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Women in FM Discuss Industry Challenges, Work-Life Balance
Contrary to popular belief, when you have a room filled with women there isn’t any hair pulling or name calling — if anything, it’s the exact opposite. When in the same space, women are often found uplifting each other, connecting with one another, giving advice and making sure that everyone feels safe and comfortable in their environment. This is exactly what occurred during FacilitiesNet’s Women in Facilities Management webcast earlier this month.
Fresh off speaking at the Women in FM panel at NFMT Baltimore, Diana Burns, director of facilities, Meridian International Center; Nicole Sherry, director of field operations, Orioles; Ericka Westgard, vice president of operations, ProFM instructor, C&W Services, University of Central Florida & Northern Illinois University; Wendy Libert, senior facilities manager, AIR and new panelist Julie Johnson-Roberts, Co-Founder & CEO, Armored Things returned once again to get their perspective on being a woman within the industry, answer questions and advice, and explained why facilities management is the dream career to those who tuned in to the live webcast.
“So often we do find that women – or just professionals in general – find themselves coming into facilities management by accident,” says Westgard. “For me, I actually chose FM as a career of choice. I went to school at North Dakota State University and received my bachelor’s degree in facilities management. It’s been a great career for me. It’s a challenging job, and because of that it becomes a more engaging career. Each and every day you’re getting the work done, you’re maintaining the environment and implementing new technologies. You can be innovative and you’re always gaining new knowledge because of all the different aspects of FM you touch.”
There is a significant career opportunity when it comes to FM, as the COVID-19 pandemic has displayed over the last two years. The panelists discussed how they have been able to put their whole selves into their career and what they have done to prevent themselves from pigeon-holing themselves in a position that wasn’t serving them.
The conversation shifted when a viewer asked how the panelists were able to maintain a work-life balance while also being mothers. Attendees wrote in the chat about how the COVID-19 pandemic allowed for more patience and grace from employers, while others also voiced some concerns that they had as well about not always having the most reliable childcare. However, some were able to find the right balance by relinquishing some control over their daily duties.
“It’s definitely a challenging career and having children,” says Sherry. “For me, the field is a living thing, so it’s like I have two children that really need a lot of attention. I do my best to teach my crew everything that I do, so in the event I need to be out for whatever reason they can step in and get the job done. We get to choose where we want to be. In the later years of my career, I have chosen to take more time for me. For my mental health, for my child. Trying to find the right balance is tough.”
The Women in FM webcast isn’t the only place where facilities managers can come together and advocate for one another. The fnPrime membership program hosts virtual monthly huddles that allows for facilities professionals to ask questions, offer advice and share their experiences with industry peers.
Mackenna Moralez is assistant editor, facility group.