To celebrate International Women’s day, we asked female FM leaders what advice they would give to other women hoping to thrive in facilities management. In this round-up post, they share the barriers they have overcome, how they fight the status quo, how male-dominated the FM industry is, what makes a good female leader and what female role models they look up to.
Steph Kendall, CBRE
The FM industry is still male-dominated, but this is changing, more rapidly in recent years. I think our customers are partly behind this, with more female decision makers and a desire for more diverse suppliers. I’m proud that my own management team is close to 50:50 males to females, which happened organically. As a result, more aspiring female leaders are drawn to the team. Female board representation is incredibly important – if a company doesn’t demonstrate diversity at a senior level, you question if they really are in touch with the modern workplace. I am a proud member of the CBRE GWS Women’s network, which encourages great conversations within the business, about diversity as well as issues specific to women. It’s great to see a mix of sexes and grades engaged with the network. The things that make a great leader apply to both sexes: leading by example, inspiring others, being confident, leading from the front, while staying humble.
Steph Kendall started her career with Amey, joining their Leadership Graduate Programme and working in various roles. She joined CBRE in September 2014 as Account Manager, before progressing through to Area General Manager, Account Director and then promoted to Business Unit Leader in January 2018.
Katie King, Zoodikers
With thirty years in business under my belt, I feel compelled to share my advice to younger women in FM, especially on International Women’s Day. The key to success is to be true to yourself and not be bullied or intimidated by others. I’ve experienced incompetence at all levels and in all sectors so don’t think everyone is better than you. Be bullish, tenacious and resourceful; speak up, and say no when you know something isn’t right. Be kind; help others and they will help you. Keep learning all the time; in an age of AI, this is crucial. Be prepared to fail; it’s ok. As a woman, you have difficult choices. You can have it all, if you choose to, but no one prepares you for just how tough that is. But it’s worth it. Finally, ensure you have some fun along the way! Life is short.
Katie King is CEO of AI in Marketing and Zoodikers, and Co-Founder of AI in FM. She is the author of Using Artificial Intelligence in Marketing: How to Harness AI and Maintain the Competitive Edge, published by Kogan Page.
Jackie Furey MBIFM, Director & Chair of Women in FM, Where We Work Ltd
I believe to be a good leader you should use your natural female traits of empathy, high emotional intelligence, the ability to listen and the drive to see a job through to its conclusion. In my experience men tend to be naturally more confident and able to self-promote but women tend to be self-critical. To overcome my inner gremlins, I found strength and confidence through having a coach & mentor the fabulous; Victoria O'Farrell, and through women's networks such as IWFM's Women in FM SIG. Friday 1st March was the annual Women in FM Conference 2019. This is such an inspirational event that every time I walk away, I feel ready to take on the biggest of challenges. Other tips would be to read books such as ‘Lean in’ by Sheryl Sandberg and ‘Work like a Women’ by Mary Portas. Mary is my inspiration, as part of my legacy before standing down as Chair of Women in FM, we gave away a signed copy of Mary's book to each of the delegates. I’m sure Mary's words will help to guide and inspire those that attended, as much as they have me. #WomeninFM19
Jackie has worked in the FM industry for the past eighteen years and has extensive knowledge in the field of workplace integration, cultural change, and move & space management. She has extensive project delivery experience having delivered some of the most prestigious projects in the UK.
Julie Hogarth, Head of Sustainability, Regent Street Management Direct
The balance of the gender gap has irretrievably tipped. I’m delighted to see and experience in recent years the very real and exciting opportunities now open to women in the UK FM profession - the gender gap is in the ascent. Many of the barriers experienced at the beginning of my career have been eroded in parallel with social, economic, and political change.
As the world of FM continues to develop and mature, it’s increasingly placing the customer rather than an asset at the heart of the business – with this shift there is a greater emphasis on the ability to communicate and build relationships. Whilst not exclusive to females, women excel at actively listening, empathising, communicating, working collaboratively, taking the lead when needed, being dependable …… in short, having highly developed interpersonal skills. It’s these skills that are increasingly required in the FM sector and integral to career success.
