How can women steer clear of roadblocks to their careers in facility management? Here is some advice, some of it related to avoiding self-defeating attitudes and developing a take-charge spirit.
Give Yourself Credit. One difference between men and women in leadership roles across industries that could make it difficult for a woman to advance is that women tend to give credit to the team, where they perhaps should be claiming it for themselves. When executive recruiters were polled to find out why women were not getting the top jobs, they said it was because the women did not come in and own the room, says Gail Ayers, CEO of CREW Network.
"Sometimes we're our own worst enemy. We don't step up and we're often reluctant to say, 'Yes, I lead that team. I'm the one that helped people step out and make contributions that really mattered. I'm the one that restructured this problem.' Instead women say, 'We did a good job as a team.' If you're looking for a CEO candidate, you want to know that person has an impact and can make a difference."
Don't count yourself out. Again and again this point is made by industry observers: Women screen themselves out of opportunities. An opportunity will arise and if a woman feels she does not have 100 percent of the criteria, she won't even apply. "It's not that they're not capable, it's that they won't even put their name in the hat," says Meredith Thatcher, president of Thatcher Workplace Consulting. Men on the other hand tend to at least apply if they have just a handful of the qualifications for the position.
Positions where an individual might have 70 percent of the skills required but demonstrates potential to master the balance are crucial "stretch opportunities" cited time and again as the critical pivot points in many successful leader's careers. Women would do well to consider qualifications listed for a desired position as a framework, not a checklist.
Take charge. Waiting around for permission is not the way to get ahead. "What I'm finding is that women who move forward take charge, as opposed to waiting for someone else to figure out the problem, waiting for someone to give them permission," says Mary Gauer, group manager in the health sciences center with the University of New Mexico's planning, design, and construction department. "Waiting for permission is a mistake that a lot of people make." Being a leader means making a decision with the best available information. Having the guts to take the step to move things forward is critical to anyone's success, she says.
The other piece of this is not being intimidated by senior management, says Melissa Van Hagan, facilities manager at Oracle, and not being scared to take risks. "There isn't an executive out there that hasn't failed, that wasn't a risk taker," Van Hagan says. As a result, executives respect people who are willing to take risks. "If you believe something strongly enough, take that risk and stand up for it. It's just like climbing a ladder. You may fall down but you're going to pick yourself up and climb again. That's one thing I tell women: Go out on a limb."
— Naomi Millán