DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION: WOMEN IN FACILITIES MANAGEMENT

This is the first in a series of blogs with a focus on diversity and inclusion. A hot topic at this year’s Facilities Management Show and other industry events, it’s also an issue we come across regularly as recruiters within Facilities Management (FM).

We begin by looking at the role women play in FM; a sector perceived (rightly or wrongly) to be dominated by men.

Tackling stereotypes

So, why does this industry stereotyping exist? Perhaps it’s because the nature of FM work is traditionally seen as a ‘man’s job’. This, we believe, largely comes down to how people - working within and outside of the sector - are educated about FM as a career.

As discussed in our previous blog post, ‘Is Facilities Management too Cool for School?’, FM isn’t necessarily encouraged by schools, colleges and universities as an attractive career path - particularly for women. The truth is, there are great opportunities for women in FM. In fact, women are not only critical to shaping the future of FM as an industry but are key to identifying the needs of women as end-users.

As recognised in the Global Facilities Management Market Report 2018, women are expected to play a major role in the workplace of the future, changing the nature of engagements with FM and other service companies.



Inspiring initiatives

Unfortunately, we’ve heard many stories from women in FM who have felt patronised and doubted. Fortunately, incidents like this are rare and, on the decline, but the sad truth is these experiences are unlikely to disappear forever, no matter how much the sector - despite its focus on people - strives for diversity and inclusion.

However, with the support of initiatives such as Women in FM (WIFM) things are certainly moving forward in the right direction. A specialist interest group set up by the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (IWFM), the group encourages inclusivity for all with a focus on continuing professional development.

WIFM offer advice and guidance to help women develop, raise their profile in the profession and make the most of professional development opportunities. This also includes networking events such as the WIFM Annual Conference. The theme for this year’s event was ‘Delivering FM Success Through Inclusion’. It’s worth noting, the conference - despite its name - is aimed at men too!

Earlier this year, our client ENGIE, confirmed its continued sponsorship of WIFM with several of ENGIE’s employees also standing as WIFM committee members. ENGIE’s Corporate Responsibility Director, Jamie Quinn, was a guest speaker at the 2019 WIFM Annual Conference and provided an insight into their work on diversity and inclusion.

Since 2008, ENGIE has developed its policy of gender diversity and implemented practical initiatives to help women progress their careers within the Group. This includes the introduction of quantified targets, co-ordination of a Women in Networking network, a mentoring program, a Women in Leadership training program and an ambitious parenting policy.

By 2020 ENGIE is committed to ensuring women represent 25% of the Group’s workforce, one out of every three senior managers, 30% of new recruits and 35% of high-potential managers.

Driving innovation

As mentioned earlier, it’s not just a case of employing more women in FM to reduce the gender divide - their views, opinions and ideas matter - and more importantly, they can make a difference. We think this is perfectly summed up in Sodexo’s blog post titled ‘Women are changing the Face of Facilities Management’.

“If our FM teams aren’t diverse themselves, how can we ensure we are truly understanding and empathetic to increasingly diverse populations and their unique needs? Encouraging more women to work in FM will help generate a greater diversity of thoughts and insights, which can only help us progress and show growth to our clients, who are also gender diverse.”

Like ENGIE, Sodexo’s employee network group have also launched several initiatives to support women in FM and were launched this year to mark International Women’s Day.

What now?

We completely agree that FM teams must be diverse for innovation to thrive. While we hope the sector moves away from being a stereotypically male-dominated industry and women become more aware of the opportunities available to them, both genders have plenty to bring to the future of FM.

The key is not to employ more women for the sake of ticking a box. It’s about employing the right people for the right jobs and encouraging men and women to work in unison to not only drive innovation but ensure the best outcome for the end-user.

What do you think are the biggest challenges women currently face in FM? Are you a woman in FM - what is your experience of working in the sector? How can we encourage more women into FM? We’d love to hear your thoughts…

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