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Project Politics - Challenges and Solutions for Women in Project Management

Updated: Jun 20




Have you ever experienced a project with


  • changing or clashing priorities, 

  • endless misunderstandings and

  • a lot of politics, hidden agendas and pressure from different stakeholders?


How have you felt during these times?

Calm and confident or stressed and frustrated? 

Maybe even annoyed, because you were not seen and just wanted the get things done and move on.

I have been in these situations several times: frustrated, stressed and tired. 

This did not only have a negative impact on my projects but sometimes even on my relationships or my health. I was less present at home with little energy. And I didn’t feel like going for a run, because I was too tired.


The Unique Challenges Faced by Female Project Managers

Project politics, however, does not go away. As long as people are working together, there will be different levels of power and influence – hence politics. You may even have similar situations at home.


  • Gener Bias and underrepresentation


Navigating this obscure web of politics can be a daunting task. For female project managers, like us, this challenge is often compounded by unique struggles such as gender bias and underrepresentation.


  • Different Communication Styles


It is also fair to say, that communication and networking styles differ between men and women. Moreover, women often feel less seen or underestimated. 

Gender bias remains a major hurdle. Despite progress in workplace equality, many female project managers still face scepticism about their abilities.

This bias can manifest itself in a variety of ways, from being overlooked for leadership roles to having their decisions second-guessed more often than their male counterparts.

A survey by the Project Management Institute found that only 30% of project managers worldwide are women, highlighting the issue of under-representation. (https://www.pmi.org/learning/thought-leadership/women-in-project-management-2023)


The Impact of These Challenges


These challenges have far-reaching impacts:


  • from lack of career advancement opportunities,

  • to increased stress,

  • and even job dissatisfaction.

  • Underrepresentation can result in fewer role models and mentors for aspiring female project managers.

  • Moreover, companies are not leveraging their full innovation potential by not thriving with diverse project leaders.


PMI also found out in their study, that women are more likely to use agile and hybrid approaches, use advanced technologies for project management, and place a higher value on power skills. 

So, what can you, as a female project manager do, to manage project politics with confidence?


Concrete Action Items for Female Project Managers


  1. Building Networks: Establishing a strong professional network is crucial. Building solid relationships within your organisation, with key stakeholders and your project sponsors, will help you to use your influence for the good of your project. It will strengthen your role and increase your project success. Joining women networks or industry associations will allow you to gain access to potential mentors, sponsors, and peers who can offer support and guidance. 

  2. Developing Communication Skills: Effective communication, that is adjusted to the need of your stakeholders, is key to navigating project politics. Invest in trainings to enhance your negotiation, conflict resolution, and presentation skills. There are a lot of free online trainings. Practical trainings that include role plays are particular effective. You could also ask a colleague you trust, to “play” your counterpart and the two of you can roleplay a difficult situation. Clear and confident communication helps in asserting your ideas and gaining buy-in from stakeholders. 

  3. Understanding Organizational Dynamics: Understanding the power structures and decision-making processes within your organization is vital. This knowledge enables you to strategize better, network with the right people and align your projects with organizational goals. By conducting in depth stakeholder analysis and stakeholder profiling, you will uncover the power and influence structure for your project.

  4. Advocating for Yourself: Getting heard, accepted and respected as a project leader is essential the success of the project and in the end for your professional career development. Don’t hesitate to advocate for your own career development too. Building the courage and self-confidence to play a positive and active role in the organisational dynamics takes courage and training. You can build your self-confidence by recognising your achievements yourself. This can be as “small” as “I did not cry in this situation – or I did cry.” Or I regularly checked in with the suppliers on the update to establish transparency for the project. For one week: list every achievement, as small or in your eyes insignificant as they may be. You will see, what an incredible woman you are. 

  5. Seeking Professional Development: Continuous learning is essential. Enrol in courses where you not only gain new knowledge, but where you can also practice this knowledge. Ideally, your company will have internal trainings on communication, conflict management and leadership. Maybe there are even courses focused on women. LinkedIn Learning or YouTube great places to start, if you are not yet ready to invest money in your own personal development.  If you want to know more about Stakeholder Profiling... check out this video:



If you are ready to invest in yourself, I would love to welcome you in the passion4projects.academy.


 

passion4projects.academy offers a comprehensive coaching membership tailored to women in project management.

The program is designed around power skills like stakeholder and business case management, communication, change and conflict management and building your confidence and reputation as a successful project leader.

You will have access to 


  1. Weekly group coaching that provides a safe space for your questions and challenges as well as your opportunity to practice.

  2. A supportive community of likeminded project leaders.

  3. Resources designed to empower women in project management.


For the first time: Doors are open until 14th June 2024

Find out more to join: www.passion4projects.academy 

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