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​Celebrating Women in Facilities Management this International Women’s Day

Blog Posts  (12)

Article posted by Chris Sycamore on Mar 06, 2024

In what has traditionally been a male-dominated sector, the tide is beginning to change for women in facilities management. Whilst data from LinkedIn suggests that just 29% of Building and Facilities Managers on the platform in the UK identify as a woman, surveys by the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (IWFM) have suggested a 2% increase in the women making up the sector from 32% in 2020 to 34% in 2021. The actual figure is likely to be somewhere in between.

Pleasingly, in the past year, over 40% of our placements in the Buildings and Facilities Management space have been women. So, this International Women’s Day, we wanted to shine a light on some of the brightest female prospects and leaders that we've worked with last year in the space, asking them about their journeys so far, observations of the sector, and what more can be done by those already established within it to make Facilities Management (FM) more inclusive for everyone.

What has changed for women in Facilities Management?

The sector has indeed changed for the better in the decade I’ve been speaking to candidates and clients within it.

As Amy Boden, Facilities Manager at Workman says, “It’s just over 10 years since I started on the helpdesk and I did not know a single female FM when I started, but we’ve worked very hard to change the attitudes of a lot of the people that we worked with.”

Kelly Cartwright, now Associate Director at Lambert Smith Hampton, went further on why this change has happened since beginning her career in the space in 2012, stating that “FM is increasingly recognised as a multi-disciplinary field that values not only technical expertise but also soft skills such as communication, collaboration, and emotional intelligence. Women often excel in these areas, contributing more to effective teamwork, client relations, and stakeholder management.”

What can women uniquely offer the Facilities Management space?

As Facilities Management becomes more people-focused than ever before, there’s a greater focus on soft skills – the stereotypically more ‘female’ traits.

Jessica Gaffney, NOMA Operations Manager at Workman, comments that “A lot of the time the field is an environment that’s full of engineers, some higher management, and security guards that could typically be males. Women naturally have strong people skills as we are caring, nurturing, and have a cooperative fearless ‘can do’ approach in most situations.”

Amy continues that “it goes beyond the idea that women just think about the tenants and all of that - women naturally do think about the logistics and keeping people happy because that is a huge part of the role. Dealing with people is a massive part of the job”.

It’s important to look beyond this though and recognise that it’s not just these soft skills that are seeing more women get in and get on in FM. In the conversations I’m having with women in the FM space every day, I’m seeing an increasing level of experience, technical expertise and qualifications like NEBOSH on their CVs, adding value to this growing talent pool.

How can organisations do more to support women and other underrepresented groups in FM?

Fostering a supportive and inclusive work culture where women and other underrepresented groups feel valued, respected, and empowered to voice their ideas and concerns is crucial.

Practically, as Jessica suggests, employers can “implement policies that promote work-life balance, such as flexible scheduling and parental leave, to attract and retain female talent. Visibility and representation also matter, so highlighting successful women in facilities management through recognition programs and leadership initiatives can inspire others to pursue careers in the field”. This is something echoed by Kelly who offers another way, saying that “businesses can offer mentorship programs that pair experienced female leaders with aspiring female professionals to provide guidance and support.”

Food for thought for all employers in the FM space as to what more they can be doing.

So how, as an individual with experience in FM, can you help the development of women and other groups in the space?

Outside of bigger picture initiatives, more senior individuals can simply offer practical experience to those learning the sector, like Amy was. “I started to get copied into emails and included in client meetings. Whilst it wasn’t always possible for me to join in where my other role responsibilities would interfere, it was a free way to encourage that growth, encourage that learning and give me the appreciation of the different ways multi-site clients could operate.”

Amy continued; “So many of the [primarily] men in the industry at the moment have been in it for such a long time, that they’ve been having the same conversations for 20-30 years, using the same abbreviations and lingo throughout the numerous quarterly M&E meetings they’ve attended. They've seen a lot more technology than a lot of women coming into the industry now – and actually, can share so much value by just talking about their work and explaining the details when asked. I’ve never been mocked or told I’m asking a silly question, but it’s also down to you as the individual to create strong bonds with those who have experience in the sector and to show that you are indeed learning from them”.

Finally, what advice would you give other women on getting into FM?

Carrying on the above theme, Amy suggests that asking questions is best.

“Having the strength to sit in a room full of predominantly men and sit there and go ‘really sorry, what does that bit of tech do or how does that actually apply to my building that I'm in?’ is such a strength and it's a really hard thing to learn. If you don't have the opportunity to ask a question, Google it after or give someone you trust a call after the meeting and ask them. It sounds so simple, but it's a really tough thing to do.”

More broadly speaking, Kelly continues; “Facilities Management is a field that continuously adapts to new technologies, trends, and best practices, so it's crucial to stay curious and proactive in seeking out opportunities for learning and professional development. Embrace the challenges that come with FM, stay resilient, and ensure that you’re prioritising your well-being by seeking a balance between your professional and personal life.

Developing leadership skills (including decision-making, delegation, conflict resolution, and team management), communication skills, and having the ability to continuously learn have been key contributing factors to my development in the sector during my career.”

Ensuring you have the best Facilities Managers possible

We’re proud of our role as the leading, go-to recruitment agency in the FM space and how we partner with our clients and candidates. It’s not just about ensuring that women and other underrepresented groups can get in and get on in facilities management and in the real estate sector in general, but it’s about broadening the talent pool and removing any bias in our clients’ recruitment processes, to ensure that all clients can access the best possible talent available to them.

Please get in touch if you want to find out more about inclusive hiring practices, our amazing network of Facilities Management professionals from Assistant to Director level, or, if you currently work or want to work in Facilities Management, please get in touch with me via csycamore@cobaltrecruitment.com / +44 (0)2074782544.

 

 Thank you to Jessica, Amy and Kelly for their time and valuable insights helping us create this piece.