Gold nugget advice from me to you. “Never accept No as an answer”. No is the answer that preserves the status quo. So, find your burning platform – what is it that you truly believe will make an all important difference to benefit your customers or your organisation that you want to implement? Do your homework, prepare your plan, seek support from others (someone higher up the management team – if you need a budget, ideally a person with finance responsibility) and begin to develop your positive tenacity as you influence others to see the benefits too.
Julie Hogarth uses her experience and knowledge to inform future strategy and positively impact future opportunities.
Sally Wotton, FSI
I have worked in the FM industry since 2002 and have seen a sizeable change in its demographic in that time. Gone are the days of a ‘typical’ FM person being male and of a certain age. This is now an industry of all ages and sexes, and a career choice with so many opportunities to work in so many companies, sectors and countries. A good leader, whether they are male or female, should realise that their most important asset is their colleagues. You should be yourself, always communicate, nurture those around you, take risks to achieve rewards, and show appreciation. As a Marketing Manager in the FM industry, I utilise the IWFM as they offer great networking events, including the Women in FM annual conference which I regularly attend, and come away from feeling empowered in this industry.
Sally Wotton is a marketing extraordinaire in the FM industry. She is a closet artist, photographer, singer, cinema usherette, FI groupie, personal shopper and mixologist.
Liz Kentish, Kentish & Co
I’ve worked in and around FM for over 15 years, for several of those years I was chair of Women in FM. Industry events used to seem full of predominantly white men of a certain age but that has changed dramatically. Perhaps our industry was always more diverse but certain groups didn’t seem visible.
Specific things that have helped me - NOT because I’m a woman but simply as someone in FM:
- Be yourself - don’t try to be better than anyone else, simply aim to better yourself
- Ask for help Get a mentor (within the sector) and a coach (outside)
- Create a small group of people who will support you and challenge you - my FM in pharma networking group does just that (they happen to be female)
- Give back - mentoring, sharing my story, even going back to my old school to talk about careers and challenges
- Be kind, I always try to be aware of my own biases
Great leaders do all the above as well as have a clear vision and strong personal values. Female role models? Anne Lennox-Martin, Jackie Cupper, Bev Farrington. I’m a supporter of Women in FM but also other groups, for newcomers, learners, apprentices etc.
Liz aims to be an ambassador and role model for those in facilities management, the built environment and the many other sectors of industry that Kentish and Co work in. She conducts business honestly and openly, and talks about management in an extremely human way that removes some of the barriers put up by 'business'.
Linda Hausmanis, IWFM
- The barriers I have overcome: Being a woman and a single parent – neither should have been a barrier – but these the judgements and biases that people consciously or unconsciously make of a person every day.
- How I fight the status quo: By being true to myself and by doing the right thing even when at times this has jeopardised my career, but I will not tolerate unethical behaviour. To never stop learning and challenging (which my team are ever so grateful for!)
- What challenges I face: Having enough quality time with my son.
- How male-dominated do I think the industry is: I am encouraged by the growing numbers of females who have a hugely successful career in FM and act as good role models for the FMs of the future. FM as a profession should be proud of its inclusivity of people from all walks of life. This is not necessarily the norm across other professions.
- What I think makes a good female leader: There is no difference between a good ‘male’ or ‘female’ leader – to me it is about integrity, honesty, fairness and having a clear vision
- The female role models I look up to in the industry: Julie Kortens and Polly Plunket-Checkemian are both women who I hugely respect for their professionalism, their kindness and humility.
- The female FM community that I strongly feel a part of: The IWFM’s WiFM community never fail to inspire me and make me proud of the work they do.
Linda is presently leading the newly formed Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management, IWFM, through the second phase of a transition to position workplace and facilities management as a value-creating and distinct profession, and to create a modern professional body, providing value to a community of 17,000 and to the sector more widely.