Today, March 8th, is International Women’s day; the goal of this day is to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of Women. At Acacia, we are very lucky to have a diverse workforce with some of the most talented women in the FM industry working for us and our clients. As the theme of this year’s celebration is “Choose to Challenge”, we decided to challenge some of our staff to answer some questions around Women in FM. The idea behind the questions is to get an overview of what possible careers in FM can look like and some advice for any women looking to start a career in the sector. We were delighted and thankful for the responses from our team which are full of great advice and honest opini
What attracted you to facilities management as a career?
Paula Cahill, Facilities Management Director: “Like a lot of people in the industry – by accident! I started working in in the environment providing administrative support having returned home from a busy working life in the UK. My aim was to find a nice 9-5 job locally, then I got hooked and entered into the world of Facilities Management.”
Louise Smith, Senior Facilities Manager: “I was looking for a change following a successful career in the hospitality industry. I moved into managing serviced offices and eventually into facilities management. I have been working as a facilities manager for 9 years with Acacia and have learnt lots through working with different clients and tackling new challenges which arise. I find the work both challenging and rewarding.”
Karen Kelly, Senior Facilities Manager: “I started my career in a front of house role with a large Facilities Management company. Early on, it was an industry which intrigued me and interested me as there was such a broad scope of services provided to clients. I find every day is different and challenging and I am constantly learning and expanding my skill set. I suppose it was the variations that attracted me to progress within the industry of Facilities Management.”
Suzanne O’Hare, Senior Account Manager: “I started my career in the construction sector which gave me my vast and varied experience in building maintenance management which eventually led me into the field of facilities management. I enjoy the large and varied scope of services that FM has to offer. It is an industry in which no day is the same with new and exciting challenges on a regular basis. Boredom is something you will never experience in your place of work when working in world of facilities/workplace services.”
Karen Hannon, EH&S Manager: “My main career is in H&S but it doesn’t take much to understand the connection between Facilities Management and Health & Safety. One thing I love about my job is the variety it offers. No two days are ever the same and just when you think you’ve seen it all, something new always comes along.”
What advice would you give someone looking to get into Facilities Management?
Paula Cahill, Facilities Management Director: “If you want to work in an environment where you are constantly learning new things and exploring ideas for our workplaces and how we all interact with them, then this is the career for you.”
Louise Smith, Senior Facilities Manager: “The job of a Facilities Manager is all encompassing. To succeed within the role, you will need to be organised, fluent in office management software and open to new challenges. Also, as it is vital to meet with your client regularly to deliver reports and presentations, people skills are also highly valued.”
Karen Kelly, Senior Facilities Manager: “I would advise anyone entering Facilities Management to get to know all aspects of the industry from the basics up. I was fortunate in my career to have worked in all aspects from Front of House, Soft Services, Hard Services and Management. This has given me a great insight into how all aspects work together to achieve the same end goal. I feel it is important for those looking to work in management within Facilities to truly understand how the operations of a site work.”
Suzanne O’Hare, Senior Account Manager: “The perception of the Facilities Industry can be that it is quite male dominated, however, like other industries this is changing by the day with more women excelling. I would encourage any woman that wants to join a forever evolving interesting industry to understand both hard and soft services as this will maximize their career growth potential and open many more opportunities in the field of facilities management.”
Karen Hannon, EH&S Manager: “A skill that I believe is transferrable across a range of careers is organisation. I’d suggest that if you’re not already super organised, then research and practice organisational skills as this will help you achieve your goals.”
Are there particular areas of FM where you feel women tend be more involved and if so areas of FM that you would like to see more women working in?
Paula Cahill, Facilities Management Director: “We tend to be more involved in the overall governance and operational costs and managing the softer and guest experience services, which is what draws a lot of women into facilities management because that is an area they enjoy working in.
It would be great to see more female facilities engineers; that tends to be a more male-dominated role. I believe we need balance in the workplace and working closely with our male colleagues provides that balance.”
