03 Mar 2020

6 Tips from 6 Women in Project Management

Gender Equity
6 Tips from 6 Women in Project Management

We sat down with 6 of today’s leading female project management professionals to learn more about their perspectives and what they see down the road for the industry and woman in project management.

As Senior Manager at PwC with over 20 years’ experience, Fleur Wiley MAIPM CPPD, puts it, “In a traditionally male dominated profession, to have your opinion heard and respected is sometimes a challenge”. This should come as no surprise when, even within AIPM’s own member base, women still account for less than 22% of membership in most project-based industry sectors.
As our 8 Imperatives for Gender Equity in the Workplace report shows, while there has been definite improvement in some areas – this kind of imbalance impacts broadly on women – no matter their level of experience. Says Jamie Jin MAIPM CPPM, Assistant Project Manager, RPS Group and one of our younger female AIPM members, “My biggest struggle as a woman in PM has been building my confidence and not feeling intimidated or out of place. It can be daunting to be the only woman in a meeting or on-site.”
It’s also clear that often women are required to be better and work smarter than their male counterparts to earn their seat at the table. In Senior Project Manager for the Dept of Planning, Lands and Heritage WA, Sonia Brennan’s MAIPM CPPM experience “Being a woman, it does feel like I have had to work harder and be held to higher standards”.
Also as Kestrel Stone MAIPM, Chief Executive Officer of Elemental Projects explains, “Balancing the needs of my family with the demands of professional life is an artform.”
Says AIPM CEO, Elizabeth Foley MAIPM, “In our report, we have identified eight imperatives that Australian governments, AIPM members and the industry in general need to urgently address to speed up the journey to gender equality in the workplace to the benefit of all Australians. Our study reveals that the undervaluing of women is also impeding Australia’s GDP”.
As a result, AIPM is actively looking to accelerate change and directly address the potential future skill shortages by advocating to remove the barriers to women’s progression generally, and project management careers in particular.
The good news is that with women as passionate and as talented as those we spoke to leading the charge, the project management profession can step into a rapidly changing future with creativity and adaptability. These women have some great insights to share on how to move forward in a disrupting future.

“With rapid changes in technology, standard projects with clear start and end dates are morphing into more evolutionary agile environments”, explains Foreign Military Sales Program Manager for Aegis Combat Systems Alison Causley MAIPM CPPD, “It’s a different way of thinking and managing projects from when I started in project management, and a huge culture shift at times, but the changes are positive and exciting.”

Fleur Wiley adds, “The role of PM has become more agile, and the skills more adaptable and more deployable across a business. We are more connected and teams more disparate. The role of PM now traverses multiple areas incorporating change and taking people on a journey to reach the ultimate project end point.
As a result, Kestrel Stone sees four key areas in which successful project managers will need to excel:

  • exhibit strong interpersonal skills, especially on complex projects;

  • apply a systems-thinking view which supports a better understanding of how benefits are seeded during their project and realised after it by the sponsor/program manager;

  • be methodology agnostic, embracing various ‘ways of working’, such as Agile; and

  • be increasingly required to deliver projects sustainably. 

As AIPM’s Board Director Connie Beck FAIPM CPPD asserts,

“PMs are now faced with being change managers, futurists, as well as managing accelerating projects due to budget constraints. Having solid competency-based training will help any PM ensure that they are clear about roles and responsibilities when setting up a project as more and more gets thrown at them."

We asked our esteemed panel of female project management professionals for their best piece of advice for their fellow women project management peers:

  1. Don’t let others define what you can and can’t do. If you want or have a family, you will be surprised just how strong you can be to meet the challenges that will come and push past the limiting attitudes others impart on themselves. You are you and unique, so define your own story. Sonia Brennan

  2. Volunteer if you can to raise your brand, apply for roles even if you are unsure you will be successful to raise your profile. Take on extra competency-based certification to assist you be recognised in your industry. Connie Beck

  3. Build relationships and connect with other female project managers who you admire and ask them about their journey to their role. Fleur Wiley

  4. Shape the culture that you want to work in – you are more influential than you probably think and even gradual pressure in the right direction can be incredibly powerful. Seek out opportunities to be flexible. Kestrel Stone

  5. Get yourself a good mentor and/or coach who will guide you on your path, support you through the bad times and share your successes. And never be afraid to tell someone to pull their head in when they talk to or treat you unfairly.  Alison Causley

  6. Always give your best at everything you do. Don’t give people a reason to doubt your skills. Remember that every moment is an opportunity for you to disprove any preconceived ideas that people have about women in construction. Jamie Jin 

We are excited to continue to work with these and other women to bring about real change and equity for our industry. As Alison Causley so eloquently puts it “I pledge to stand with the women who want to move forward, stand alongside the men who want to support them, and stand behind anyone who won’t support them – so I can give them a push.”