Highlights – Women Consultants and Clients Managing the Built Environment

Thursday, May 20th, 2021

On World FM Day 2021, a group from FMCC hosted a series of 90-minute roundtable discussions intended to bring together experiences and views of women in FM across world regions and career stages. A group of 12 derived four discussion areas to kick off discussion among the participants.

  1. FM where you work – selling FM and promoting ourselves
  2. ISO Standards and International credentials – changing FM expectations for women
  3. Viewpoints and experiences – women consultants and clients
  4. Careers in FM – women, the FM pipeline, and how to build the future

All FMs were welcome. Fifty registered for four Zoom sessions held in the afternoon hours.

4:00 PM Vancouver, Canada and San Francisco, U.S.
4:00 PM Singapore – Beijing, China – Perth, Australia
4:00 PM Prague, Czechia – Cairo, Egypt – Gaborone, Botswana
4:00 PM Sao Paulo, Brazil – Halifax, Canada

Severe and widespread COVID outbreaks in India, South America, and other regions limited participation in those parts. We have archived the program materials and hope to produce again as the pandemic recedes.

All four topics above received attention and brought out recurring themes and trends.

(Ed. note – “we” often takes the voice of several participants.)

  • We shared hopes and expectations that FM would be batter known as an instrument of business value in organizations and groups with a stake in the built environment.
  • Linkedin has emerged as a strong and widely preferred networking and content platform.
  • FMs are inveterate problem solvers reluctant to turn down any opportunity to make things work for people. We don’t know how to say no. We do more than is asked.
  • We attract problem solvers into the profession and make a point of doing so. College career days, for example, can be worthwhile in this respect.
  • We are by preference and habit forward thinking, not reacting.
  • Nonetheless, substantial FM responsibilities fall to women with titles that don’t reflect the assets and functions entrusted to them and value realized; example, “office manager” for women with top responsibilities in operations. Management of non financial assets, property, facility… a host of terms from sector to sector, industry to industry, region to region… confusing for practitioners and making recruiting difficult. Definition of FM, now set in the ISO 41000 series, is welcome, ready for use, and sorely needed. So also are the attendant standards with their approaches, supplanting “how things are done”.
  • Women can gain traction as the scope of FM becomes better and more widely known. FM is worthwhile to promote at every opportunity. Women are FM industry leaders in growing numbers. This is strongly encouraging.
  • Communication and outreach create openings for FM, but widespread, common recognition as a principal business role lags.
  • A digest of the ISO 41000 series (FM) and related standards would be welcome in working toward recognition of FM across regions and business cultures.
  • Business cases – knowing, presenting – lead to being heard and seen favorably.
  • Mentor other women at every opportunity.
  • Being the only woman in the room is becoming less common, but still happens often. Having a wide breadth of responsibilities – as comprise FM – can improve recognition and regard in these situations. The presence of other women helps even more.
  • In the FM future, sustainability, and the effective use of data figure large – sustainability for its prominence in public policy and data/information for utility in shaping the FM conversation. An example of the effects of sustainability policy is Local Law 97 (NYC) which provides for energy performance of buildings. Re: role of data and analysis, decisions informed by evidence gathered and processed by technology at levels from IoT to enterprise are within reach to supplant more subjective, instinctive, rigid actions. This is not to remove expertise, but for perspective to temper, inform, verify, and set the scope of FM conversation.  What does evidence, especially composite evidence show and what actions or opportunities does this bring.
  • Education about finance and real estate – leases in particular – raised interest and reflects current interest of IFMA for coverage and training.
  • Parting note – to convey a feel for FM, recommend any of the renditions of The Juggler (originally featuring Michael Davis.) Take a look?

Recordings of the three sessions are available here.

Source: David Reynolds (david.reynoldsfor@globalfmalliance.com), for the program production and advisory contributors.

Let’s keep this topic going. Supplementary comments, findings, resources, stories welcome anytime.

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