Louise Smith, Senior Facilities Manager: “Women tend to be more involved in managing the soft services on sites. This is a vital service to all businesses and it can sometimes be overlooked. Regarding diversity, there are currently very few women working within the engineering fields of FM, it would be great to see more young women perusing engineering qualifications in the future and help bring some balance to that section of the business.”
Karen Kelly, Senior Facilities Manager: “Within FM in my experience, woman tend to be involved more in the Soft Services aspects such as cleaning, security etc. I believe this is largely due to the fact that less women seem to enter into Hard Services qualifications such as Engineering etc. I would like to see more woman involved in the hard services side of the industry.
I think the best FMs are those that have a strong knowledge of all systems within a building. I see all too often where Soft and Hard Services are segregated as two different entities which I don’t believe makes for a successful result in the management of the building services.”
Suzanne O’Hare, Senior Account Manager: “Statistics have identified that females tend to work more in soft services This is mainly because front of house/administrative staff are typically female and as the company grows, the front of house role evolves into a more all-encompassing facilities role.
While I personally would like to see more females educate themselves in Engineering and other Hard Services related skills, I would be more interested in seeing a diverse range of both male and females in all areas, creating a more diverse dynamic workforce in FM.”
Karen Hannon, EH&S Manager: “I’d love to see more female Technicians and Engineers. Historically females weren’t supported or encouraged to follow these types of careers and while this is changing, it would be nice to see a better gender balance in the future.”
Is there one woman in your life who you find particularly inspiring?
Paula Cahill, Facilities Management Director: “I find inspiration in everyone who works hard and achieves their goals and I have seen that many times over in Acacia. I am inspired by our working colleagues, who are Mums and Dads, performing exceptionally well and progressing in Acacia, whilst providing excellent service to our clients, on top of looking after their homes and families and studying to achieve their goals.”
Louise Smith, Senior Facilities Manager: “Mary Robinson I feel is a real inspiration to women. Being the first woman president at a time when women were only emerging in equality. In early 1990’s, only 50% or women worked, this has increase dramatically. Mary Robinson continues to work with equality, racism and human rights.”
Karen Kelly, Senior Facilities Manager: “My obvious person here of course would be my Mam. She has thought me to work hard for what I want and never give up. My Mam is definitely someone who inspires me through hard work all her life, not just professionally but personally too.”
As the saying goes, she is the glue that holds us all together. There are a number of women I work with on a daily basis who inspire me to achieve to be the best that I can be. I would take inspiration from all the women I work with and have interacted with in the past. If you need to find a strong and inspiring woman, you will definitely find one in the world of Facilities Management.”
Suzanne O’Hare, Senior Account Manager: “I have many women in my life that inspire me on both a personal and professional level, all inspiring me for different and unique reasons therefore I could not say one person. That said, my Mum has thought me my values, morals, and the need to work hard so she is one of the women who I would very much look up to. I’m privileged to work with some very intelligent hard-working woman who I have the pleasure engaging with day to day and I can happily say I admire.”
Karen Hannon, EH&S Manager: “Yes – I’ve always looked up to my Mam. As a child, Mam always encouraged and supported me in whatever I wanted to achieve. While I didn’t always appreciate it, I now know how wise & strong a woman she really is. Even now, I still regularly turn to her for advice.”
How are you celebrating international women’s day?
Paula Cahill, Facilities Management Director: “I am attending an SCSI lunchtime webinar and later in the evening I’m having a national and international zoom call with my family coffee or G&T depending on your time zone!”
Louise Smith, Senior Facilities Manager: “Monday the 8th of March is a very busy day for me. I have 3 client presentations recording activities on 7 sites for a new client which we are working with since January.”
Karen Kelly, Senior Facilities Manager: “The most I will be doing is a nice walk with my two daughters and the supervision of some arts and crafts as I am on leave and it is essential to show the younger women in our lives that rest and relaxation is as equally important as hard work.”
Suzanne O’Hare, Senior Account Manager: “I have booked the day as annual leave and there are several podcasts that I have registered for, so I will enjoy a nice relaxing day listening to some interesting conversations.”
Karen Hannon, EH&S Manager: “Until now, I had no plans but given that I come from a family of 5 girls perhaps I might arrange a Zoom call with my sisters.”