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Women in Leadership: Supporting and Growing Together

Event Highlights

PMIT celebrated International Women’s Day 2021 with a moderated discussion on March 24th, featuring 3 leading women from diverse industries & backgrounds. 

 

Thank you to Christine Blair (PMIT) for moderating a lively conversation with Emma, LaTasha & Gurjit and asking some great questions on leadership. Hearing each of the speakers’ stories about their careers, mentors, and what they hope to see for the future of women in leadership was inspiring. Their engaging stories certainly sparked lots of questions from the audience, and their answers and advice were interesting and helpful. Each guest speaker certainly provided words of encouragement to everyone listening, especially for  women who may be looking for guidance on how to best target leadership roles or enhance their opportunities for leadership in their current roles.

The night’s guest speakers included:

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Emma da Silva (Microsoft)

LaTasha Williams (The Modern Millennial, Kroger)

Gurjit Mann Toor (TC Energy, PnG Builders)

Christine Blair (PMI Toronto - Moderator)

 

Christine led the discussion by asking poignant questions ranging from “What was your proudest career moment?” to “What can leaders do to create environments where we can be successful?” Each of the guest speakers clearly stated their career highlights but took every opportunity to give sage advice to the audience to showcase our opportunity to become impactful leaders as well. There were several standout moments from each of the guest speakers including some notable quotes.

 

Don’t Hesitate

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Emma explained that it was a mentor who pushed her to a new role and even applied on Emma’s behalf knowing she was a perfect fit for the position. 

Emma: I did not apply myself, because I wanted to be 150% ready. 

Gurjit: Commonly cited statistics among HR professionals is that “men can read a job description and decide to apply after they meet 20% of the requirements. Women may not apply until they are 80% ready. If you are a 100% match, you won’t learn anything or develop in the role.”

LaTasha: A good career strategy is “to continue growing and striving and aim for more, knowing you are operating at 70-80% now and keep growing”

 

Be Bold and Speak Up!

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A question was posed on some of the challenges women in leadership can face is not having a mentor guiding you as you grow in your career, which could be a possible issue. 

Gurjit: “If you want to formalize (a relationship) into a mentorship, YOU HAVE TO ASK. Be bold. You don't know until you ask”. 

 

This sentiment echoed for LaTasha who often experienced being a minority in the room; if you feel a sense of pressure that makes you stay quiet, she recommends taking small steps. Learning to speak up is a skill that takes time to learn.

LaTasha: Women can often leave a meeting and then think afterwards "I should have said XYZ", no matter what level of career you are at, or maybe you think your personality plays a part. Being an introvert or extrovert doesn't matter; everyone is on a journey and you can learn and grow”. 

 

Leadership = Listening

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Leaders can create environments that encourage women to be successful.

Emma: As a leader you have a responsibility to lead others. My proudest accomplishment was hearing how my leadership could affect people in positive ways to enable their fullest potential.  

 

LaTasha touched on 4 key areas in becoming a leader and creating strong allyship with other women: 

  1. Know your value as a leader or prospective leader. Be honest with yourself, who you are, and where you stand in your career. Look at every situation including job loss, or a time you weren't selected. Understand your blind spots!
  2. Take action. Career clarity is key. A common career path is “university then a job in a major company, then 'work for life'”. Maybe you would be better off in a small company?
  3. Listen to your people and it will cultivate the culture. Do SWOT analysis with yourself, and your team, throughout the year.
  4. Informal mentors. Small steps lead to greatness; learn from each other. Make it MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL with a mentor, leverage your strengths and close your skill gaps. Learn how to lift each other up

 

Foster Inclusion

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How can a Project Manager foster inclusion and create a sense of belonging among their team? Emma has two great pieces of advice: 

  1. Know how to deal with bias. We all have biases; know yours, and then learn how to deal with it. A PM’s success often comes from the achievements of the entire team. Do you know what the team members value? Their personal boundaries? Their preferred mode of communication?
  2. Dig deeper. Be curious, ask questions, and understand why things don't work as expected. Lack of understanding? Different priorities? We need the environment/culture in place to make work go well.

 

Grow the Number of Women in STEM

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There are grim statistics for women in STEM industries to obtain in leadership roles. LaTasha explained that thinking in terms of how we can help not only ourselves, but others too will aid in our journey:

LaTasha: Find other ways to encourage and support women around you. Empower the women around you, who will then trickle down/expand their influence and encourage others. Know and see your piece of the puzzle that helps everyone grow forward.

 

How to Handle a Career Pivot?

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Every speaker gave excellent suggestions about how to handle a career pivot but Gurjit spoke to living in reality. 

Gurjit: “Instagram is not real life; what you see there is not to be emulated. Understand yourself. A career pivot becomes more feasible if you are aligned with the job. Ask yourself “are the requirements a ‘need’ list or a ‘want’ list?”. See your value. You should acknowledge negative self-talk/impostor syndrome but then you can make career changes even if you are not necessarily feeling you are a “100% match” for the new position.” 

At closing remarks, Gurjit’s  words are the encouragement everyone out there needs who may be thinking of making a career change as part of their 2021 journey.

 

This event was presented as part of PMI’s ’20-’21 year of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. 

PMIT’s current theme is “Choose to Challenge”. We hope that all of the event attendees working in Project Management had their own takeaways, and that as leaders (or aspiring leaders), we each work together to foster cultures of inclusion and belonging in our workplaces and homes.

If you are interested in joining any of our upcoming events, please visit the Events calendar for more details on what is ahead!