Celebrate International Women’s Day with AXELOS

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Since 1911, International Women’s Day has been a day to celebrate the core contribution women have made throughout the world. This year’s theme is #BeBoldForChange, a rallying call for all people to take on the issues and challenges that are faced by women on a day-to-day basis.

International Women’s Day 2017 presented an opportunity for AXELOS to showcase the value that women contribute to Global Best Practice. It is our pleasure to highlight just some of the invaluable insights that professional, knowledgeable women have created around Best Practice, from blog posts to white papers to case studies to core guidance and interviews.

  • Leading Women in ITSM
  • Leading Women in PPM
  • Leading Women in Cyber
  • AXELOS Authors

Karen Ferris, Director, Macanta Consulting, ITSM expert and co-author of ITIL Practitioner

As part of International Women's Day 2017, Karen Ferris discusses her beginnings and her progression and achievements in the traditionally male-dominated world of IT service management (ITSM). Karen reflects on how the industry has changed during her 30-year career and what she thinks women can still achieve in ITSM:

Fresh out of university in the early 1980s and in a tough job market, I took a role as a computer operator out of desperation and with no interest in IT at all. I recall buying Computing for Dummies before my interview and begging the interviewer to give me a chance.

Thirty-something years later, in 2014, I received a Lifetime Achievement Award from itSMF Australia for my contribution to the IT service management industry - still a very male-dominated environment.

Sometimes, I have to pinch myself when I see a poll among my peers voting me one of the top 25 thought leaders in the sector. The truth is I had to work very hard for this and continue to do so, being out there on social media and creating new content above and beyond the day job.

When I started in IT, it was the men who were listened to while I was the “little girl doing whatever she was doing”. As was common in many industries at the time, a female voice wasn’t heard even if she had equal capability. Things have changed, but there’s still a long way to go.

In IT for the long haul

However, I really enjoyed IT and progressed through application support into managing teams where I loved the people side and creating more efficient ways of working. Getting into IT service management (ITSM) was a turning point in my career and I’ve stuck with it ever since. In turn, the “people element” led me into Organizational Change Management (OCM) which, I think, benefits from a female approach.

It’s not to say that men can’t be empathetic or have softer skills but I see these traits more commonly in women. I think women are better listeners and are less keen to join a conversation with the intention of putting their point across first!

Still, in a male-dominated environment, I’ve had to market myself and make my capabilities more visual, which is hard enough as an introvert! And while men seem to be natural networkers, as a woman you need to find common ground with male colleagues without trying to talk about golf or rugby, especially if you don’t know what you’re talking about.

I’ve also learned that being a woman brings a different perspective to the table; seeing things through a completely different lens and often surprising those around you.

Women in IT today

For women either working in or thinking of working in IT today, my advice is to acknowledge your capabilities and don’t underestimate yourself.

These days, most of the time, I’m not conscious of my gender and I have a reputation that goes before me. But it wasn’t always the way: I shared a conference panel a few years ago with some industry luminaries and I really had to make my voice heard among the men and the egos in the room!

So what needs to change for women?

Organizations can do more to get women into senior positions. One survey showed senior executives having gender diversity as a top 10 issue but the balance in their organizations actually hadn’t changed. However, there are still good things happening and, in IT, the growth of marketing, digital and design should encourage more women into the industry.

But women can be doing more too: research from HP found that women would only apply for jobs they felt they were 100% qualified to do, whereas men were happy to apply when they could only meet 60% of the job requirements. As the theme of International Women’s Day suggests, “be bold” and go for the roles you want, even if you don’t think you’re qualified. Women have to be more positive about their capabilities.

And despite EY claiming a 170-year gap until we have gender parity, we can all take a lead from Cheryl Sandberg, COO at Facebook and author of Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead - lean in and make your voice heard; you have something to say so don’t sit back and wait to be asked, because you won’t be!


