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Empowering women in FM

WiFM: more than just networking

The female point of view: Joanna Saward (centre) at a  WiFM forum meeting.
The female point of view: Joanna Saward (centre) at a WiFM forum meeting.

The Women in FM (WiFM) Forum first came about in 2007 when the then editor of fmME invited twelve women for a round table discussion on their roles and the challenges that women faced in what was then a fledgling local FM market.

The forum was received well and we collectively decided to establish it as a regular event. In early 2008, I started the monthly forum and discussions led to an agreement of using it as a platform to exchange information, share best practices and network with other women in the industry.

Our first forum focused on sustainability and green practices within the industry, from which we launched into monthly round table discussions and presentations on a wealth of subjects including business continuity, JOP law, training in FM, and FM at design stage. Topics varied from technical expertise to the changing industry and innovations in FM.

We even covered the Strawberry Programme, a UAE government backed scheme to train and develop women within skills such as plumbing, electrical, mechanical or civil engineering, thereby enabling local and Arab women to call upon a domestic technical service where they will not need a male chaperone to be present.

The forum was established on an informal basis and remains in that format today. It has never been my intention to formalise it and use it as a platform to champion women in FM in the UAE, though some would argue , why not? I feel the forum currently provides us with the right balance of networking, information and support that we all collectively benefit greatly from and anything more than that would detract from its purpose.

The forum has naturally evolved over the past six years and become a great support network to women in the industry. It has organically grown through word of mouth and referrals to have a total of 80 members today. The forum has gone from strength to strength and there is a great mix of women from different sectors within the industry including service providers, suppliers, consultants, in house facilities managers and property managers.

The forum also proved to be a great support for a number of women during the recession who were out of work, and it became a platform for providing them with leads, circulating CVs, referrals, providing encouragement and helping them with their careers. With a diverse range of nationalities and backgrounds ranging from hospitality to civil engineering, the forum has a great mix of personalities, experience and skill sets, all of which leads to our monthly meetings being lively and informative.

Our success has been driven bythose who have contributed their time to share and discuss their areas of expertise at the forum. Some of the more recent experts include FM consultant Alan Millin, Gary Dicken, senior partner at the global architectural firm BDP and marketing expert Eman Gholami from G11 Consulting who helped us get a clear understanding of the role of marketing in FM.

There are many positives that have come from the forum including successful business opportunities and collaborations as well as strong bonds, new contacts, career moves, sharing experiences and learning more about both the local and international FM market.

For those who are interested in becoming a part of the Women in FM Forum, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I am also always open to ideas and suggestions—please send me an email at Joanna.Saward@emrill.com.

About the author
Joanna Saward is business development manager at Emrill Services.

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