Tips for Female Project Managers

By Linda Henman, Ph.D.

  1. Forget being liked. You’re the boss, so your job is to make tough decisions, not popular ones. Results, not harmony, are the goal. Effective outcomes will always trump collaboration.
  2. Forget you’re a woman. Maybe things happen to you because you’re a woman, but maybe not. People behave badly just because they do, not because of you. It isn’t personal. Sometimes people don’t like you, your product, your service, or your company. It doesn’t mean you should change.
  3. Stay off thin ice and quit admitting your limitations. When you’re on thin ice, don’t carry a blowtorch. Everyone has limitations and insecurities. Keep them private every chance you get.
  4. Take advice only from trusted advisors. People will line up to give you feedback that has far more to do with their need to say it than your need to hear it. Seek advice only from those who have actually achieved what you strive to accomplish. Would you take ski instructions from someone who had never been on a slope? Then why consider the opinions of those who want to tell you how to do what they haven’t done?
  5. Associate yourself with the best and brightest in your industry. Some will be women, some won’t be. All female groups don’t necessarily represent thought leadership, and they discriminate. We’ve fought too hard and long to be a part of discrimination of any ilk.
  6. Reject victimization. Some things in your life haven’t been fair, so what? No one has a life free of unfairness, adversity, or conflict. Get over it; move on; take charge. It’s not what happens but what you do about it.
  7. Focus on the problem in front of you. Learn to compartmentalize. Compartmentalizing involves the process of simplifying things. When you have a worry or distraction, learn to put it in another part of your brain. You can deal with it later.
  8. Avoid “woman’s work” duties. Don’t make the coffee, clear the table, or volunteer to act as the secretary. You will not be seen as an equal or peer.
  9. Use power language. Steer clear of tag questions such as “Isn’t it?” or “upspeak,” which involves inflection at the end of a declarative sentence. Talk about what you think, not what you feel.
  10. Strive for gender neutral non-verbal behavior. Have a firm handshake; don’t smile when you’re not pleased; don’t nod unless you agree; and don’t play with jewelry or put on lipstick in front of others.

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