience was encouraged to look at these after the event and see how these could be matched back to the classifications.  

Diversity is perceived to be a difficult topic, especially given our ever increasing globalisation and working within multicultural teams. Sobitha moved on to look at how projects can use this to their advantage. A key message is ‘honour the uniqueness of each individual’. Within the project environment, what can you call upon from each other to complement each other’s skills? How can the team work better and how can working with rather than against diversity help projects to address systemic forces?

Sobitha then explored the role of diversity within organisational change and culture, looking at global project teams and the advantages that they can bring e.g. innovative approaches to problem solving and greater wisdom and experience. However it is not without its challenges as we operate in a 24/7 world. How does an organisation stand out? Sobitha answered this question by looking at how organisations need to adapt their culture so that it uses diversity to its advantage and how the culture needs to adapt to changing environments, but organisations must keep what works.

Sobitha summarised by stressing how important it is for organisational cultures to adapt and mix their existing core values and new aspirational ones. It is one world and diversity can be used to positively to get the job done.

Claire Mills
SWWE women’s focus


Teri and Sobitha's presentation can be found below:


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