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Women in FM avoid negative workplace stereotypes

Women in FM discuss how they navigated their careers while achieving a good work/life balance. October 20, 2022



By Mackenna Moralez, Associate Editor

It seems that every day a new phrase dominates the workforce headlines. Are more people starting to ‘quietly quit’ or is everyone starting to ‘do their job’. Although the phrases tend to have a negative connotation, it actually helps employers discuss what it means to have a healthy work environment.

No one has championed work/life balance more than women. According to the Pew Research Center, more women than men have lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The three sectors taken into account – leisure and hospitality; education and retail – account for 47% of jobs held by women compared to 28% for men. However, they also accounted for 59% of job losses from February to May 2020. Meanwhile, during the shutdowns, many women found themselves forced to leave their jobs to care for their children who were attending virtual school. .

For facility management, women have had to balance life and work throughout the pandemic. At NFMT Remix, Women in Facilities Management will come together for a panel discussion on how they navigate the changes underway and what it’s like to be a woman in a male-dominated field. Recent panelists Jessica Bickel, Facilities Coordinator, Reece Group USA and Christine A. Burkett, Senior Regional Facilities Manager, South Central and Mississippi Valley, Sam’s Club recently shared how they’ve navigated their careers thus far without falling into the typical buzzwords.

NFMT: How fully invested are you in your career? What have you learned outside of work that has benefited your career?

Bickell: The lessons I learn in all aspects of my world are often applicable at all levels, but I think my organizational skills and my “personal productivity system” are probably my biggest outside factors in influencing my daily work life. . Additionally, the ability to dive into a large and complex challenge without being intimidated; I am confident in my ability to use a range of board knowledge, learn and connect resources together. This creative problem-solving ability, confidence and organizational skills combine to greatly enhance my professional toolbox.

Burket: I don’t pretend to be anyone other than myself. I don’t approach work with a mask. I believe in being authentic and transparent, bringing empathy and knowing my own goals, values ​​and ideals. Being a parent taught me a level of patience that I took with me. Raising children taught me empathy for my team’s personal and family stresses. I’ve experienced the real struggles that every member of a team also experiences, and I don’t approach work with the illusion that our selves and our work operate separately.

NFMT: Why do you think that as women we feel like we have to work a lot harder to prove that we can do the same job as our male counterparts? How can we begin to close this gap?

Bickell: One aspect is communication – speaking deliberately; communicate in a way that best conveys the message, as intended, to the right audience. In my experience, there are very fundamental differences in how we communicate; how we transmit and receive messages, and how those messages are interpreted and processed. These differences have an impact on being perceived as competent, professional, focused, or whatever adjective you want to select. To start closing the gap, we need to stop expecting women to justify why they are here in the first place, why they want to be here, and we need to improve our communication skills; not just how we speak, but how we anticipate others to communicate

Burket: There are a number of serious articles, studies and research that address this issue. I experienced this as a real and tangible bias, and as an unconscious bias. The threshold for errors as a woman in a mechanical field is non-existent. Every action taken, every work order completed is questioned and scrutinized. Pretty soon you establish your reputation, either you can or you can’t do the job. There’s no learning curve, there’s no on-the-job training, there’s no room for even a small error. A male peer and I, about the same age and general experience level, started at the same time. He was immediately enrolled in a three-month internal training. I was given a week’s commute during the training period. I expressed concerns and was told it was an investment. I’d be lucky to spend the summer, and the techs are a dime a dozen, so feel free to see your way around. I survived this summer and a few others. Things eventually settled down and training opportunities became more frequent and available.

Experiencing this feeling of unconscious bias is worse and more insidious. It comes from upside-down compliments or qualified statements like “pretty good for a girl.” Moreover, most of the men who make these statements are not even aware of the impact of their actions and often claim to be progressive and insightful explaining all the ways they are big supporters of women. There is literally no protection against this and no recourse, just work better, smarter, harder to get ahead.

Closing the gap starts with diversity, inclusion and equity. Keep conversations open, honest and ongoing.

NFMT: Why do you think there is a place for women in facility management?

Bickell: Why wouldn’t there be? FM is an industry of people who take on dynamic challenges, solve problems and care about solutions; who approach things with a “fix” mentality. Given the scope, complexity and nuances of this industry, it stands to reason that the talent within this industry should be equally diverse. Innovation does not form in a vacuum; and the more perspectives we have in our world, the more value we can derive from it.

Burket: Why wouldn’t there be a place for women in the maintenance of installations? Gender has nothing to do with insight, affinity, talent, or skill in a profession.

NFMT Remix will take place in Las Vegas, November 2-3, at the Paris Las Vegas Resort Conference Center. For more information, visit www.nfmt.com/vegas.

Mackenna Moralez is the Associate Writer for the Installs Market.

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