Virginia Araujo is a Professor at the Atlantic University in Portugal. She is an accredited ITIL® Expert, trainer and consultant, as well as being a COBIT and ISO/IEC 20000 Consultant Manager, and a PMI-PMP and PRINCE2® Practitioner with more than 20 years of professional experience in Technology and Information Systems. Virginia worked as a team manager and project manager for a large Portuguese conglomerate. She wrote the following case study for AXELOS, which highlights her work and how it fits into the ITIL® Practitioner Guiding Principle, Progress iteratively:

How does the guiding principle, progress iteratively, help you? Can you give an example?

Internationalizing a large company of 40,000 employees in order to get ourselves ready to expand into other countries is tricky.

We designed a roadmap of several projects through which we could achieve the overall objective. We identified small activities that could be implemented quickly but which would provide great value for the business (quick wins) and also created a document with the principles of internationalization for all new adoptions.

Read the full article


Louise JohnLouise John is a Service Management Business Officer for Essex County Council. Louise wrote a case study for AXELOS about their ITIL journey:

What Achievements Are You Most Proud Of?

Our KPI journey - we identified the KPIs that were important in regaining the trust of our customers and focused our CSI on getting those KPIs from red to green. In fact, we have had a 30% improvement in our KPIs since the adoption of ITIL. Our biggest improvements are Standard Service Requests delivered within target, which were formally at just 32%, and are now at 86%, and we have had a 25% reduction in Major Incidents.

Our CSI culture - we now have a culture where CSI is embedded, celebrated, part of the day job and enables everyone to get involved.

Awareness and ITIL education - when people come back from their ITIL Foundation training and can understand and see how ITIL is adopted in ECC and how it all fits together.

Watch the videos

Kelly Sandiford, Principal Consultant, Transformation, Capita

To mark International Women’s Day, we spoke to Kelly Sandiford from Capita about the barriers faced by women in project management roles, how these are shaped by the past and how they might evolve in the future:

When asked for my view on whether and how my gender affects me as a project manager, keen not to stereotype I was very much in two minds.

On the one hand I feel that your gender can affect the ‘lens’ you bring to a role and the way you manage projects but, on the other, are these traits more about personality than whether you’re male or female?

While trying not to sit on the fence, I’m not sure there’s enough scientific research yet to sway me either way, but what I can share is my experience.

Legacy perceptions

In my 20 years in project management, I feel the biggest barrier for most women when leading a project is trying to gain credibility. When you step up to lead a project, you often feel the need to prove yourself. This feeling could either be perceived or real and I’m pretty certain it’s the same for some men too. Either way, it’s something I’ve experienced in the past.

So where does that come from?

If you look at project management as a discipline, its roots are in engineering and manufacturing, both of which are task-centred, somewhat hard-nosed and, historically, male-dominated industries. This legacy has filtered through into project management and, despite much progress, women still are in the minority.

This, combined with a belief that you need to assert your credibility, means women leading projects often work harder. That doesn’t mean that men don’t have to or don’t have the desire to give things their all, but there’s just a propensity for women to feel the need to push the pedal to the floor. As a result, they often burn out, overcompensating to be on an equal footing.

There is also the feeling that you’re being judged or measured against a certain criteria and a traditional way of doing things. If you don’t fit this approach, you sometimes you feel that you can’t be yourself and, as a result, tend to ‘act in a role’. This then leads to a lack of authenticity and your team starts to feel that you’re ‘playing’ at it.

Overcoming barriers

The feelings I’ve described aren’t unique to women. I’m sure men have similar experiences, and race and age and other factors such as disability will equally affect how we feel and more importantly are perceived in our role.

But what I’ve learnt over 20 years is the importance of resilience, confidence and knowing your style. Over time, I’ve become sure of who I am and how I do things and have gained a sufficient level of confidence to say: “I do it this way and to date I’ve been extremely successful.

I’ve got to this point by recognizing my strengths and how I do things. I become very attached to every project I work on and am always passionate to deliver the best possible outcomes. I always take the time at the start of a project to really listen and understand what good looks like for the project stakeholders.

While I can’t say with any certainty that I take this approach because I’m a woman, these aren’t behaviours I see regularly in my male counterparts. Instead, they are more likely to dive straight in. While neither is a right or wrong way of doing things, these examples reflect the different approaches people take to activities and the diverse skills and strengths that each gender can bring in the workplace and to project scenarios.

