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Why the GCC's FM sector needs more women leaders

Employing women is the (b)right thing to do

Neha Bhatia is the deputy editor of facilities management Middle East.
Neha Bhatia is the deputy editor of facilities management Middle East.

Middle East Facility Management Association’s (MEFMA) Confex 2017, held in Dubai last month, offered insights into the trends reshaping delivery dynamics in the regional FM sector, and how business leaders are bringing global best practices to the local industry. A key takeaway from the three-day event (p46) was the discussion surrounding the role of women in the Middle East’s FM sector, and the organisational benefits of building a diverse workforce.

Incidentally, the conversation came on the heels of International Women’s Day (IWD), which is annually celebrated on 8 March. Ahead of this year’s IWD celebrations, Minelle Gholami, people director at Emrill Services, told ConstructionWeekOnline that, while “some great strides [have been made] in the promotion of women in FM to directorships and senior positions”, women continue to be under-represented in the industry.

At MEFMA Confex this year, Klue Service Management’s Daniela Voicu – a judge for the fmME Awards 2017 – delivered a presentation on the scope for women in FM leadership positions. Voicu said the FM industry’s gender gap is led by a lack of flexibility in the workplace, and furthered by a “shortage of mentors for women” in the sector. Her presentation also listed “lack of acceptance from supervisors and peers” as a factor limiting female representation in the industry.

Naturally, this isn’t to say every organisation employing fewer women than men is guilty of these factors. Attracting skilled facility managers is a challenge across the Middle East – regardless of the talent pool’s gender mix – and efforts to harness the best of the bench must equally target both sexes.

That said, it is crucial that regional business leaders do not employ women just to pay lip service or because it is considered the right thing to do. For instance, Michel Landel, CEO of international food services and FM giant Sodexo, told Forbes in an interview published this January that, while the latter is one factor, Sodexo’s pursuit of gender equity is driven by the “competitive advantage” of having women in decision-making job positions.

He added: “All the women currently on my executive committee are in [profit-and-loss] roles, and [...] their input in key decisions forces us to look at things differently and get to sharper, stronger outcomes.”

Women have encountered the infamous glass ceiling on their way to the top in every industry, likely due to their dissimilarities – both emotionally and physically – with their male colleagues. But these differences are, perhaps, exactly what regional FM needs right now to evolve on the global scale.

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