The Wrocław branch of PMI PC actively takes part in supporting job equality. The local initiative ‘Women in PM’ is a young yet very dynamic movement that gathers an ever-expanding circle of professionals and holds meetings every three months. The April edition of the group’s meeting united women with diverse backgrounds: they came from large-scale corporations, blooming start-ups and their own businesses.
The event took place on a sunny Wednesday, April 18, 2018 at the Wrocław School of Business and gathered around 50 attendees. The conference, with intive as the primary sponsor, offered a great occasion to loosen up a little bit and chat about project management in the company of like-minded women and irresistible cupcakes.
Why the ‘women-only’ approach?
‘Women in Project Management
’ is aimed at supporting career-oriented, ambitious women who often find themselves in a highly competitive environment that’s dominated by men. Highlighting the women’s perspective and sharing similar experiences
helps in dealing with everyday challenges and resolving conflicts. The truth is in the numbers: in the tech industry women sum up to only about 25% of the leadership jobs and 20% of tech jobs.
A women Project Manager in the IT industry deals with men and faces mostly the man’s perspective. What does that mean?
For intive’s PM Paulina Gawlicka – the keynote speaker of the event – the most important thing is facing the stereotypes. She’s aware that not all women find the strength to fight the practice of being perceived in the context of physical appearance. This phenomenon is not something we’ve freed ourselves from and, to be fair, concerns both women and men. Another thing is self-confidence and fighting the tendency to undermine one’s achievements.
In a work environment heavily dominated (and led) by one sex a person might obsessively wonder: “Am I good enough?”. Paulina asks, "What kind of a question is that?! If you like what you do, and you put your heart into your work, you can’t go wrong!". The rules are identical for both sexes. All it takes is some time and patience, and the gender gap will eventually disappear, across all industries.
Close your eyes and imagine…
Why not start a speech with a guided relaxation? After all, whatever you’ve got to say, it’s better if your listeners are open to your words. In the case of after-hours events that’s usually wishful thinking. Paulina took us all on a short imaginary journey to a distant island where – most of us – got to breathe easy for a few moments. Paulina practices mindfulness herself and sees the art of focusing on the present moment as something more than just a catchy trend. "If you’re able to stop and really stay focused for a moment in time, you’re also more likely to dedicate yourself to the task in front of you. At work, it comes down to being more effective and in the larger picture – to simply enjoy life despite the occasional bumps", she says.
Facing the challenge
With a fresher mind, we cut to the chase and concentrated on the evening’s theme: managing dispersed teams. Paulina compared the common mindset of team members working in outsourced projects to that of an exile. “Banished developers” often grow feelings of abandonment. The heart of the problem, according to Paulina, lies in the fact that the most frequent objections are often addressed without proper strategy, and sadly, too late.
The key to maintaining a good team relationship is, not surprisingly, communication. Increasing inclusivity is only possible if the dialogue between team members and the company is smooth and open. You can’t overdo good communication: the right channels, the right language and frequent meet-ups are all easier to list than to implement.
Another important factor is a thought-out integration scheme, one that takes into consideration all the different employee needs. Not everyone dreams of skydiving. At the same time, most of us like to celebrate. Since bonding and having fun together are somewhat close, it’s worth commemorating smaller and larger events in the company life with a little celebration.
Another thing that was mentioned by the speaker was the adjustment of company processes. Employer branding, that brings people together around the company values, is not something that can be ditched right after recruiting a candidate. It’s everything that follows the onboarding (with the procedure itself) that matters. All the company processes should be in line with the declared values and the Project Manager must adjust his communication and management tools to the above. Inconsistency always sticks out, leads to frustration and undermines the leader’s authority. Practice what you preach pretty much sums it up.
Don’t just lead – inspire
Implementing all the best practices won’t do much good though if one hates his or her job. Paulina finished off stating the obvious yet worth repeating truth: to be a good Project Manager (or any other professional for that matter) you have to like your everyday tasks and feel comfortable executing them. People sense it immediately if you act with passion and are engaged 100%. OK, 90% is enough most of the time. "Keep calm and do your best", that’s the message Paulina left at the end of her talk. One might add, keep calm and go for it, girl.
Some of the event’s participants already worked in project management and others considered changing their professional paths. What they all had in common were the passion for knowledge-sharing and a positive mindset. Networking gives an opportunity to gain first-hand insights, get some tips and simply have a good time. All work no fun? That’s not an option. Just one look at the smiling faces of the attendees made one see a brighter future for women Project Managers and women professionals in general.