Pro Tips: How to Empower Women Project Leaders

To boost their careers, women project professionals can focus on growing their power skills and making influential connections.

In honor of International Women’s Day on 8 March, PMI asked project professionals around the world: What’s your top career tip for women project leaders?

Sheila Johnroe
Let facts—not feelings—drive decisions.
Removing emotion from the equation and managing by facts is a hard concept to implement since we are often passionate in the moment about something. A leader once told me to stop using phases such as “I believe” or “I think” when I know the information is factual. Once I did this, I found my projects ran better and people asked fewer questions because they trusted the information I was providing. Women shouldn’t be so removed emotionally that we’re unable to build trust and relationships, but we need to be truthful to stakeholders so they understand.  
Sheila Johnroe, PMP, senior project manager, Rocket Central, Bay City, Michigan, USA

Nadine De Mink
Adopt and maintain a growth mindset. 
Having a growth mindset is a common theme in books, TED Talks and YouTube videos on personal growth that I have consumed. Continuing to expand your knowledge reinforces my belief that you need to view things from different perspectives. I am now more open to seeking feedback, I fear failure a lot less and it has helped me maintain humility in all that I do. I try to make all interactions meaningful for all parties, but also educational for myself. Does this mindset make me a better leader? I'm not sure, but I'm willing to find out.
Nadine De Mink, civil engineering technologist, Cape Town, South Africa

Tamy Baddour
Turn feedback into fuel.
For a long time throughout my career, I had confused feedback with criticism. But that changed for me a few years ago when I was assigned to a program with multicultural teams. When the teams’ lack of chemistry took its toll on progress, I had to step back and seek feedback from the different parties to identify what was going wrong and how to fix it. This experience was a revelation: We all have blind spots that could be uncovered by embracing the constructive side of feedback. We should always welcome feedback with an open mind, as it is a powerful source of self-assessment and reinvention. Enjoy being wrong, as there are always new and better ways to learn.
Tamy Baddour, project manager, IT PMO, BankMed, Beirut

Tara G. Teaford
Build—and show—confidence.
Trust yourself. You know as much as your peers—and your skills, experience and ideas are just as valid as theirs. Listen, validate, empathize and speak up.
Tara G. Teaford, program manager, Srclogic, Vienna, Virginia, USA

Jeanne Hortense Nsi
Seek sponsors to reinforce your value.
When I started as a systems engineer and project coordinator a decade ago, I worked twice as much as men on the team but didn’t get recognized—even though my projects created just as much value for the company and the team. I realized that, unlike the men, I didn’t have an influential sponsor who could support my interests and decisions. So when a new manager for the client joined the team, I gathered all my courage and explained my situation to him. Little by little, I gained his trust. As he began talking positively about me, I started managing more strategic projects and my work was appreciated by the client. Building a relationship with an influential sponsor can help women clear project roadblocks and ensure that their work—and careers—get well-deserved attention.
Jeanne Hortense Nsi, PhD, PMP, ambassador, Cluster Digital Africa, Paris