The Art of Project Management: Expert advice from experienced project managers in Silicon Valley, and around the world
TOPICS:

One of the Few Women at Work

business team work(This article is part of a series originally published in Japan by ALC Press English Journal, and is written in “Global English”. CLICK HERE to see the accompanying video, spoken in “Global English”.)

QUESTION:  “I’m one of the few women in a leadership position in my company, and often I’m the only woman at meetings. Sometimes I feel lonely. Please help!”

ANSWER:  I feel your pain! I’m a physicist by education, and have worked mostly with men my entire career, so I know what it’s like to work in your situation. While about half of all workers are women, there are still relatively few women in leadership positions. And the higher up the hierarchy you go in most organizations, the fewer women there are. This is truly a pity because research has shown that companies with more women in leadership positions are more successful. Although I truly love working with my men colleagues, being one of only a few women leaders in an organization – and the only woman in meetings – can be challenging.

You’re not alone! Gradually more women are being promoted to leadership positions in organizations. And the coming shortage of workers in the developed world in the next decade or so will accelerate women’s participation in the business leadership. This is especially true in countries like Japan and Germany, which will experience the greatest shortage of workers! But, how can you survive until other women leaders appear in your workplace? Here are a few approaches that have worked for me.

Have a “Girls Night Out”. Occasionally schedule a social event with other women leaders at your company. This will give your spirits a much-needed boost, and strengthen valuable relationships.

Start a professional women’s network. Organize periodic events with other women leaders within your company focused on increasing women’s contributions to the business success. Some ideas are hosting “Lunch & Learn” speakers, or a business book reading club. Oh, and don’t exclude men! They can be very supportive of expanding women’s contributions at work.

Join a professional women’s association. There are many women leaders in other companies who are in the same situation as you. Seek them out via professional associations. In my experience women professionals are extremely generous in sharing their experience and advice with each other.

Reach out to men, too! Build strong relationships with your male colleagues. Don’t be afraid to seek their advice, invite them to join you for lunch, or ask them for help. If you show sincere interest in them, listen generously to their stories, and express your appreciation, they will naturally be more supportive of you.

Get a mentor. Both women and men mentors are extremely valuable. A male mentor in a more senior leadership position can help you feel more connected to what’s happening in your company. Don’t run up to someone and ask him or her to be your mentor. Start by approaching someone you respect and saying “I admire you, and would very much appreciate your guidance and advice on my career. Would you be available to have a conversation over a cup of tea with me sometime?” If the conversation goes well you can say “This was such a valuable experience! Would you be willing to meet with me periodically to continue our conversation?”

Maintain friendships. Don’t rely only on work to satisfy your need for female companionship. Stay in touch with women friends outside of work. Too busy? Make time! I find a regular “gal pal” social event restores my sense of humor and heals my tattered soul.

As a woman in a leadership position, you’re a trailblazer. Women’s contributions are absolutely vital to business success in this world, and I believe women must step up to playing a bigger role in solving the problems we face as a planet. Being a trailblazer can feel a bit lonely at times. Reach out, stay connected, and don’t even think of giving up! Change is coming.

Share

About the Author

Kimberly Wiefling is the author of one of the top project management books in the US, "Scrappy Project Management - The 12 Predictable and Avoidable Pitfalls Every Project Faces", and the founder of Wiefling Consulting, LLC, a scrappy global consulting enterprise committed to enabling her clients to achieve highly unlikely or darn near impossible results, predictably and repeatedly. Her work focuses on keynote speaking and workshops on practical and sensible business leadership and project/program management scaled for the size of the company and the project. She has worked with companies of all sizes, including one-person ventures and those in the Fortune 500, and she has helped to launch and grow more than half a dozen startups, a few of which are reaping excellent profits at this very moment. She spends about half of her time working with Japan-based companies that are committed to developing truly global leaders. Kimberly holds a B.S. in Chemistry and Physics from Wright State University and a M.S. in Physics from Case Institute. She spent 10 years at HP working in product development project management and engineering leadership. She worked with several startups, including a Xerox Parc spinoff where she was the VP of Program Management. In 2001 she launched her consulting practice and never looked back. She holds a certificate in project management through UC Santa Cruz Extension, where she is an instructor in the Project and Program Management Certificate Program. Kimberly spends about half of her time facilitating leadership, communication and execution excellence workshops for leaders of Japanese companies committed to becoming truly global. Thousands of people have viewed the hysterical video documenting the final phase of completing her book at www.youtube.com/watch?v=KDCJBu3rdvk. You can reach her via email at kimberly@wiefling.com
Creative Commons License
Note: This work and all associated comments are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

Leave a Reply

*