05 March 2018 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
Where is the queue for the men's toilets longer than the women's? A facilities management conference. That's not a joke. It happened at a recent event.
Facilities management is a male-dominated industry so at least women can be thankful for the small mercy of shorter queues.
We have outspoken and strong female voices in the industry, but it's a male culture. I have been reminded more than once.
Like the time I was groped while standing in a throng of FMs on a dance floor at a prestigious event.
Or when a man at real estate conference said: "I am surrounded by women. I have two girls at home and the dog's a bitch too." Aware suddenly of women around him, he offered: "Whoops, am I being sexist?"
Or when a company at the Facilities Show used women dressed in Playboy bunny outfits to advertise itself.
Or how a successful woman working for an FM company cried in front of me about all of the times she has been patronised, doubted and propositioned.
I could go on.
We are still fighting for pay equality and representation at senior levels of all professions. But the fight is also about challenging microaggressions (intentional and unintentional insults, invalidations and assaults based on gender or any marginalised identity) embedded in the culture.
Microaggressions are what keep alive a culture in which there is a gender pay gap and where the objectification of women is normal.
At the end of the Workplace Futures conference last month, FM consultant Lucy Jeynes pointed out how pay inequality or the controversy around a recent men-only fundraising dinner featuring scantily-clad hostesses - attended by the most senior figures of British business, politics and finance which sit closely with FM - had barely been mentioned at the event.
But as Jeynes asked, was this even likely at a conference when only two of the 15 speakers were women including her.
"Is that what our industry is about in the future?" asked Jeynes. "Is that what we are trying to say about our values?"
I glimpsed the future at the Women in FM conference last month, where women and men spoke honestly and with mutual respect about mental illness, nervous breakdowns, menopause, cyber bullying, sexual abuse, acid attacks, and the profession.
An industry where such conversations can be had alongside those about workplace management and technology is surely a better ideal but this is far from being the norm.
Herpreet Kaur Grewal is news editor of FM World
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