Association for Project Management
APM celebrates the return of WiPM Conference
APM’s Women in Project Management (WiPM) Conference, sponsored by BAE Systems, made a welcome return as hundreds of attendees flocked to hear fresh insights on the key challenges of modern work.
The event, held in London on 22 September, was the first face-to-face WiPM event since 2019. The conference also included the Think Differently Summit, which explores the subject of diversity - its role in teams, the workplace and delivering project success.
It was fantastic to see over 500 delegates, who had travelled from across the UK to attend this sell-out event. Women and men from all stages of their careers in project management attended, with the opportunity to network and listen to a diverse range of speakers on important issues impacting the profession from gender equality to mental health and wellbeing, and work-life balance. Keynote speaker Belinda Parmar, CEO of The Empathy Business kicked off the day with a thought-provoking presentation on how to lead with empathy through challenging times.
Other highlights from the day included:
A standing-room-only session on the Transformation Leadership for Positive Change with Hollie Cregan, Head of Equality, Diversity and Fairness, Inclusion and Respect (FIR) at Graham and Dr. Frederick Holscher from Ashridge Executive Education, Hult International Business School, discussing the importance of diversity and inclusion across industry and the importance of a leading a diverse workforce. Frederick Holscher talked about the three curves of diversity to avoid 'tick-boxing': 1. Demographic and cultural diversity, 2. Stakeholder diversity, 3. Cognitive Diversity (diversity of thought).
Frederick said: "It's about looking at diversity and inclusion from a wider angle...not just to tick boxes."
- An open panel discussion around Mental Health Strategies for Project Managers, with panellists Chris MacLeod,Chief Operating Officer, BlueLight Commercial and Chair, One To One Project; Halle Stewart, Senior Project Manager, Industrial Science & Technology, Turner & Townsend; and Jo Roberts, Head of Strategy at High Speed Rail Group at Dept for Transport, were applauded for presenting such as open and honest discussion around mental wellbeing and sharing their own personal experiences with mental health during their career. Amongst many useful tips and takeaways from the session, Chris talked about the importance of finding a safe space in project teams, a place to talk, listen and share with team members and managers.
- Another important issue covered was Delivering Gender Equality in Major Projects, led by Phillippa Groome, Doctoral Researcher, University of Sussex; Neil Simpson, Head of Project Management Delivery, BAE Systems; and Lina Söderberg, Lead Engineer, Major Projects, Balfour Beatty. Many important topics were covered as part of the session including shared parental leave, educating senior leaders, breaking down the barriers to gender inequality, reverse mentoring and nurturing talent in projects.
- Marion Thomas, Founder of Extraordinary PM, hosted a session all about Happiness in the Modern Workplace. She asked the audience ‘what does happiness mean to you?’ The responses were broad, demonstrating how our personal view of happiness is very much based on our lens of the world.
- One of the final sessions of the day, Managing your Career Journey: Stories from Women in Leadership, saw panellists sharing their own personal journeys in project management careers. It was great session with Harriet Clark, US Programmes for BAE Systems, Karen Elson, Knowledge Director at Co.Cre8 and Amy Morley, Programme Controls Director at HS2. Karen said: “The career-defining moment for me was when I worked at the Olympics, as there was a strong sense of purpose… Everyone was aligned and everyone wanted to succeed.” Amy Morley who started out in project controls and progressively moved into more senior roles, to her current role as Director of Programme Controls, said: “I became Chief of Staff for our CEO which ended up being the best choice as I was able to lead projects that I wouldn’t have been able to do before.”
Closing keynote speaker, Karina Singh, Director, Function, Profession and Standards, IPA shared key takeaways and tips from her experience of being a female in government project delivery, as well as reflecting on her own personal journey. After 32 years as a civil servant, 18 different roles, and 8 promotions, Karina reflected on some of the mistakes she made along the way and shares her learnings with the WiPM delegates:
- To be yourself
- Don’t sell yourself short
- Pause, reflect, and plan
- You are a role model (whether you like it or not)
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