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Gender Inequality in Facilities Management

Women have never been in a stronger position to lead, change and shape the economic, social and political landscape. The 21st century has seen a dramatic shift in "traditional" family dynamics and greater recognition of gender in legislation has helped pull apart gender-role divisions. As a result, women are now far more economically independent and socially autonomous. They represent 42% of the UK workforce and 55% of university graduates. However, women are still less likely than men to be associated with leadership positions in the UK - they account for 22% of MPs and peers, 20% of university professors, 6.1% of FTSE 100 executive positions, and 3% of board chairpersons. This stark inequality is consistently reflected in pay gaps, despite the introduction of the Equal Pay Act in 1975. Income inequality has risen faster in the UK than in any other OECD country and, today, women earn on average £140,000 less than men over their working careers.

According to the Asset Skills research (2013), the majority of the UK facilities management workforce is male (62%). This reflects a national trend where the top companies across the UK recruit equal numbers at graduate level but only 17% of women achieve board level and senior management appointments (Facilities Management Journal, 2013). Prominent figures in the facilities management industry argue that achieving a greater gender balance across the workforce will provide employers with a more diverse talent pool. In turn, this will lead to a wide range of different skills that will support innovative thinking and better decision making (Asset Skills, 2013; Facilities Management Journal, 2013).

Another source states that at entry-level positions, over half of the employees in organizations are women. As you step up each successively higher level in an organization, the number of women gradually shrinks. It is reported that, there are only 3% to 4% women at CEO level across the globe.

Timothy Schellhardt coined the term “glass ceiling” to describe the experience of female executives who seemed unable to reach the highest levels of corporate success. Since 1986, when the article about the ’glass ceiling’ was first published in the Wall Street Journal, a large number of academic, journalistic and government reports have addressed the problem and the term has now become commonplace. The Federal Glass Ceiling Commission defined the glass ceiling as the “unseen, yet unbreachable barrier that keeps minorities and women from rising to the upper rungs of the corporate ladder, regardless of their qualifications or achievements”. Typical signs of a glass ceiling are the lack of women on corporate boards of directors, their relative absence from positions as CEO or president of large companies, and their relative scarcity at the top of government and educational institutions.

I believe there are a few things that need to change in most industries where women are underrepresented - the conditions that constrain workplace advancement need to be recognized and lifted, allowing women to feel empowered to lead.

For young women who are entering the facilities management field or, are considering a career in this industry, there are plenty of niches they could carve out and apply their own unique skill sets to. Bid Management is, for example, just one of these niche areas where I work with hugely successful women who have made a fantastic name for themselves in the industry.

At the moment, the typical profile of a person currently working in the facilities management industry is:

  • A person aged 45 or over - 55% of the UK facilities management workforce falls within this age bracket.

  • Male - 63% of all facilities management staff in the UK are men.

  • Employed on a full-time basis - 79% of the facilities management workforce is employed full-time.

Forty-five years on from the introduction of the Equal Pay Act in 1975, you would have thought that gender discrimination in the workplace would be a thing of the distant past. Even though women are now in the stronger position than they’ve ever been in terms of career progression and opportunities, it appears that we are still not quite there yet. Many women report that they still do not feel that they are treated in the same manner as their male counterparts.

It’s a common misperception that women generally fit better in support roles, whereas men excel in leadership positions. Unfortunately, these stereotypes form the basis of gender discrimination at work and action must be taken to prevent it happening.

The hiring and allocation of work must to be conducted on the basis of an individual’s abilities and character, regardless of their gender or preference of customers, clients or other employees.

Heather Last is part of the Investigo’s Property and Facilities Management team and recruits Bid Writers, Bid Coordinators, Bid Managers and Estimators across the Facilities Management sector. If you are seeking these opportunities or currently recruiting for these roles please email Heather or call 0203 009 3493.