But are these differences down to our gender or just different personality types?

Gender vs personality

I know I’m an ENTJ on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator for example, meaning I’m a leader and commander, but is that affected by my gender or because I’ve worked in a male dominated industry and felt I had to make my mark? Is it by design or default?

But returning to the other side of the fence, when discussing my approach with other women in project management, we do have shared experiences and a shared desire to ensure there’s conversation and engagement early on in a project before we move forward.

Whether it’s gender or personality, different approaches, behaviours and skillsets produce different kinds of project managers and diversification is important to improving our industry. I imagine, for instance, that a lot of projects fail due to a lack of softer skills and person to person engagement. And while being a woman doesn’t automatically mean you possess these skills, as more females join our industry I do think it will change the dynamic.

Perhaps in five or so years’ time when more women engineers and project managers join the workforce, I hope this conversation will be very different.


Jane Nichols is the Chief Operating Officer for CITI and the director accountable for the execution, quality and delivery of CITI's engagements. Here’s an extract from her recent blog post about agile and programme management:

How can organizations and their programme managers ensure agile approaches and programme management work well together in 2017?

This is a hot topic right now, with a rapidly-evolving technology landscape which lends itself to agile techniques and the pressure on organizations to change more quickly. And if you can get programme management and agile to operate in tandem to deliver change, the results should be fantastic.

At present, the level of maturity in blending agile and programme management is mixed: while our business is working with some organizations using agile within both project and programme management, the problem with others is the management hierarchy and governance. Heavyweight governance is at odds with the rapid decision-making approach of agile and hierarchical management exacerbates the problem.

Read the full article


Sarah Chambers is Head of Programme Management in the Global Information Systems department at the British Council. She has worked in IT for 20 years, starting as an Analyst Programmer at ICI then moving to a project management role in a small software house. Since joining the British Council she specialized in project and programme management, working to deliver their first Web Services, several Financial Systems projects (supporting postgraduate student programmes and client-sponsored development projects) and various IT change initiatives. She wrote a case study for AXELOS about the British Council’s use of PRINCE2®:

The principles of PRINCE2 are widely used at the British Council with core templates and guidance available on the corporate intranet from the Programme Support Office, the British Council’s Centre of Excellence. PRINCE2 is used more rigorously by this Programme Management team than other parts of the British Council, due to the difficulties in juggling resources and the need to make sure that expensive technical investment gives the best value for money. The Programme Support Office was keen for the organization to get involved in pilots of the updated version of PRINCE2 that were taking place and they suggested to Sarah that her team should take part.

Read the full article

Vicki Gavin, Compliance Director, Head of Business Continuity, Information Security and Data Privacy at The Economist Group

In recognition of International Women's Day, we asked cyber security expert Vicki Gavin of the Economist Group to tell us about her career in a profession where women are still in the minority. Vicki also gave us her views about how the balance is changing and the benefits working in cyber security can offer women:

When I was young, my mother told me the boys wouldn’t like me if I kept beating them at chess!

But I’ve always been pretty self-confident and happy to be in a man’s world as “Queen of the Geeks!” And when my university department - where I studied physics - bought its first personal computer, they paid me one summer to figure out what it could do. Later I found computer skills were in demand and this began my career in explaining technology to business people.

Working in technology I was generally the only woman, but the boys and I got along just fine! I grew up with brothers and always had a leaning to maths and science, so tended to spend more time with men than women from an early age.

Today, working in cyber security, I’m among fewer than 10% of women working in the industry. Yes, it’s a very male environment - lots of chest beating - but I’m more than happy to play that game because I’m as good as them or better and they constantly underestimate me. While I see it as a game and don’t get stressed about it, it will change when more women come into the sector.

However, the sector is subconsciously ruling out women when looking to hire at a lower level. Job descriptions are mostly based on the previous person - usually a man - and it doesn’t attract female candidates whose certifications and experience will probably be different. We should be looking for people who like to spend their spare time in front of a computer screen of some sort - and it needn’t be gaming. Women and girls are more likely to have spent time on social media, for example.

