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In our words… women in project management

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The APM/WiPM National Conference for Women in Project Management, which had over 350 project professionals attending, provided delegates with useful insights and inspiration to become and develop world-class women. The speakers also discussed the issues of equality, leadership and changing behaviours within the profession.

During her opening speech, APM’s Sara Drake mentioned how data shows there is still a lot to be done when it comes to promoting women in the industry. For example, 54,000 women are having to leave roles because they become pregnant and the government is not ensuring flexible working as common practice. Data shows that In the past year 14% of men were promoted in higher management roles compared to 10% of women, and whereas 73% of women are in entry and junior roles, just 32% are in director roles. 

In an attempt to support and encourage the next generation of women in the profession we asked delegates from the Women in Project Management conference to tell us here about their careers, their challenges and their aspirations for the future:

Debbie Black

Debbie is the manager for Finance Projects and Support Team at Baillie Gifford & Co, an investment management company in Edinburgh.

Prior to her career in project management, Debbie spent 15 years in the forces. She has found that her background has been very beneficial. “The military is a very project-focused environment – I didn’t fully appreciate that during my service, but it gives you really transferable skills. You are often leading male-dominated teams in very challenging circumstances and environments.. If you gain their trust, they’ll follow you anywhere to achieve the end goal".

In terms of current challenges, she says she is very fortunate where she is working right now. “There are not so many constraints in the business as it has a relatively flat structure and a practicle ethos. The company really value their staff and recognise that everyone has a valuable contribution to make.” She hopes to use her skills in the future as a senior member of a leadership team. 

Her dream project would have been the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. “There was an amazing buzz around the city - I wish I’d been involved.”

Asha Patel-Evans

Asha is a senior project manager for Royal Mail operations based in Swindon. Holding a PhD in Chemistry, she was been in project management for 20 years, 16 years of which she has been at Royal Mail. Her career has spanned roles in various departments from commercial, marketing and engineering.

She sees Brexit as one of the biggest challenges facing us. “You have to deliver it in a manner that makes everyone feel comfortable and take away the fear factor. It’s about managing the change, as we have done in Royal Mail, as we have moved from manual to more automated processes.”

With an ambition to become a programme director, Asha is candid about the challenges involved. “Being a woman, it’s about making yourself heard and being confident. It’s important to be passionate about the job, be true to yourself and love what you do.”

Christina Vasilogiannaki 

Christina has been a project manager for eight months at WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff. From a civil engineering background, her current role involves managing a big team of different disciplines.

“It is helping me evolve my management skills.”

For Christina one of her main challenges is learning to understand the different behaviours within the team she manages and developing her skills to handle people effectively.

Her ambitions include a getting a role within a leadership team as a discipline leader within an organisation.

Tulsi Patel, Nationwide Building Society

Tulsi has worked at Nationwide for two years where she is a project delivery manager. She came into project management from the corporate graduate scheme and really enjoys working in the area. 

Her dream is to be in a position where she can make a difference. “I want to work on a project that would bring long-term benefits to lots of people across the world, for example using smart technology to improve healthcare or provision of water to those in remote areas."

As someone in the early stage of her career, a big challenge is working out what her next steps should be. “I’m thinking a lot about which direction to go in next – I don’t want to narrow down my opportunities too far before I’ve had a chance to explore where I can make a meaningful difference to society.”


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