Project Management Expert Asya Watkins Builds A Community To Support Black Women

Asya Watkins’ biggest achievement as the CEO and founder of Women of Project Management (WOPM) is to support Black women. A new Project Management Institute (PMI) report reveals much about Black female project managers.

In honor of Small Business Month, the multifaceted entrepreneur and global speaker is celebrating a full year as a small business owner of WOPM. The HBCU grad and former pharmaceutical professional built an organization from the ground up, tapping into an all-Black female team of specialized project managers to help drive her mission forward. Together, they are leading the charge against the gender and wage gap in the project management industry.

It is no easy task, but it is certainly an intentional one as these women continue building upon the only community dedicated to supporting and amplifying the voices of women and women of color in every specialty of the industry worldwide.

A report by PMI reveals that male project managers outnumber female project managers at a rate of 3:1. However, 23% of men versus 20% of women report working in some level of management role, highlighting a much narrower gap when it comes to project management leadership opportunities.

Among many efforts to address this issue, Watkins is further helping other women in their career evolution through various of accessible masterclasses, workshops, and conferences. You can even find her representing Black women at the 2nd annual Women of Project Management Conference from Aug. 24–26 in Atlanta. Tickets are on sale now.

In recent news, a new strategic DE&I collaboration with PMI will provide female project managers more access to opportunities on a larger scale. Watkins, a longtime member of the Atlanta PMI chapter, comes full circle to talk to BLACK ENTERPRISE about her experience as a Black woman in her industry, her new partnership, and the tips that can propel anyone forward.

Photo Credit: Shekedra Booker, LeMarchea Studio

Tell us about your experience in the project management industry.

I always worked in Fortune 50 companies, and they were healthcare companies. When I got into project management, I really loved so many different aspects of it. But as I continued to grow in the industry and grow in leadership opportunities, from a Black woman’s perspective, I didn’t see a lot of women that looked like me. It’s not a place I would have probably chosen initially because I would not have felt like I belonged there. But when I fell into it, what I found was that I love the work. I actually loved a lot of people around me, too. 

Why is your mission at WOPM so relevant in today’s landscape?

When you continue to grow in your career, there’s a certain point where you start hitting ceilings, and you really need someone to say, how is this going to look a few steps ahead. 

What can we expect out of this new partnership with PMI?

I’ve always been a member of PMI before I even started the business. It’s a beautiful platform for us to be able to have that additional exposure, to be able to support Black women and women to get into this industry. I look at it as our community and creating this huge marketplace for other women in Black-owned businesses as well in this industry who may not be able to talk to an entity like Black Enterprise or may not have a partnership with PMI. But for me, they do because I’m going to pull them right along with me. We’re going to also have these conversations as a collective at every level.

What’s next?

Every fourth Friday, we just started a new thing of past parties and all your win parties. If you pass the PMP, if you just got a new job, if you just filled out an application, or if you’re just proud of yourself. We want to celebrate each as a collective, and we open that up on purpose. So, it’s everyone inside of our membership, but we open it up to the public.

What three tips would you give to project managers who want to boost their careers?

  1. Always be open. If you’re new to the project management industry or thinking about it, it can be a little overwhelming. I like to think of the project management industry as really great because there are so many opportunities. Some people get overwhelmed by that, but it’s not; it’s an opportunity. Keep an open eye. Don’t put yourself in a box to say, oh, I can only work in IT.
  2. If you stay ready, you don’t have to get prepared. Make sure that you even have an inventory of what your skills are. I think that will go a long way toward just understanding, really, who you are and the power that you have.
  3. Believe in you. We have to really go inward to have that mental part. That’s that impostor syndrome part we all have, and we all go through it. I think that just giving ourselves a little bit more grace… it’s real… about what we go through and the things that we have to navigate daily.