The diversity dividend

I think the key to success in any environment is diversity: the more diverse the group of people working together, the better it is. Bringing together different experiences, knowledge and skills is more likely to achieve success. There’s no such thing as men’s or women’s work - it’s about finding people who want to do, and have the skills to do, the things on offer. Almost a third of my team are women and that’s not half bad!

And though cyber security wasn’t around when I started out I always knew I wanted to lead in something and felt that what I could bring to the world of technology was quite different through integrating people and technology.

I never imagined being awarded Cyber Security Woman of the Year in 2015, but I feel I’ve worked hard to make a difference in the cyber security world.

Women in cyber security

Today, I see cyber security becoming a lot more gender diverse, with women going into data privacy and audit.

For women, there are some huge advantages in this industry: every day is a challenge and you’ll never get bored! It’s also a profession that will be around for a good few years yet.

And it’s a great thing to do while bringing up children. Compared to my early career when childcare was difficult, cyber security today lends itself really well to non-conventional working hours and for anyone wanting good work-life balance, it’s a career in which women and men equally can juggle their hours.


Karoliina Ainge is the Head of Estonian Cyber Security Policy at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications. Her role involves coordinating the various policies and initiatives that make up the Estonian Cyber Security Strategy 2014-2017, as well as making sure cyber security is integrated into the wider e-government and information society frameworks. She is also involved in many innovative projects with the Estonian government, including on data embassies and digital continuity. Karoliina focused on quantitative political science during her studies at the University of Aberdeen and specialized in cyber security upon graduation:

Nick Wilding, General Manager, Cyber Resilience, AXELOS: Why has Estonia made cyber resilience such a priority?

Karoliina Ainge: We would be doing a bad job of running the country if we weren’t! We are one of the most digitally advanced countries in the world and our people rely on e-government systems, like digital signatures, to conduct their business and interact with the government. We are at the stage where people and government are now reliant on digital systems and we can’t go back to paper-based systems.

The 2007 attack against Estonia’s banking systems and government impeded the normal functioning of some systems for almost a week; this brought cyber resilience to the forefront of our thinking. At the time, most governments didn’t have a cyber resilience strategy – the attack we experienced proved to be the turning point for us and we took the bull by the horns! Now cyber resilience is for everybody in Estonia; it’s a cultural dependency, not just a corporate or governmental one.

Nick Wilding: What are the primary lessons the country has learned from its own cyber experience and that of other states?

Karoliina Ainge: For me it’s all about measuring what’s happening in your systems: knowing what your vulnerabilities are now and are likely to be in the future and getting a coherent picture of your systems and their dependencies. You also need to be able to define what an effective response to a cyber-attack will look like and whether your actions will have an impact on your overall security. It’s easy to throw money at the problem but this doesn’t guarantee you’ll get the outcome you want. And when spending money during an economic downturn you need to be sure your strategy will be effective.

It’s also about cooperation and collaboration: governments and the private sector need to be talking to each other and sharing lessons learnt and best practice. Effective cyber resilience needs a societal and enterprise-wide response and this will only improve with greater cooperation and collaboration.

Read Part 1       Read Part 2

Full interview coming soon


Jan Babiak is a non-executive director who currently sits on Fortune 20 and TSX 10 boards (and formerly on two FTSE 100 boards) that rely on a successful digital platform. She has a 30-year career in cyber cybersecurity and IT risk and is a frequent panellist and speaker on board governance:

NW: What is your role on a board and what do you think board members should bring to an organization?

JB: While each board member is likely to bring a deep subject matter expertise in a certain area(s), I think it’s very important that board members are not ‘one trick ponies’. They need to play a holistic role, providing a valuable contribution on a range of topics whether that’s raising equity, expanding into a different geographic market, changing the product mix etc. As such, my experience and role covers the majority of the general governance of running a company but my specific experience represents over 30 years working with IT risk, information security, cybersecurity, cloud computing, system implementation effectiveness, and helping to make sure those things are understood, discussed and related governance is provided in the boardroom. That means considering the applicability of such things in broader terms as well - for example, the impact on an acquisition, or data privacy regulations, the business opportunities and risks of the digital world in which we all work, how companies can most effectively protect their critical information, whether management is dealing well with a crisis such as a security breach, and beyond.

