James Brown’s 1966 classic ‘It’s a man’s world’ truly reflects the male dominating FM industry scenario, which in the long run would be incomplete without women’s participation.
Facility Management industry is one of the several male-dominated industries in the world and it is not immune to the practices that discourage career advancement for women. Statistically in India, males outnumber females at every level unlike in Europe, where the female workforce at entry and supervisory level constitutes up to 50-60% of the total number. Considering the patriarchal Indian society, females start off at a disadvantage from entry-level itself. The hierarchy in jobs is not just attitudinal but also functional. For instance, in North and Central India, blue-collared female employees are not considered apt for doing heavy-duty jobs related to machinery work and deep-cleaning tasks. This factor definitely puts a break on diversity of jobs and career growth for them.
To improve the ratio, the German Engineering Federation (VDMA) made it mandatory that at least 20% of the trainees would be females in its FM related programs. However, this always remains a challenge. The female trainees undergo rigorous training in the same modules as their male counterparts but they do not get the same opportunities and are restricted to WC Cleaning or to its supervisory level.
The FM representatives often remark:
• Females do not make good machinery operators and do not have enough physical strength to operate machines for long hours.
• Most of the deep-cleaning tasks happen at night. Due to safety issues, women cannot be put on site at night for deep-cleaning tasks.
• Females are not preferred as supervisors since men do not
like to take orders/instructions
• Since women have family commitments, they are often inflexible compared to their male counterparts.
These remarks do not reflect the right industry mindset that is
focused on business without caring about skewed ratio and gender biases at work.
The ‘equality of opportunity’ is often overlooked. Suggestion of having 10-20% of female workforce as supervisors/machinery operators, recruiting and grooming in that direction, holding gender sensitivity workshops with the males at every level might actually start easing situations for the female workforce as well as improve the industry growth prospects in the long run.
In my training with one of the renowned companies (being the solo female in a group of 15 men), many of my male counterparts were surprised I knew how to plug in a switchboard or that I could actually operate a single-disc machine with ease. In normal circumstances, such behaviour can be extremely demotivating since we live in a world of presumptions. The females feel under-confident and shy when surrounded by males who thrive on an unapologetic superiority.
According to “Women of Tomorrow,” a Nielsen survey of 6,500 women across 21 different nations, Indian women are the most stressed in the world today. About 87% of Indian women said they felt stressed most of the time, and 82% reported that they had no time to relax.
The skills, needed to be successful in FM Industry are not necessarily learnt in classroom. However, a conducive environment is critical to career growth. The industry therefore, must not be complacent about such an important issue. The growth in the longer run will depend on how over a period, industry is able to absorb more efficient females at every level, design corporate policies that help in their retention and support their career growth.
Master Trainer, VDMA