Women in Facilities Management: Empowering Female Leaders in the Industry

About the author : Kelsey Hirsch, MCR

Managing Vice President at Sodexo USA

Published on : 3/1/24
  • As a woman in Facilities Management (FM), I’ve found that diversity of thought is incredibly important in the industry. However, currently women only make up 25% of facility managers in North America – and that is the highest percentage of gender diversity in FM worldwide! As we reflect on this statistic and think about the impactful, vibrant discussions that took place during the IFMA annual tradeshow, I'm inspired to share some insights into the pivotal role that women play in FM and shed some light on empowering women in FM directly correlates to the evolving trends in the industry.

    Evolving Trends in the FM Industry

    FM is evolving as an industry, and I think it is critical to understand current trends for anyone interested in entering or advancing their career in this field. The FM industry is now shifting to meet the changing needs of employees as much as the needs of the assets they may work in. As we move away from the open-office concept to more diverse work environments, office spaces are now being designed to cultivate creative collaboration, encourage joyful innovation, and enhance quiet focus.

    As FM evolves to align with changing workplace dynamics, it’s no longer just about assets; it's an investment in people. Facilities are now places to create experiences that make employees happier, more productive, and more innovative. It's an investment strategy for a company’s people and culture, not just assets. That’s why we should advocate for workplace experience strategies that are designed to reflect the diversity of its customers, which is the approach we take every day at Sodexo. These strategies ensure that decisions support various client mission delivery.

    I believe leaders can best support clients' workplace experience strategies by shifting from a focus on physical assets to an investment strategy for the true assets of any company – not a physical space, but the people who are the heartbeat of the workplace. We used to focus so much on the facilities themselves, but we can’t forget that without the people, there would just be an empty building. That’s why it is important for workplace experience teams to try to mirror the diversity of our customers and consider factors like gender, race, and sexual orientation. When we accurately reflect the makeup of the workplace, we can make informed decisions that support workplace leadership strategies.

    Why Women Should Consider a Career in FM

    The FM industry, more than ever, is about serving people as much as serving assets. If you have a passion for improving people's experiences, FM provides a rewarding avenue. With women constituting 51% of the population, representation in FM is not something that is just a nice to have – it’s an imperative. As women, our experiences and perspectives should be equally represented across all career fields, including FM. The richness of our collective experiences enhances every field, and FM is no exception.

    Advice for Women Pursuing a Career in FM

    For women entering or advancing in FM, I encourage you to recognize that FM is a service-driven field. If you have a passion for improving people's experiences, FM is definitely a promising career path for you. I also want to offer a key piece of advice that helped me succeed – I highly recommend that anyone looking to grow in the field finds a mentor. While mentorship is important in any field, mentorship plays a particularly large role in FM. Learning through observation and guidance can provide valuable insights for how facilities managers best support their customers.

    Networking: Fostering Support and Collaboration

    One of the best ways women in FM best support one another is by networking! In any profession, networking is key – and FM is no exception to this rule. But instead of viewing others in the field as your competition, I encourage you to recognize and celebrate each other's accomplishments. When networking, the focus should be on collaboration, not competition. Networking is not just a professional necessity; it's a way to create a supportive community within the FM industry – and that’s why we should collectively aim to foster an environment that encourages and supports every woman's growth in the field. Let's lift each other up and promote a culture of encouragement where we all succeed!

    Mentorship played a crucial role in my growth. Whether that means shadowing someone in management, your own supervisor or even a team member who has expertise in a technical service, by taking the opportunity to learn from those who have succeeded before you, and from those upon whose success you may depend, you will better understand the intricacies of the role and the field. Just like in any other profession, finding people who have excelled in the field and absorbing their knowledge is a fantastic way to learn and grow not only as a professional in your field, but also as an individual.

    As we continue to encourage women pursuing careers in FM, I want to challenge you to seize every opportunity to learn, grow, and support one another. Together, we are shaping a future where women not only thrive in Facilities Management careers, but also create a brighter future for the industry as a whole.