Women in project management – Interview with Naomi Caietti

woman in project managementPlease introduce yourself, The Glass Breakers project and your inspiration behind setting it up. You must have felt that there was a particular need to create awareness about the challenges women face in the project management and leadership field.

Hi I’m Naomi Caietti, CEO of a woman’s network called The Glass Breakers, global speaker, blogger, corporate consultant, author and sought-after expert on personal growth and leadership development for project/program/portfolio managers. – www.theglassbreakers.net

How were the members selected for The Glass Breakers group?

Many of the members met virtually on twitter, had worked on projects together, formed a bond over twitter and respected the diversity of our backgrounds. Twitter has caused many ideas to flourish and bloom and this was one of them. We spent a little time getting to know each other via social media connecting on twitter, Linked In and email. This allowed each member to determine that this group was the right fit. We launched our virtual, global group last fall with the following vision and mission:

  • "Our mission is to encourage excellence in projects, leadership and management."
  • "Our vision is to inspire women to lead."

Over the last ten years, I've seen a rise in the power of women's networks and especially one of the largest lead by Sallie Krawcheck of @85Broads just renamed to Ellevate. A twitter feed caught my attention last fall 2013 regarding a women’s conference in San Francisco for a book launch by @PamelaRyckman; it was this inspiration that led me to engage on twitter and inspire ten women to act to form this group last fall.

glass breakers

How is this group different from a normal network group?

We're a global group of ten powerful women business leaders in the areas of projects, leadership and management. We recognize the challenges women face and agreed it’s our commitment to bring about awareness and change in our global community. We want to grow to be a personal board of advisors and act as a collaborative of wisdom, knowledge and experience each member will tap into and share to reach our own personal goals. We will also encourage our core tenets by knowledge sharing, promoting active engagement and appreciating diversity.

In your experience – is there a ‘glass ceiling’ for women in project management and have you experienced this?

Actually, quite the contrary; project managers are in high demand these days with the rebounding economy in many industries. Women have lot of choices for a career path in the field of project management but I admit women need more role models, sponsors and mentors. Opportunities are available for women to excel into top executive positions as Project Director, Program Manager, Project Management Office (PMO) Manager and Portfolio Manager.

I’ve had the unique pleasure as a project management professional (PMP) to serve in various capacities in roles equal to project/program/portfolio manager/chief enterprise architect in the capacity of senior/executive leadership with accountability and responsibility for 1) State-wide implementation of large reportable projects in California, 2) Strategic global programs for PMI in the area of leadership, awards, component, community, 3 ) Community of practice programs for various global companies and women’s networks (PMI, ProjectManagement.com, TheGlassBreakers) and 4) Mentoring Program/Personal Coaching for STEM college students, veterans and public/private sector employees.

Have you ever been discriminated against whilst working as a project manager because of your gender?

No, actually the opposite; equal opportunity is available for any qualified project management practitioner these days. I’ve competed successfully for many public/private/non-profit sector promotional positions alongside other talent. Over the years, I've enjoyed working with women and men dedicated to consulting in the public and private sector with executive sponsors and teams to design, build and implement technology. Working in Information Technology as a female project manager today is challenging, and requires a thick skin and different leadership style to work in a male dominated profession. Each project manager should find the right fit tor their job to be successful; find the organization that will value your talents. Today, my evolving role as Enterprise Architect, IT Project Manager, and Consultant allows me to help define how information and technology will support the business operations to provide benefits and services for the business customers.

Have you ever felt that your gender has had an impact (+ or -) on your employability or treatment at work within project management and leadership?

Working in a male dominated profession such as Information Technology has been challenging but I found that there were plenty of other women and men programmers, IT Managers and Executives that supported my continued career path. Early in my career, I took a job out of college at an insurance company and worked in their Information Technology (IT) Division as a pc coordinator.

It was a wonderful experience because I was mentored by ex-IBMers and they really focused on growing new IT staff. Learning new data center processes and techniques was a daily experience and I became responsible for business analysis, software, IT data center and telecommunication infrastructure projects, procurement, desktop support and training.

As the profession of project management matured and was recognized as more valuable in both government and the private sector, I focused on putting together a plan to sit for the exam and get my credential as a Project Management Professional (PMP). There were four things I did early on that helped propel my leadership forward as a project manager: involvement with my local PMI chapter and chapter leadership, networking with a global group of project managers in communities of practice, managing more complex enterprise and state-wide projects, programs and stakeholders and development of a personal growth and development plan that included continued leadership training.

learn to lead

Do you think there is still gender inequality within project management? If so, please share your thoughts or experiences.

