I’m the only female Project Manager in my department at the moment. I am also one of the youngest, if not the youngest PM, so I really have two stereotypes working against me. Oh. And I am “white”, amongst a very cultural diverse work environment, so make that three things.
Every day, I feel my actions and decisions are being even more scrutinized by my peers. And when I don’t have an immediate answer or things did not go to my plan, in the back of my mind I am always wondering if my “failures” are being connected to my gender. It’s exhausting.
And then I got a breath of encouragement recently from two female co-workers. Neither I work with closely, but both had such lovely things to say. One is a draftsperson, about 15 years older than me, but I can see her youthful soul. She stopped me to tell me how excited she was when they hired me, as they hadn’t had a “young, modern female PM” before and how it was so encouraging.
Then for these past two weeks, there has been at technical lead replacing my current lead during his vacation. This is the first time she and I have worked together, but I could tell just seeing her around the office, she took charge. After her two weeks coverage was done last Friday, we had a little chat, and she said that she really liked my style, for four reasons in particular.
- She had sent me an email about prepping for a meeting with some great guidelines, and within a day I turned it over to the rest of the team for their follow-up.
- Some of our team members are notorious for showing up late to meetings. She commended me on marking down who was late in the minutes of our meeting.
- I had sent an email to the team asking for their input on a file with a deadline. After the deadline passed by almost a day, I went in and made modifications for those who did not review it. I then sent out an email letting the team know this, and to check what I had put down for them and made them responsible for.
- She told me how she liked my response to a lead telling me they wouldn’t meet a deadline because they didn’t have enough people to do the work with an, “I don’t care”. (I should clarify that I do care, and it wasn’t said to be malicious. But leads are responsible for resourcing. If they can’t get their work done because of it, I will support that challenge. But not doing anything about it and then using it as an excuse, will get a short response from me.)
What these examples show, is that my communication skills effing rock, and I don’t let my team mess with me. And to me, these are normal actions a PM should be executing. And I love how these things that are “normal” to me, pop out as extras to other team members.
She asked me if I felt added pressure being a female PM. And immediately I said, “YES!” She said lovely things about how I handle situations and how she really liked working with me. And I took those compliments in very high regard, coming from another strong female. I shared with her my PM approach: When starting with a new team, I have added patience and allow a bit more give and take the time to understand the dynamics of the team. But if the team doesn’t reciprocate the respect, I become less understanding and less forgiving. It comes down to respect. If they don’t respect me and my role, I take the hard lined approach. Which I always try to avoid. Because in my world, an aggressive, outspoken, “don’t mess with me” male PM is successful and excellent at his job. Where those qualities make me a b*tch.
Then call me, Ms. PM B*tch, please.