APM’s Women in Project Management Specific Interest Group (WiPM SIG) has welcomed a new Chair, Irene Maposa. As part of our series of articles for Black History Month, we spoke with Irene about her vision for the future of the SIG, the people who continue to inspire her in her career, and her advice for the next generation of project professionals.
APM’s Women in Project Management Specific Interest Group (WiPM SIG) is one of the organisation’s most popular communities, providing support, advice and networking opportunities to women who work on projects and programmes. It also plays an important role in APM’s annual Women in Project Management conference.
The SIG’s new Committee Chair, Irene Maposa, has worked on projects in a wide range of sectors, such as events, healthcare, research, transport, education and innovation. Irene first became a member of APM in 2020, with the intention to expand her network, collaborate with other project professionals and celebrate diversity. Since then, she has undertaken several volunteer and outreach roles, including Graduate Ambassador and WiPM SIG Secretary, among others.
Now, as Chair of the WiPM SIG – a group that has thousands of online followers and draws hundreds to its programme of events – Irene wants to continue promoting diversity and inclusion throughout the project profession.
She lists her priorities for the SIG as:
- Providing practical tools and measurable outcomes that promote well-being and help to manage stress
- Supporting the established coaching and mentoring scheme within APM
- Working through internal Diversity, Equality and Inclusion (DE&I) initiatives with APM Corporate Partners, so that female project managers are encouraged to seek professional qualifications, development opportunities, and skills competencies valuable in demonstrating applicable work experience for senior leadership roles.
- Implementing positive tangible change by raising awareness, celebrating diversity, creating opportunities, and supporting networks within the project management profession .
- Examining key areas of underrepresentation define the key problems of recruitment and retention of women in the project management by evaluating employment and salary disparities for female project managers.
Reflecting on the past work the WiPM SIG has done, Irene said: “This group has a long history of achievement and I hope to build on that.
My predecessor as Chair, Caroline Ojo, was always keen to ensure the WiPM Committee and wider SIG community focused on professional collaboration, teamwork and amplifying individual strengths. In doing so, the WiPM SIG Committee focused on relevant subject matters, collaborated, and delivered an immensely successful APM WiPM Conference in June, ‘Pathways to Progression’ with over 700 attendees and 108 people on waiting list. Following on from that, the WiPM SIG will be aiming increase its performance, image and exposure within project management community and corporate world for 2023/24.”
While incredibly passionate about gender equality in the project profession, Irene is also an advocate for equity and believes it’s important for young global majority professionals to be able to draw inspiration from those around them. She cites APM Board Trustee, Yetunde Adeshile, as someone who inspired her at APM.
“I started following APM in 2019 and came across Yetunde,” Irene recalls. “I was amazed to see another black woman as an APM Board Member and as a Chartered and Registered Project Professional. That was a clear definition of visible representation that sparked my interest in joining APM as an active member. In a way, the visual representation of Yetunde provided a first-pass filter to inform judgments about APM, as I wanted to avoid joining an old boys club.”
Irene believes this ability to inspire others should flow both ways however, with newer and emerging professionals helping to mentor those who may be more senior or experienced. This ‘reverse-mentoring’ ensures mutual knowledge transfer at all levels. But arguably just as importantly, it creates opportunities for those further up the organisational hierarchy to hear and understand the experiences of others.
Irene said: “The project management profession has progressed significantly in terms of tackling challenges affecting global majorities. Undoubtedly though, barriers still exist, which manifest in different ways for different organisations. It’s therefore important for organisations to examine their own practises and engage in rigorous cycles of experimental learning, reflection, and action.
“In the past, I briefly took part in reverse mentoring as mentee to a CEO. I had opportunity to speak truth to power. That experience created a lot of positive outcomes. Through reverse mentoring, I was able to build a professional relationship with that CEO that enabled me to exchange knowledge, experience, and skills. As a result, the CEO took immediate action by working with the organisation’s HR team to counteract unconscious bias by implementing diverse panels for interviews, blind assessment and testing, and developing a workplace diversity and inclusion group.”
Words of inspiration: Irene’s advice for the next generation of black and ethnic minority project professionals:
- Invest in yourself: increase your knowledge and understanding through project management courses and gain credibility through certifications and chartered status.
- Take time to examine yourself, your own capabilities and strengths.
- Strategize your career like a project, with clear milestones and measurable outcomes.
- Build relationships and networks to amplify your voice and accomplishments, as your supporters will carry your achievements further.
- Collaborate and share personal experiences. It will help you come to an understanding that you are not alone and possibly gain insight or guidance on how to deal with a particular issue.
- Enjoy the journey, dream big and don’t let setbacks break your positive spirit.