Actually, both women and men have had challenges in this tough economy finding suitable work. The economy is rebounding now so project management professionals are high in demand in many industries. Women are continuing to make their mark in the project management profession and have positively influenced the profession over the last two decades. Today, women are leading projects worldwide as proven leaders, advocates for advancement of project management in their organizations, and are represented in many industries such as information technology, healthcare, aerospace, construction (bridges, buildings, highways) and as entrepreneurial consultants. Certainly, there are still industries such as oil and gas, engineering, financial services to name a few that may still be primarily male dominated; women will need strong leadership skills to be effective these environments.

In our global economy, organizations are looking for project management experts, leaders of high performing teams and great communicators that can manage people, processes and politics; women have the soft skills to be top candidates for many of these great job opportunities.

The Glass Breakers group’s name is derived from the political term “glass ceiling”. Can you explain in what way this still exists for women in your industry?

Sheryl Sandberg wrote a very book last year called “Lean In” which has created quite a debate for women choosing professional careers. Information Technology continues to be a male dominated profession however, STEM efforts are underway to attract girls to pursue new IT careers. Also, numerous global studies in the United States, Canada and Europe have shed light on the fact that women are untapped talent in the global workforce. If organizations want to change this; women need to change it. Women continue to leave the corporate Information Technology profession on a daily/weekly basis for more attractive opportunities for flexible work/life balance. Last year, several Milken Institute Global conference panels’ discussed women’s issues and competition for talent; they reported that women don’t want to lean in to the jobs that are available today.

From the research I’ve been doing, there is the presumption that project management is a male dominated field. Several speculations were made for the reason of this, including that project managers are often working in other male dominated fields such as construction and engineering; leadership is said to depend on “macho” qualities and women are perceived as being less effective in managing, controlling and exerting authority. What are your thoughts on this?

In 2013, I served as Chair for International Project Management Day and convened a panel that developed a webinar around this topic. The facilitated panel consisted of three founding members of the Glass Breakers (Naomi Caietti, Vicki James and Deanne Earle) discussing how Project Management brings value to the business and how women are well positioned to take advantage of the tools techniques and processes used to lead project teams to success. It’s worth listening to hear a global perspective from women in business, IT, and management.

In a recent interview with Samad Aidane for Guerillaprojectmanagement.com, you were sharing your thoughts on the importance for women in technical and project management fields to learn how to be more assertive. Was this at the assumption that women are often overlooked or undermined in these fields?

Actually, Samad and I had previously worked together on another webinar and thought that the topic of assertiveness for women project managers in a technical field would be a timely topic. Science, Technology, Engineering and Math also known as STEM is a widely discussed topic of engagement for high schools, colleges, and the business community. Women are entering the technical field or climbing the career ladder and learning how to compete, network and assimilate into the culture of these male dominated fields. Assertiveness is a form of communication and is the top leadership tenet that should be in any project manager’s personal development plan. Listen to the interview here for a very open discussion about women in IT and how to excel using assertiveness techniques.

In your opinion, what positive aspects would more women bring to project management and leadership?

Emotional intelligence, communication, relationship building and soft skills are natural qualities women excel in. Based on the research I’ve read and numerous articles from CIO.com, IBM, Forbes, Wall Street Journal to name a few; many of the qualities women possess are noted as the top qualities most leaders possess such as President, CIO, CEOs, COOs. Women don’t need permission to lead; they need to step up, have a voice, sit at the table and find good sponsors to help guide them in their career path. There is no shortage of statistics and reports that indicate that inclusion of women on boards and in leadership roles improves an organizations’ bottom line.

Does The Glass Breakers Project have any upcoming initiatives that other female project managers can be involved in?

The Glass Breakers is actually a small network of ten women who are leaders in their own right. Many of our members have been very active with our project management community providing timely information in our blog articles, authoring books, developing webinars, participating on #PMChat and training courses. We want to inspire women to lead and through this series and your input we hope to plan future initiatives other female/male project managers can be involved in. Our community can reach out to our group or individual founding members at www.theglassbreakers.net to network and let us know how we can help inspire you to lead.

How can our readers contact you?

You can visit our website at http://theglassbreakers.net and follow me on Twitter at @califgirl232/@theglassbreaker. We look forward to hearing from you.

Naomi Caietti is the Founder and CEO of a Women's Network called "The Glass Breakers". Naomi Caietti is a credentialed project manager with 27+ years of public and private information technology (IT) project leadership expertise. Naomi is one of the top influential project management professionals on twitter (PMOT), a top contributor to #PMChat and blogger for LiquidPlanner and ProjectManagement.com. She was recently interviewed by Samad Aidane of NeuroFrontier on Leadership for Women PMs. Naomi and was a celebrity author in Peter Taylor's book "The Project Manager Who Smiled". For more information, resources, and contact details follow Naomi on twitter at @califgirl232 /@theglassbreaker, visit her personal blog and website (www.theglassbreakers.net).

More in the series

Women in project management - from the recruitment perspective

Women in project management – Role models, perceptions & career progression

Click here to read Women in project management – representing the voice of women

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