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Where are All the Women in Facilities Management? (Hint: look where leaders gather).

Did you know that, even today in our culturally diverse world, men outnumber women by a staggering nine to one in facilities management leadership roles? That’s according to a 2017 study by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources.

Women are gradually increasing their presence in leadership roles across the building management industry, however. The Commercial Real Estate Women Network says their numbers have grown from 32 percent to more than 36 percent since 2005.

That is moving in the right direction and none too soon. Here’s why:

We Need New Talent to Replace an Aging Workforce

We’re about to lose a lot of the current, mostly male, workforce. Many facilities managers are approaching retirement age. IFMA says the average age of a facilities manager is 49 years old. And half of those, it says, will retire in the next 5-15 years.

Good Talent is Hard to Find

Labor shortages are real, especially in building-related fields. And especially in hot markets like Texas, the Bay Area, New York. As an industry, we must get more creative in who and how we are recruiting, and lose the old stereotypes that would say only men are suited for managing facilities, managing crews, understanding building science, dealing with subcontractors and vendors. Women are proving their value across the commercial real estate sector, and they are poised to fill the labor gaps.

Facilities Management Requires Unique Skills

Women tend to make especially good facilities managers because, well, they are women. They possess unique social, communication and problem-solving skills that many of us guys sadly fail at. It’s called emotional intelligence. Facilities managers must be good at communicating with all levels and types of people. They must be good listeners too. And smart building technology is bringing about demand for facilities leaders with even more sophisticated communication and problem-solving skills. They also have to be masterful at managing time and juggling lots of balls. Women check the boxes in all of those categories.

Diversity Helps Create Better Buildings

Who better to predict and understand the needs of a building’s users than people who represent the diversity of the users themselves? “As facility managers, we have a lot of control over the built environment, which we know can have a profound impact on facility occupants’ productivity as well as their health and wellbeing,” says Melanie Young, a resident district manager at Sodexo in Canada, in a recent blog. “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?”

Supporting Women in Facilities Management

One such company supporting diversity in facilities management is Google. According to Lynn Baez, head of facilities at Google’s Mountainview, Calif., headquarters,  “The employee population in today's corporate facilities is increasingly diverse, and it’s important that the facility team that services these dynamic workforces are just as diverse. Otherwise, an important perspective is missing from the decisions made in the facility,” says Baez. 

Growing the opportunities for women in facilities management has been a mission of ours for the past decade. Back in 2008, a small group of female facilities managers got together for lunch during the IFMA World Workplace. They recognized the need to further their professional knowledge, build stronger professional networks and encourage career advancement for women in facilities management.

The result was the launch of Women in Facilities Management, with APEX Surface Care and Corporate Floors as founding sponsors ever since.

Today, WIFM’s membership exceeds 600 and growing! Through local chapter meetings and national events, its members have a resource to grow their knowledge, skills and careers. In a few weeks – Oct. 16 – the third annual national meeting will bring members together in Phoenix at the Children’s Museum of Phoenix. If you are a female working in professional facility, construction, and property management, consider joining us!

And for other businesses who share APEX and Corporate Floors’ commitment to workplace diversity, you can promote your commitment to expanding the number of women in facilities management leadership roles by becoming a WIFM sponsor. We invite you to join us in helping women excel in facilities management! Learn more at gowifm.org.