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Women in FM Speak Up: Challenging Stereotypes and Seeking Equality

Women in facilities management say what they wish they could to their male colleagues

At the Women in FM event at NFMT Baltimore earlier this year, a man in the audience asked attendees what they wished they could tell their male co-workers about being a woman in facilities management. The room immediately filled with a mixture of groans and laughter as hands went up in the air to share their thoughts.

Of course, there was some of the obvious “I can do the job just as well as you” statements, but women also shared how they don’t want to be called “sweetheart” and that they don’t want to be treated any differently just because they are a woman. Meanwhile, one woman noted that she is viewed as someone’s best friend if they agree with her, but is then a bitch when she says something that her co-workers disagree with.

It is a constant battle being a woman in facilities management.

Just because there is a male standing next to me doesn't mean that he is the one in charge.

Here at fnPrime, we wanted to keep the discussion going. Recently, we asked our female readers what they would tell their male counterparts if they had a chance.

Many frustrations come down to the simple fact that women want to be seen as an equal to their male colleagues — and treated as such.

“We are just as capable as any male colleague. We do not want nicknames. We face issues and struggles that male colleagues may not, such as immediate judgement on knowledge, rumors, unwanted touching, and more.”

“Being a female in this industry does not put me at a disadvantage. I shouldn't have to put in 200 percent to get less respect than my male counterparts. The 1950's way of thinking should be left at the door and realize that women can do anything a man can do, and sometimes better (even sometimes worse). Don't underestimate us.”

“Include me in the 'boys club' and meetings like you would include any of the men. I am not your daughter — I don't need to be protected. I have chosen to be in this profession and earned my position, treat me as you would anyone else.”

“Just because there is a male standing next to me doesn't mean that he is the one in charge. Some of us know more than our male counter parts.”

Because women in FM aren’t often seen as equals, their experience often gets called into question.

“If I bring up an issue at a project progress meeting do not ask me how long I have worked at my institution of higher learning or how long I have worked in the facilities management field. While this seems polite to you, but it is asking me for my resume to determine if my chair at the table is warranted.”

I am not your daughter — I don't need to be protected.

“I do not have to have poured concrete, plumbed a house, repaired asphalt, installed a junction box, repaired a feeder or any other construction activity to understand how it works or to manage a project.”

Unfortunately, when women in this industry have a different solution than their male counterparts, they are often met with hostility.

“Sometimes, a female manager in facilities must make or deliver an unpopular decision. A male manager would be thanked for his honesty and straight-forwardness. A female manager would be called the 'B' word. I wish that co-workers, male and female alike, could judge a female manager using the same yardstick that they measure a male manager, not by the yardstick that they measure their mother.”

“Stop assuming that I am aggressive or other foul words when I am suggesting a way to resolve an issue you have brought to the team. Just because you couldn't find the solution that I have, doesn't make me at fault for your lack of critical thinking or attention to detail.”

Finally, allow women to do their job. Provide the proper tools and equipment. Lend assistance when needed. And, perhaps most importantly, don’t try to subvert their efforts.

“Tools matter and PPE matter. Women may need a smaller size vest than is in stock. They may also need a 10-foot ladder rather than the 8-foot. We can do the same job; we just need tools that work for us.”

Stop assuming that I am aggressive or other foul words when I am suggesting a way to resolve an issue you have brought to the team.

“Realize that some vendors will only respond (or will respond quicker) when a male coworker is CC'd. If I say I need back-up with vendors who prefer dealing with men, I'm not trying to dodge responsibility! I'm trying to get the job done!”

“I wish when I ask a question, I could get a straight answer and assistance. The male coworkers do help each other. I am told incorrect info and always need to double check what my male coworkers are telling me. If I don't, I can get into trouble by not following governmental policies and laws. Work is tough I stay later than anyone else to find my answers throughout the entire building. Sometimes I call different divisions or past coworkers for assistance. Everything comes with an attitude or tone speaking down to me as if I am a 2nd class citizen. I am not, I am same class as the male coworkers. In fact, my position is a higher class.”

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