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Are You a PM Ally?

Guest Author

On October 14 the PMIT Government Community launched their first event of the year with a focus on Allyship for Project Managers. It was refreshing for this community to dedicate their debut virtual meeting to diversity and inclusion in the workplace – an open declaration of their commitment to racial equity.


Mr. Iain Shao, the chair of the PMI Toronto Government, commenced the session with a territory acknowledgement of the Indigenous peoples, recognizing and appreciating their presence and rights to the land.


A hallmark of this event was its dynamism. Starting off with a networking session that allowed participants about half-an-hour to get acquainted through numerous breakout rooms to collaborate on thought-provoking real-life case vignettes – throwing light on typical workplace examples of discrimination.



Why Should Project

Managers Be Strong Allies?

The keynote speaker Denley W. Mcintosh set the tone for the meeting with a compelling statement: "We can all agree to disagree, but make sure to stay agreeable."


He explained that the PM role's versatility provides a unique opportunity to be a part of the solution; not the problem. PMs' multifaceted competencies require remarkable people management and the ability to spearhead positive change, reiterating the value of authentic leadership in project management.


In the context of being a strong ally, Denley explained that a PM needs to strive towards attaining a high sense of self-awareness continuously; realizing their prejudices and biases would enable them to be "hyper-aware" of subtleties in communication that trigger or provoke microaggressions in the workplace, and allow them to use their privilege to promote workplace equity, rather than perpetuate inequity and oppression.



An Overview of the History

of Indigenous Canada

Denley did not shy away from pointing out that there is racism in Canada and provided snippets of historical evidence to prove it. He educated participants on the transatlantic slave trade, its role in Canadian history, and milestones that shaped the Canadian Bill of Rights: the genesis of Canadian Multiculturalism. Denley summarized the various dimensions of colonization in North America depended on three Ls: the Land of Indigenous people, the Labour of the Black people and the Laws of the White people.


The Forgotten Heroes

in Canadian History

Denley named some unsung heroes like Viola Desmond, Harriet Tubman and Elizabeth Stanton; great women activists who changed the course of history, challenged racial segregation and established the foundations for modern civil rights by taking action. Denley went on to say, "If Viola Desmond did not refuse to leave her seat in a theatre for Whites only, people of colour would not have the same freedom of movement they have today in our country. In 2018, Viola Desmond became the first Canadian woman to appear alone on the $10 bill." Denley reminded us of the challenges that have occurred in Canada, and those that still go on are important reminders of how far we have come and how far we still need to go.


Interactive Discussions

As the night unfolded, Denley shared four case studies and asked various groups to reflect on how, in these situations, we could be better allies to our peers. The cases covered four distinct areas of concern for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) professionals: loss of autonomy, loss of personal space, loss of exposure, and loss of integrity.


Lively discussions erupted: sharing personal experiences, finding relatable solutions, and critical thinking: challenging participants to venture outside the boundaries of their comfort zones.


Self-reflection is a key quality in learning how to improve relationships and dynamics on project teams.


How to Be a Strong Ally:

A Mathematical Formula for Success

The guest speaker, Denley W. Mcintosh, shared a recipe for success that resonated well with the community:



Call To Action

Understand Racial Concepts, Stereotypes and frequently used terminology.

Use your privilege to optimize working conditions for BIPOC colleagues.

Unravel the essence of Psychological Safety in the workplace


It is our responsibility as PMs to ensure we create safe spaces for our teams.


Be a PM Ally.


Relevant material for reflection:

Google's Racially Biased Artificial Intelligence

The case of Microsoft and Racial Injustice

Failure of Facial Recognition fails to represent Blacks