Championing Women in Facilities Management

Women continue to make strides in the facilities management (FM) industry, yet today they account for just 24.5% of facilities managers, according to Zippia

If you are an operations manager or a woman currently working in FM, there are ways to champion your female colleagues and leverage current opportunities to get more women into the field. 

Since 1983, OpenWorks, a facilities management company in Phoenix, Arizona, has supported and lifted diverse communities through its deeply rooted values in the entrepreneurial spirit and achieving the American dream. 

OpenWorks’ employee base is exceptionally diverse, with many women working in all company sectors, including leadership. These women took the opportunity to define their paths and were promoted year after year.

“A strong facility management program relies on core people, process, technology and detailed total facility upkeep and improvement programs,” says Victoria Murray, Executive Vice President of OpenWorks.  

“One of the leading differentiators of OpenWorks’ delivery and out-of-the-box approaches to providing its customers a streamlined strategic partnership has come from the diversity of thought and voices within our team, including women,” says Murray.

The company intentionally develops and promotes people of all backgrounds. By doing so, leadership finds people who want to grow and provides the support to help them achieve their goals. This is a critical difference between a company that values a diverse employee base and one that does not.

Murray continues, “With more than 40% of our director level and above leadership being women, our gender-diverse team can collaborate on complex topics at several levels to represent all angles of the customer experience within our key industries.”

Bottom line: FM companies that realize its strength in promoting women will ultimately find more success.

Here are specific steps FM companies can take to help create gender diversity today:

1.    Put your values in writing and into practice.

Many businesses are working to promote existing, updated, or new DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) values. It has become a popular thing to do. But it is easy to see this as a “checklist” item rather than something you must genuinely put into practice. 

When putting your values into writing, make them actionable. One way to do this is to assign one value to one person, who will be accountable for leading the change on that value and be responsible for clearly defining how the company will measure success.  

For HR representatives and managers, commit to gender inclusivity in hiring and promotions. Measure progress in these areas with hard data to track how you achieve your values and in what sectors of your business (rather than the company as a wholeFor instance, one department may hire and promote women at an equal rate as their male counterparts, while another department may struggle. Don’t be afraid to dive into these numbers, examine them, and check for any biases. 

2.     Get your entire team involved.

Diversity, including gender equality, requires a team effort across the organization, from the top down. That means it is as essential to the CEO as to entry-level employees. Companies can focus on cultural and organizational changes to reduce gender inequity; hiring more women isn’t enough.

Here are some ways to begin to close the gender gap and make your workplace inclusive:

o  Create fair compensation and promotion procedures: By creating a standard set of evaluation and promotion procedures, women can move up the corporate ladder. Transparent evaluation and promotion procedures benefit everyone.

o  Offer flexible and supportive benefits. Reduce stress and burnout by offering more opportunities for improved work-life balance with flexible work arrangements like remote or hybrid work and flexible scheduling. Women often bear the brunt of ushering children to school, doctors’ appointments, sports, and events.

o  Enhance employee experience and engagement by creating a culture where all employees have an opportunity to be heard.

o  Pay attention to political changes. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 prohibits wage disparity based on sex. As we move closer to a world with gender equality at work, look out for any potential changes.

3.     Understand the challenges women in facility management face.

Facility management is a male-dominated workplace sector – but that doesn’t mean it always has to be. Start by understanding that women in your workplace may feel left out of decisions or experience a lack of support and opportunity. 

You can create a more dynamic and inclusive environment by listening, amplifying, and advocating for the opinions and voices of the women in your workplace. Send female FM leaders and employees to conferences, offer them speaking opportunities, and encourage continuing education. The more women that are seen in FM, the more it will give others the ability and courage to step up, too.

Misty Connaughton, Vice President of Performance at OpenWorks sees raising up other women as part of her job.

"I am honored to lead a 100% female franchise sales team, be a part of a leadership team with other females, and work with a female vice president. I believe that these women cultivate meaningful relationships and provide insight and strategy in a way that only a strong woman can. That is the point of difference that inspires me to celebrate strong women everywhere," says Connaughton.

OpenWorks is proud to offer a culture of individual growth, new opportunities, and authentic connections by putting people first and working together to achieve a greater good for all. Learn more about the OpenWorks story to see why and how we put people first. 

"I have been in the facilities management industry for 15 years; it has been impactful personally for me as I broke several barriers leading teams in many projects including in the aviation vertical where I was sometimes the only woman in the room," says Mary Torrado, Vice President of Strategic Operations at OpenWorks.

"I've taught teams how to property maintain a facility for OSHA compliance, use proper chemicals, and how to conduct proper floor care, but what truly has been meaningful during my tenure is not only being a mentor for women in the industry and my colleagues, but also for female franchisees. I am proud to help these small business owners strategically grow and expand their capabilities to reach their full potential," Torrado concludes.

4.     Provide training and access to resources to help bridge the gender gap in facility management. 

Women have long been on the sidelines in specific industries, including facilities management. The gender gap in such fields affects not only those aspiring to join these industries but also the entire industry. 

Bridging this gender gap means expanding the potential and providing adequate training and resources to empower women wishing to enter such professional roles. Training must be made available so that female employees can acquire the needed job skills and knowledge while giving them more confidence in their abilities. 

In addition, resources like mentorships and workshops should be offered so women feel connected to their colleagues and supported within the organization, thus inspiring more women to enter and dominate in fields related to facilities management. 

We can all pave a way for many more powerful female voices that will break through any barriers preventing them from speaking their truth. OpenWorks is proud to offer a culture of individual growth, new opportunities, and authentic connections by putting people first and working together to achieve a greater good for all. Reach out to find out more about the OpenWorks difference. We’re here to help. 

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