FM might still be a male-dominated profession, but it’s a mistake to think that male FMs don’t understand what it’s like to be in the minority. At the recent Women in FM Question Time event #askwifm, each of the panellists, had to say something about themselves that very few people knew. Ross Abbate, MD of Macro, delighted the 40-strong audience by revealing that he had been a ballet dancer until the age of 11 – and the only male dancer in his group. Lucy Osborne from Capita, revealed that she too had experience of being the odd one out at a young age – she was the first intake of six girls into an all boys’ school. And I shared my experience of being the only woman working with 200 men at Dennis Eagle (who built fire engines). What we all learned from those experiences is that being ‘different’ – whether that be a different sex, race, religion, sexual orientation or background – doesn’t stop you achieving your goals.
The delegates – of which half were attending a BIFM event for the first time – asked a variety of questions around training, flexible working, sustainability and service provision. Burning issues included how to persuade a reluctant employer of the benefit of networking, how to encourage more young people into FM and whether FM will always be a second-rate industry which is seen as a cost to the business.
My advice is that sometimes employers do need to be ‘sold’ the benefits of networking and it’s important to acknowledge that there are both organisational (new business, enhanced reputation) and individual benefits (increased contact book, being seen as a go-to person).
Good role models are an essential part of attracting young talent into our sector, as are FMs from all levels ‘selling’ the industry – whether that be through formal Milk Rounds or university/school presentations or just informally through their contacts. This is a brilliantly diverse and fascinating industry where no two days are the same and we should celebrate that.