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Women in FM: Avoiding feeling stagnant in your career

Women facilities managers are looking to develop professionally in order to avoid feeling pigeonholed in their careers

by Mackenna Moralez — There are many stereotypes that surround being a woman in the workforce: how they should look, act, talk. The list goes on and on. These negative stereotypes reinforce the idea that women can only be one thing instead of someone with multiple talents and skill sets. This mindset can potentially pigeonhole women to a certain level in their careers, which can potentially instill a negative mindset about the workplace.

Women in FM

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These days, women are striving to avoid feeling stagnant in their careers. Whether it be with facilities management or other industries, women are looking to develop themselves professionally.

“A dear friend of mine once said to me that one of the ways to thrive in this [facilities management] industry is to know just enough about a lot of different things,” says Danielle J. Floyd, director of public works for Delaware County in Pennsylvania. “I’ve carried that forward with a lot of the things that I’ve done. I rely on my colleagues, who I look at as subject matter experts, to define a program and define their needs and be able to engage in conversations about how we can provide better services than what we do now. It’s very much a team effort.”

Being collaborative is a must-have skill when it comes to growing yourself professionally. Being able to work well with one another and engage with team members and colleagues helps bolster the work environment and creates a productive space. These are the people who are experiencing the same challenges as you and are able to help you navigate what you are going through. These are the people that you are going to rely on when things get hard.

Networking and collaborating with others can help develop a solution faster. There is nothing scarier than doing something challenging for the first time. Knowing that others in the industry have experiences the same things that you do can make the job feel less daunting at times.

“I get to learn what challenges other facilities managers are facing and I get to offer what my thoughts are,” says Alishia Jolivette Webber, executive officer — Facilities, Maintenance and Operations, Houston ISD. “Maybe we have an experience that was similar here in Houston. By listening to them and understanding what some of those issues are, it makes me think ‘why don’t you do it this way.’ Active listening helps me make my plan and come up with solutions.”

A lot of what goes into advancing your career, though, is to find purpose that is bigger than your entire self. Passion is what drives people to create bigger and better things. Often women are afraid to follow that sentiment because they’re afraid that they might not ask the right questions and leave the situation feeling dumb. We are not made to know everything. That is why we make those connections so that we can learn more and push ourselves. Once we are able to push past that fear are we able to make progress.

“A lot of it is all in our heads,” says Floyd. “We tend to think of the worst possible outcome, and that’s not always the case. It’s why we don’t push ourselves. Why we don’t challenge ourselves or put ourselves in those areas because we are just always predicting the worst. It is OK to be in a space that is completely unfamiliar and just figure it out.”

Webber encourages her team to continue to challenge themselves. She suggests that every two years someone should master a different task. Not only does this allow for career progression, but it prevents someone from ever feeling too comfortable within their position. Having multiple skills under your belt can be transferable to other projects.

“Continue to challenge yourself,” Webber says. “Don’t ever think that you can’t accomplish what you’re setting out to do. There’s always going to be that initial fear, but we have to continue to step out and move on. We as women need to know that we are a strength in numbers and that we are powerful.”