Fierce Project Management

I was asked if I was a stay at home mum today.

Erm yes I suppose I am. Particularly as we’ve been in lockdown without any external support – I’ve been staying at home and I am a mum

I also have a business I’m running at the same time. I blooming hate the word mumpreneur though!

This is nothing against those who are stay at home mums, that is bloody hard job in my book, or those that are happily mumpreneurs. But personally that’s not what I choose. Though I suppose technically I am.

Work is a big part of my identity, and always has been. I’m ambitious.

I’m a mum and now that’s a big part of my identity and I do talk about my toddler alot. One of those mums! Ha. But its pretty all-consuming being a mum.

Being a mum, yeah it is pretty ace but also the fucking hardest job ever.

And oh housework and cooking – I feel like I am just not designed to ‘keep’ a house. I feel quite overwhelmed trying to do it all, cook, clean, tidy after a toddler – even to a bare minimum standard! I can enjoy parts of it at times with a podcast playing its pretty chill but the ‘space’ for that I struggle to find mostly. I’m probably on social media too much right?!

So I got a cleaner earlier this year for the first time. I have grown up with my mum doing it all and so has my husband (though he did help out at home) so it was actually a big decision outside our norm to get external help in. Ah it was the best thing ever. It wasn’t the magic bullet and I still wasn’t on top of things but it helped loads.

I also got a tonne of help from my mum and mum in law too! So much. From childcare to when they pop over they’ll start doing the dishes or something. And they would cook for us often too!

Lockdown has been particularly hard because all that *evaporated* along with nursery.

My husband was home more. He did do alot more, especially with our toddler. It was really hard at the beginning but their relationship has got much stronger. Over time, I could work more too. And I accepted times I had to work less. The house stuff we’ve muddled on. We’ve also argued along the way.

Some of that external help is coming back now and I’ve recently got some support in my business to take the pressure off 😅

But I’m still tired and behind and overwhelmed.

I recently read an article by Denise Duffield-Thomas (a successful entrepreneur and mum) – she shared she has a team of women who support her from cleaning, childminding to housekeeping so she is freed up to work on her business but also spend quality time with her kids, and ditch the mental load of keeping a house.

This sounds like the dream to me!

But til that dream is realised it’s hard, and it’s been harder in lockdown and it’s not done yet just because lockdown is easing!

For me personally, it actually means my husband is working out of the home more so that means another phase to adjust to. We’re also planning to get my three year-old back into nursery part time and potentially get some grandparents support again- but the risk balance is still a worry and it’s hard to know what to do for the best

Saying all of this, I know my lockdown story has been a bazillion times easier than other women because I have my own business where I have flexibility, and because my husband was often home and not working, and because I actually like being home (sometimes too much and it makes me a recluse).

A big part of my lockdown story has been showing up and being connected with other actual real life adult humans in my communities – the Fierce Project Management Tribe and I even created the Fierce Project Management Movement, our membership community, fuelled to create connection amidst the de-connection of the social distancing. It’s my superpower to hold safe spaces where we can have the real fierce talk and genuinely connect. I do much better holding space for those conversations then I do the housework- but the reality is THIS is also the fierce talk that needs to happen, because I’m not alone in this struggle. And I know so many have it harder right now.

It’s not just my story, one of the biggest challenges for gender equality especially in lockdown and post lockdown has been that the outsourcing of childcare and domestic responsibility suddenly evaporated. That’s led to more mental health challenges . It’s also led to women being sidelined, choosing to leave or reduce their work, or somehow struggling to do it all. It’s not the only root-cause to the backwards steps of gender inequality happening but its a big one.

This blog to say you are not alone. It’s fucking hard. You are amazing.

I am not BAME

I am not BAME

I’m Indian, Asian, British, Sikh, English, British- Asian (on a form) and I’m from Kent… but would never normally just say I am BAME, person of colour or certainly not an ethnic minority…

I read recently that ethnic minority in itself is a narrative we’ve been told. Its a fair point. Globally people of colour aren’t a minority. Here a better term is that we’re underrepresented

I do sometimes use BAME because it exists and I want to recognise the experiences beyond those that are white in the UK. Especially when I am talking about the experiences of women as race is relevant. And movements of feminism that miss difference fail us.

Interestingly enough when the wonderful Jemma Fairclough-Haynes shared insights from the Women and Work All Parlimentary Party Working Group, with the Fierce Project Management Movement – we spoke about the impact of COVID19 on working women, including BAME women… (in line with what the APPG spoke about), some people saw it as “what about white women” or that we were exclusively going to be talking about these underrepresented communities… that’s a useful conversation too but this was just *including*… (It was a fab fierce talk by the way of really important topics with so much work to be done for women AND women that are ‘BAME’ especially)

But BAME is lazy. Using it in the context of COVID, for example, masks that black, Pakistani and Bangledeshi communities are most at risk of death. And doesn’t tell us the why. There will be some commonalities but differences too.

It also allows the government and organisations to say they are doing ok when they have *some* ‘BAME’ representatives or can choose leads who aren’t black to actually lead on issues effecting black lives (for example).

