The IWFM should seek answers from their members about how to improve the FM profession for women, claims a group of leading women in the sector.
To mark International Women’s Day this week, the IWFM interviewed four prominent professionals about their experiences as women working in workplace and facilities management. They were: Jemma Williams, senior director FM, JLL; Julie Kortens, consultant, Director Group; Nikki Lathbury, managing director, Hexagon Group/Hexagon FM; and Simone Fenton-Jarvis, workplace consultancy director, Ricoh UK.
Jemma Williams said how to improve the profession for women was not “an easy question to answer when other diversity elements will impact women, such as race, disability, sexuality, etc”.
She said: “It would be good to see IWFM seeking answers from their members that may fall into this one, two or all categories and listen to those voices to see what improvements are required to enable better opportunities for women.”
Kortens said she believes that role models need to continue to be provided to students and new entrants to the field as a solution.
“Nothing is more powerful than new entrants hearing stories of women who have been successful, bearing in mind, of course, that ‘success’ means so many different things to so many different people. Not everyone wants to be the CEO of a multinational organisation. For some, earning a living wage and supporting their family is an ambition that should be celebrated. IWFM already provides guidance and support through career days and visits to schools and colleges. These are important, as is their support of apprenticeships and continuing education.”
Fenton-Jarvis believes that education about “the challenges that people experience and the unconscious bias that exists” is needed.
Women also need to be supported “to empower themselves and other women, and support men to empower women and drive equal opportunities,” she added.
Williams also suggested that mentorship “is a great tool that both male and female business leaders can play a part in” – including reverse mentoring. Williams described this as when “female colleagues can mentor male colleagues and give them insight into being female in a male-dominated industry”.
Kortens suggested that it is also important to celebrate the progress made so far – she added that the profession has changed in a positive way since she joined. “When I joined the profession, it was male-dominated and, without the support of so many male colleagues, many of us wouldn’t have succeeded in our own careers. Equality of opportunity is exactly what it means: let’s provide opportunities for all. After all, FM is special because there is a place for everyone, regardless of their background and gender. There are many male business leaders who already do a great deal to promote and support women, with some providing invaluable mentoring and coaching to those within their teams and throughout the industry."
Lathbury said a reassessment of recruiting is needed for businesses to think about "what they are trying to achieve when writing job specifications". She explained: "If that person isn’t going to pick up the tools and maintain that plant or draw designs, do they really need to be technically qualified or do they need an understanding and a great team where there are technical experts underneath?"
Fenton-Jarvis stressed that bad behaviour had to be called out to “help women battle confidence challenges by pushing them to apply for roles, ensure equal opportunities and educate on unconscious bias”.
Image credit | IWFM