Full interview coming soon

Liz Tipping, Head of RESILIA Awareness Learning, AXELOS

Liz TippingI’ve always had a passion for people and development. Over 20 years ago I worked for a leading training organization that practised what it preached with its people and showed me the value in helping individuals, teams and organizations perform at their best. That lit the fire for me and inspired me to pursue a career in learning and development.

In my experience, the HR/ learning and development field is well-balanced in terms of gender diversity compared to some others. Since I began working in the sector, we’ve seen the rise of some high profile female HR directors who have been really great role models to have in the industry. I think the sector is open to all people and that gender isn’t a determining factor for success.

Today, I’m head of RESILIA Awareness Learning at AXELOS and work with organizations to build an awareness of cyber security among their workforce. As 90% of all cyber-attacks are successful due to human error, organizations need to look at moving away from traditional, once a year tick-box awareness training and offer short, varied and engaging online learning that suits different learning styles as we don’t all learn in the same way.

That aligns well with my belief in the value of playing to the strengths of people whether they are male or female. I’ve worked with both and I’ve learned that success starts with developing awareness of your own strengths and playing to them and the strengths of your team. This is what has helped me forge strong, trusting relationships with my colleagues and clients which is something that has benefited me the most. From working with both men and women, I’ve learned that success is down to the strengths and style of the individual, their skills and personality rather than gender.

Having had a career in learning and development has provided me with ample opportunities for personal growth. All the roles I’ve had have given me the opportunity to develop skills and achieve career progression. As long as women and men make the most of such opportunities and take advantage of what’s there, they’ll enjoy a prosperous career in the industry.

For women who want to enter the cyber-security industry, I think there is a significant opportunity. There is a well reported skill gap in cyber-security in the UK with the gap between employer demand for this expertise and the number of individuals who meet the skills requirements reported as being one of the largest in the world so there are plenty of opportunities for people to get involved...

To be successful, I believe it’s really important to be authentic, self-aware and to focus on your goals. But, also, as a woman it’s been important for me to choose an employer that respects flexible working particularly when juggling your family life and career.


Amrit Saroya is the Membership Global Marketing Lead for AXELOS. She is also an accredited ITIL® Practitioner. Amrit put together reports on the future of professionals in the fields of service management and project management:

The Future IT Service Management Professional

As service management becomes integral to every aspect of the business, ITSM professionals are in a position to guide the business through this change. This will require them to embrace the soft skills of communication, organizational change management, problem solving, collaboration, creativity, and relationship building, among others. These skills will be put to use managing services that the customer, and therefore the organization, find of value. ITSM professionals of the future will be expected to drive positive business change; in order to do so, they will need to be visionary and proactive.

Read the full article

The Future Project Management Professional

Over the coming years, we will see a democratization of project management skills as more individuals across the business start to take a project–based approach to achieve their objectives. As such project management will be recognized across the organization as a valuable business skill.

Read the full article


Margo Leach is Global Product Manager for AXELOS. She recently blogged on the AXELOS site about the benefits of utilising PRINCE2 outside the PMO:

When organizations are not managing projects effectively, it means the value that should be delivered by projects suffers. I believe this happens in a multitude of industries, and it is impacting businesses’ bottom lines.

The solution is for organizations to recognize the benefits of using a project management framework throughout their organization - not just within Project Management Offices (PMOs). PRINCE2 is such a methodology, but my experience with it pre-dates my current role at AXELOS by many years, when I was not officially a Project Manager.

Read the full article


Clare Cottrell is Global ITIL Marketing Lead for AXELOS. Since joining AXELOS, she has played a great role in establishing ITIL Practitioner as a valuable qualification for ITSM professionals.

Changes also need to work on a cultural and social level, rather than simply as a collection of statistics. We need to remember that, when speaking to customers, we should speak to them about what they care about to ensure the measurements we are making are the measurements that matter. Process alone is not the objective; there should be a purpose behind every process. ITIL Practitioner provides a number of tools and templates in its guidance to help with experiments and learning.

Read the full article

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