Sometimes I do want to talk about shared experiences for “women of colour” but of course recognising its nuanced and my experiences aren’t the same as a black woman for example.

If we’re not white in the UK there is something shared though because we’re underrepresented . I thought maybe “not white” would be a better term a while ago – then I read “Why I’m Not Talking To White People About Race” and Reni Eddo-Lodge eloquently pointed out that we don’t want to be defined by something we are “not”. Absolute #truth and I realised that centred whiteness. (If you’ve not read it, DO make the time to – it’s a hugely enlightening read)

By the way, a recent survey (2020) by HR Data Hub showed in their sample- 70% of BAME employees had a salary at the bottom levels of less than £17k, whilst only 4% earned £50k or more. For women it is around 2%.

This paper also cites CIPD data from 2017 that shows that even though ‘BAME’ people represent 1/8th of the working population they only represent 1/16th of management positions. For women that will be less.

DATA matters and even better more nuanced data matters.

So it matters to keep understanding and advocating for people of colour, and women of colour recognising we have some shared experiences and shared challenges but that they are also very different. Stereotypes and biases effect us so differently. And we must advocate for the specifics too. Right now there is a real need to advocate for black lives.

(And yes in the context of Covid risks for Bangledeshi and Pakistani people too)

I’m searching for a better way to talk about that sembelence of shared experience being not white and then the intersection of being a woman in Britain – whilst not lumping us together and missing what makes our experiences still different.

Hmmm I’m pondering on it. What is the language? Do we even need it? 🤔

A Critical Conversation: Flexible Working – How to do it & How not to

Association for Project Management Women in Project Management SIG, in partnership with Fierce Project Management, Growth through Knowledge, University of Kent and Fastly held their first critical conversation event titled: Flexible Working, How to do it & How not to – for International Women’s Day 2020.

The event took place remotely to provide control for Coronavirus concerns, and is available to watch back below.

The Panel explores:
* How remote and flexible workking can work in practise, and the impact of the coronavirus as more people move to this way of working
* The challenges that can still exist when finding project work that is flexible
* Different experiences and examples of flexible working within project management
* Take away tips on how to make flexible working work for you and your projects

We missed the first few minutes on the recording which were introductions, and exploring how different companies were approaching remote working particularly in light of the coronavirus concerns.

About our Speakers:

Annie Maingard, University of Kent – I have worked in both academia and private industry and used the option to work flexibly in both. This has been around family caring requirements and also to allow for travel to and from work. I am now part time and have changed my arrangements several times to allow for work life balance. I am passionate about inclusivity within project management and academia, and work to share this encouragement into the industry.

Julien Maingard, Fastly – I work for Fastly, a US Bay-area Technology company and have done for 5 years since my eldest child was 6 months old. Introducing a long commute into a work/life balance made for a very big challenge and over the years I have increased my remote working to account for this. Looking back I wish I had pushed harder for more flexibility earlier on. I am now in a leadership position and I am reflecting this philosophy as much as I can towards the people joining my team today and would encourage everyone to accept the ideals of a “goal oriented work environment.”

Anita Phagura, Fierce Project Management – I have worked flexibly as a project manager for several years, instigated to create the allusive ‘work-life balance’ after experiencing a period of burnout and then later with different wants and needs after becoming a mum. This has ranged from compressed hours working, part time working and undertaking a job share – and I believe this has made me a more effective project manager. Through Fierce Project Management, I champion inclusivity within project management through working 121, in group programmes and with project businesses to empower women and underrepresented groups.

Nicole Reilly, Can Market – Nicole Reilly is the Principal Consultant for Growth Through Knowledge, and a director at CanMarket. She spent 12 years working with senior leaders, developing management information and business intelligence aimed at facilitating informed decision-making by both internal and external parties. Her wide-ranging business expertise was gained through alignment with sales, marketing, HR & finance functions – across Media & Publishing, Distribution & Logistics, Manufacturing and Financial Services industries. More recently, Nicole has focused on IT & business change-related consultancy, and was one of the first in Europe to achieve the IPMO-E certification with AIPMO.

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Tears of strength

I cried in the meeting.

It was my first week in a new contract.

Maybe I wouldn’t have cried that easily a few years earlier but I was fed up, frustrated and ANGRY. Not just for me but for OTHER women who have to go through such shit.

I was also more vulnerable now, as a mum returning to work – There was more at stake.

I already had an uphill struggle to find a role with some flex – that had been important to me well before having a child, but now even more so.

Now the role, where I had managed to secure this, had started I was told to “reassess my priorities”.

Even from those with good intentions, the starting point was I should change my arranged working pattern and childcare rather than ask a couple of team members if they minded moving an arbitary meeting… (They didn’t!)

I cried, not because I wasn’t strong, but because I WAS standing up for myself whilst being met with inflexibility, rigidity and stigma.

I was standing up for myself, and other women and men who want flexibility, who have caring responsibilities, who have potential that is wasted when they are pushed out of the workplace because of this shit.

I stand for flex for all, work-life, freedom
I stand for women (and all genders too!)

Have you experienced challenges with finding flexibility within project management?