Why do women fail as Project Managers?

This article is a part III of my upcoming book "Women in Project Management"

So what should we stop doing to become successful and respectful project managers?


First and most important: stop trying to be a Project manager-developer-Sysadmin-QA-architect, etc. and concentrate on being just a Project manager. No one says that you might not have some background or knowledge of any of those, but all these people need a leader, a diplomat between customer and them, and the person who will inspire them to do the project better and faster.

There are lots of situations when you need to have some knowledge of other professions and mainly understanding of their perspective and vision of the project. And yes there are situations, when the deadline is very close and you need to do some development changes, test the software and deliver it to your customer, so you are doing everything at the same time and find yourself being a Project manager and developer-Sysadmin-QA agent-architect, but that shouldn't be your usual mode.

Also if you are having too much on your shoulders it is not very healthy for you. Yes, the moment you have a new developer in your team, you should spend more time with him than with the developer you had already for some time and sure of his capabilities. Just be sure that your team doesn't lack anything, their field is ready for work and make them feel happy. That is much more important and useful than interfering; the team may think that you don't trust them much. 

Avoid pretending that you are smarter than you are, it will be revealed very soon that you are not and the end result will be not the result you wanted to achieve.

Don't become more masculine to dissolve in the environment full of men, don't become the princess from Shrek. Instead make everything you can so that they respect you as the woman in the room, they should be gentlemen. I remember that there were times when we were so tired that we would just start joking and fooling around, spreading some kind of dark humor and dirty jokes, but I understood that it was necessary for them to relax. Of course after some time I asked them to return to a more gentlemen mode, but a break with humor in it worked and they felt more inspired to do the job even better!

Don't be evil! Even when you have your days try to control your temper, so that it wouldn't be so obvious to the team, and as a result they won't run from you with the words: "She is in her days, it's better not to talk to her!" They would never understand why we behave that way, they just can't! Although sometimes I wish they could to realize that we are real heroes these days and that even to get up from such a soft and comfortable bed with pillows is a huge effort to make! Clearly sometimes we just can't control our overwhelming emotions and even sometimes the project pours more fuel to the fire, we can become angry and evil, but then just say that you are sorry, it was a bad day for you, but they were not the cause of your bad mood (even when they clearly were:) ) and let us clear our mind and continue working for the best of everyone!

Don't ignore anyone from the team, especially the new ones and least experienced in the job. I know it is much easier to give a task to a developer, who knows how to do it and can do it fast, but new developers also need your attention, they need to gain experience, otherwise they will leave without being appreciated or being a part of a team.

Avoid putting too much perfume. Maybe no one will say anything, but productivity of the team will drop and no one would like to be around you for more than a minute. Remember that developers are workers of the mind, so they need fresh air and pleasant environment with some lovely aroma.

Talking about environment...don't make it too feminine. Your desk may have some cute magnets or a bonsai tree, but don't invade their space. They hate it, you take away their freedom. Without freedom they cannot work and produce good results. 

Frustrated-manThere are situations when we need the work to be done very quickly and we naturally start to pressure the team, sometimes too much. We ask them whether the job is done every 15 minutes. They will not do things faster, besides they would become more stressed and you will take them out of their concentration, bringing more frustration and even more mistakes and bugs that he would need to fix because of rushing him out. Yes, sometimes there are lazy people in our job, you need to push THEM. What you really need to do is just to go and to see for yourself (if you are not in the same room with the developers) whether they are working and doing everything to deliver a task or they are telling each other jokes or are involved in some social media/blog/gaming site/cars/etc. Find the perfect balance. Don't stress out each other for no reason, but keep an eye on the team workers who need improvement and your attention.

If there are women in your team, don't try to compete for the attention and admiration from the people with other woman (-en) by being even more unnaturally nice, wearing the least modest clothes, throwing at each other threatening looks. Don't try to bring more attention by any of these silly actions, you will spoil the atmosphere in the team, this may influence the project results and at the end no one will be happy and motivated to work under your leadership. Just be yourself: kind, caring and feminine. 

In many blogs I noticed common criticism that women don't like to let other women be promoted, and many men confirm it (even my husband from his previous job experience). If there are professional issues to stop this particular lady from being promoted, just explain to her valid reasons along with practical advices in which areas she should improve to make one step further in her career. If you have some personal reasons against this person, leave them aside and if she is professionally equipped, then give her a promotion, if not, read my previous sentence one more time. If some traits of this lady would interfere with her promotion, try to explain in a friendly and kind way that for the next step in her career she should possess these and those traits and not the way she behaves right now; after that give her some time to change herself and if she still cannot improve, then you have a right not give her promotion until this or that particular area is modified.

Avoid criticizing particular team members in front of the whole team. It decreases their reputation in the team and their dignity; no one would trust this person so much and would avoid cooperating with him or her. You may share your worries and bring out mistakes without pointing to a person you mean. The one who did this mistake will understand it without being publicly ashamed, if not, then talk with him/her in privacy or send them a message via text, choose the best depending on the situation. Don't encourage your team to accuse each other either (unless the situation is very serious and can't be fixed in private), let them respect each other as if they are a family.

I would summarize this part in one, but valuable phrase: "Do not treat your team members the way you wouldn't like to be treated."