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Challenging discourse at the WIPM conference

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Diversity, mindfulness, empowerment and ‘just getting on with it’ were all key messages coming from the APM National Conference for Women in Project Management, sponsored by BAE Systems, which was held in London this week.

With speakers ranging from the UK’s first ever Minister for Women Rt Hon Harriet Harman MP, to the co-founder of Green & Blacks Chocolate, Josephine Fairly, the message was clear; diversity in project management is key to world class performance, project delivery and for business success more generally.

The annual conference organised by the APM Women in Project Management SIG attracted a record 350 project professionals to hear a range of leading speakers talking about the issues of equality, leadership and changing behaviours whilst addressing the conference theme of World Class Women.

Josephine Fairly opened the conference with the story of how a brand that took 15 minutes to dream up became one of the world’s most recognised consumer products worth millions of pounds. “People only get things done when they do things,” said Josephine in a call to arms to the conference delegates to take ownership of their own future.

A growing recognition of the benefits of having a diverse workforce was a central theme throughout the day as the conference focused on how businesses, and women working within them, can thrive when we adopt a mindset more aligned to the modern world and how we live in it.

The conference presented the challenge that gaining benefits from a world class cadre of female professionals requires both a change in approach for employers and employees. Equality doesn’t simply mean aligning to traditional male-dominated business structures, but accepts that there are differences in the demands on both men and women, and that these should be accommodated rather than resisted if performance and productivity is to increase.

The stream A presentations - a ‘Different Kind of Equality’ - ran in parallel to those addressing the subject of ‘Challenging Conversations’. Speakers Deborah Hulme of Minerva and James Thomas of Serin Partnership explained how mindset and preparation can be key to benefitting from, and influencing, the changing business environment. The final stream - on coaching and mentoring - highlighted that changes are in fact already underway, with leading-edge case studies being presented by BAE Systems and Shell Academy.

The conference closed with two keynotes; CIPD Chief Executive Peter Cheese explained how cultural shifts in the way we work need to be embraced and that flexibility in the workplace will become a key competitive advantage in future business.

The conference closed with the Rt Hon Harriet Harman’s rallying call to women in the profession to drive the changes necessary to bring equality and diversity. Mrs Harman, who entered Parliament in 1982 when the House of Commons had only three female MPs, has been at the forefront of the equality movement for many years. “Today’s unreasonable demands are tomorrow’s conventional wisdom,” she said. Her final encouraging message for delegates was to “think about the outcome you want”, and “do whatever you need to get there”.

Read our full interview with Harriet Harman MP in the Winter issue of Project journal.


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