In recent years, women have made enormous strides in the workplace.
But the COVID-19 pandemic, and its disproportionately negative impact on women in the workforce, has reconfirmed the gap between women and their male counterparts regarding pay, promotion, and work-life fulfillment.
According to the National Women’s Law Center, by March 2021, one year into the pandemic, over 2.3 million fewer women were in the labor force compared with February 2020*. Much of that loss stems from the closure of day-care centers and the mass transition to schooling from home, with childcare and the facilitation of online classes largely falling to mothers.
Of course, there are other issues at play. Women are often mired in careers that offer no or limited opportunities for advancement or face discrimination as they strive to make their mark. According to a recent McKinsey study**, women are less likely to be hired into entry-level jobs than men, and for every 100 men promoted to manager, only 86 women are promoted.
While the barriers to success are high, applying the principles and skills of project management can help women get ahead. As I’ve observed and experienced personally for 20+ years in this fast-growing industry, women can embrace project management techniques and methodologies across industries as they strive to thrive in their personal and professional lives.
Here are a few tips for removing roadblocks and achieving the success you deserve.
Pay attention to power skills
At Project Management Institute (PMI), we’ve identified several “power skills” that are critical to completing a project, and working with others, efficiently and effectively. These skills are helpful to all professionals juggling the demands of the workplace and their personal lives: empathy, communication, innovative mindset, and collaborative leadership.
By developing and putting these skills into practice, professionals will have more control over their personal and professional growth and can help provide professionals the necessary tools to navigate through tricky social situations. While some of these skills may come naturally, they can be learned and honed through practice.
Upskill to get ahead
Seeking new opportunities through upskilling to meet evolving workplace demands can help professionals embark on a different and potentially more satisfying career path. No matter your role, project management is embedded in your daily work. To teach professionals the basics of project management, PMI offers KICKOFF, a free digital course that provides downloadable templates for budgeting documents, workback plans, and more, allowing anyone the opportunity to kickstart their project.
Additionally, an emerging skill and ways of working is the development of apps using low-code/no-code software. Microsoft has predicted that of the new apps expected to be built in the coming years, 450 million will be developed by individuals using low-code platforms that don’t require extensive coding expertise. If you’re looking to enter this high-demand movement, PMI Citizen Developer is a suite of resources that educates individuals — even those with no coding background — and organizations on the best practices for building apps using low-code/no-code platforms.
Farewell, “work-life balance;” hello, “work-life fulfillment
Today, the always-on demands of a career can make a balanced life feel elusive. However, work-life fulfillment can be attained. But that won’t happen without setting and heeding boundaries.
For example, it’s essential to take time to decompress and schedule time for yourself. A PMI survey revealed that about half of workers (46%) prioritize taking breaks during the workday. This is especially important for remote workers juggling varying responsibilities throughout the day.
No longer should “career” and “family” be conflicting goals for women. While it may require some thought and retooling, women can take steps to achieve work-life fulfillment without sacrificing either.
*NWLC, “A Year Into the Pandemic, Women Are Still Short Nearly 5.1 Million Jobs,” March 2021.
**McKinsey & Company, “Women in the Workplace 2021,” September 2021.
Brantlee Underhill is Managing Director, North America, for Project Management Institute (PMI), the world’s leading professional association for a growing community of project professionals and changemakers worldwide.

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