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Breaking the Barriers, Bringing in Change
By Sonali Bhattacharya
Equal opportunity brings in equal responsibility for women, says Sonali Bhattacharya.

What is the opportunity? Diversity in the workforce is increasing with changes in the work environment in almost every industry at all levels of operation. With International Women’s Day just around the corner, it is great to witness more women playing the role of project leaders or managers today. While the proportion remains different across industries, it is evident that the professional risk appetite of women has increased. The opportunity now lies in the ability to capitalize on the momentum of changes being built and work towards greater empowerment of women.

Is that a game changer? Yes, it is. Be it a social or business project, it calls for a fair balance of intelligence quotient (IQ) and emotional quotient (EQ). Women help boost the EQ in project management by introducing an element of intuition and augment the IQ with lateral thoughts. Together it magnifies the value of the project outcome. Position her well to best leverage her strengths.

Any rule of the game? Yes, just one. The project manager is a gender agnostic role. The principles are the same and hence, the expectations must be the same, whether he or she is playing the role of an end-to-end integrator, a motivating leader or an inspirational mentor. Women bring in varied styles and it is important for others in the workplace to accept those as new trends.

How to create a fair team? Foster a safe and secured environment for both men and women. Ensure everyone can contribute; decisions are taken with a collective mindshare; appreciation goes to the true contender; and right mentorship is delivered to ensure appropriate professional growth. The key to feel empowered is be equal and no means unequal by design or unfair advantage. Experiment various tools and techniques. Learn, unlearn and learn! Practice makes you perfect.

Is there any area of focus? Among the nine knowledge areas in A Guide to the Project Management Book of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), under communication and human resources, women have hidden differentiators. To hone these skills, women must learn various tools and techniques in these knowledge areas. Women in management need to learn the art of networking, which is key to staying connected with stakeholders and helping in the successful execution of the project. The art of negotiation means to curve out conditional ‘yes’ and assertive ‘no’ in a given situation, and is another critical area of improvement for women project managers.

Finally what is the responsibility? The project manager has a role to play. If a woman holds that role, she must be a role model. As the global work environment is changing, it becomes imperative that she brings in value to the system for women to be respected as leaders. To transform from a project manager to a leader, you need to volunteer for the project management community just as your male colleagues are. Build your network, expand it and continuously bring small values to it. Encourage each one of you to associate with a mentor who inspires you. Remember gender is never a criterion to select a mentor.

Only when women put their stake in the game and break the barriers will the change begin.

(Ms. Sonali Bhattacharya is the president of PMI West Bengal Chapter and an IT business leader in a multinational corporation in India.)
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