Women Are Changing the Face of Facilities Management

By: Charlotte Jensen
May 22, 2017 11:45 AM ET

Facilities management has long been a male-dominated career field. In fact, it may be even more lopsided than many other male-dominated fields: In facilities management (FM), men outnumber women in leadership roles by nine to one, according to a recent survey from the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources.

That’s slowly starting to change, however, as a growing number of women are beginning careers as facilities managers. It’s a welcome change, and one that’s likely to improve the quality of life in many facilities.

Diversity is especially important in facilities management because it’s a field that is, at its core, about people.

“As facility managers, we have a lot of control over the built environment, which we know can have a profound impact on facility occupants’ productivity as well as their health and wellbeing,” says Melanie Young, a resident district manager at Sodexo in Canada. “If our FM teams aren’t diverse themselves, how can we ensure we are truly understanding and empathetic to increasingly diverse populations and their unique needs?”

Female facilities managers might be able to better predict and intuit the needs of women who use those facilities. They might be more likely to, for example, understand that the wait-times for women’s restrooms are always longer, so it would make sense to add more stalls.

Adding more people from different backgrounds means bringing more ideas to the growing FM field. Having more ideas means there’s a better chance of selecting the best one. “Increasing the representation of women in all aspects of FM brings additional diversity of thought to the field. This helps us deliver best-in-class solutions to our clients.” says Elinor Ochoa, a facilities district manager for five Texas and Oklahoma school districts.

“Everyone is unique and brings a different viewpoint to the workplace,” says Brooke Spaulding, the facilities operations manager at P&G Gillette, a Sodexo site. “Encouraging more women to work in FM will help generate a greater diversity of thoughts and insights, which can only help us progress and show growth to our clients, who are also gender diverse.”

Spaulding also notes that the dearth of women in various industries can feed on itself. “Women currently in the field may get discouraged or be less likely to share ideas if they don’t feel supported,” she says. Increasing the number of women—and women leaders—in the field could give younger women the role models and convince them they can succeed in the field.

Is there gender balance in your industry? Do you think it’s important? Share your thoughts in the comments section on Sodexo Insights.