Without wishing to sound like someone jumping on the man-bashing band wagon, which I must assure you I am not, I just wondered if anyone felt a little like me when it comes to Facilities? My previous role helped launch me into this world – it was a slow transition and one I enjoyed, particularly when working with a great and supportive team. I was an innocent, wide-eyed individual, excited about the challenges and opportunities ahead but it soon became very clear to me that, as a woman, I was the minority. I did not consider that I was unable to learn the ropes – it was more how I was treated by others that made me doubt myself. Don’t get me wrong, it certainly wasn’t everyone in the industry, but there was an underlying tone that was apparent at times. Maybe I have a tendency to pay more attention to the negative than the positive and maybe that trait is more common in women, but it didn’t take long to realise that Facilities, like many other industries, is a world with a largely male population and this can pose challenges along the way.
I was on an IOSH course a few years ago – I walked in to be met by a sea of male faces, all in absolute shock with twitchy glances amongst themselves. I thought ‘oh typical!’. I took my place at my desk and waited for the lecturer to arrive. To my joy and I have to say, amusement, she walked in five minutes later! Once the dust had settled and realisation dawned, the guys were great, supportive and it was a good course!
A large part of being in Facilities is managing people, expectations and trying to balance that with what we are actually able to provide them with. On one occasion a member of staff approached me with a request that I knew, for a number of reasons, I would have to reject. Unfortunately, he would not accept my response. He said he would speak to another member of the team. I immediately felt awful. Useless. Did I respond incorrectly or give false information? Was I rude without realising it? I was consumed by self-doubt. He subsequently dealt with my male colleague who gave him exactly the same answer. It was accepted without challenge.
In the beginning it made me feel self-conscious but now I’m amused by the amount of people I have met and the look of surprise when they realise you’re female. Thankfully I’ve encountered very few personal ‘dramas’ but I am fairly confident that I wouldn’t have been spoken to or treated a certain way if I was a man. Is that acceptable? Why do I (on occasion) have to try harder than my male counterparts just to be taken seriously and to gain credibility?
As in all other areas of business, why can’t women be just as good, if not better at some things? I’d like to think we possibly bring a calmer, diffusing element in certain situations. A voice of reason and compassion when handling difficult situations.
There are no doubt more women working in facilities than when I began my career – fortunately, I have worked with the best of them in the past and they’re brilliant at what they do. Ladies, you know who you are! It is changing though – and changing for the better. I’m only a little cog in the wheel but proud to be so! Facilities is a completely understated phenomenon. We are a support system, the infrastructure of any organisation and help the rest of our colleagues to perform their roles and enable the business to function (hopefully!) seamlessly.
So, fist pumps to all the women in Facilities – congratulations on doing a fantastic job!