More women today are joining the ranks of facilities professionals, serving as leaders, and helping to build the future of the industry. Lisa Hut, Workplace Strategist and Country Lead for Measuremen Australia talks about diversity in Facility Management thanks to the new generation of women in the latest issue of Australia’s Facility Perspectives magazine.
What attracted you to the facilities management industry?
After high school, it took me one year to figure out what I wanted to study. I realised that I should choose a discipline that fits my qualities. I’m good at organising, have an eye for detail and I’m a very curious person. For example, I’ve always wanted to know how things work at airports or hospitals. I started studying FM at the Hanze University in the Netherlands at the age of 18. Four years later, I graduated and won two awards for my thesis about third workplaces. From that moment on, I knew I would like to develop myself in the (workplace) FM industry.
What are your career goals?
I’m doing everything I can to set up our Australia branch, and we’re doing very well. I know that no matter where my career takes me, I will always make sure that I’m passionate about what I’m doing. But, to me, a career is not the most important thing in life. I’m not pushing myself to end up as an executive or director that doesn’t have time for their family. I make choices based on my instinct, and it will take me where I want to be – like here, in this beautiful country. I want to end up as an old, wise, and proud woman who shares her knowledge with other generations.
What advice do you wish you had when you first started, and what advice would you give to other women interested in joining the industry?
Don’t let others make you feel insecure, and never be afraid to share your opinion. My career started just five years ago, but I’ve already learned so much. In the Netherlands, men dominate the industry. Sometimes, I felt that the person on the other side of the table did not value my professional opinion (as much), just because I was young and less experienced. That made me insecure at first, but I also believe that you can learn from everyone. If you just believe in yourself, it will always be okay.
Women represent only 17 percent of the total facilities management workforce. Why do you think this figure is so low?
After I arrived in Australia in October 2016 and attended the FMA Industry Awards in November, I realised that I hadn’t seen a lot of women, and I noted a striking resemblance with Facilities Management in the Netherlands. I think the main reason is due to the roots of Facilities Management, where it was largely a janitorial service, arranging workplaces and security. Typically, these were considered “male jobs”. Now the world of facilities management is evolving – and like in the Netherlands, increasingly more countries offer facilities management studies – therefore, women gradually become more active in the industry.
Despite low representation, the number of women in facilities management has been steadily increasing over the years. What do you believe is the reason for this?
They have always said that the future facilities manager in the Netherlands will be a female. You will only see women at the university and men on the business side of FM. I believe that the FM role is changing. These days, it’s more about people and the innovation in information technology. A mix of those two principles and dealing with the complexity of data requires new leadership. I think this attracts more women.
Do you think there is currently enough diversity in the FM industry?
No, certainly not. Going to an FM event, you can sometimes count the number of women on two hands. At this very moment, I’m asking myself what the right amount should be – I don’t have the answer. Normally, the demographics of the student should be reflected in the working industry; however, a full-time FM degree does not exist in Australia. We need to promote FM at universities. Not only diversity in gender, but sexuality, age and different cultural backgrounds should also be accepted and represented in the industry.
Do you think other women might face any barriers to success within the industry?
You’re always creating your own success. If you truly want to achieve your goals, the barriers are just personal challenges that any other person has – whether they are female or male. The industry might be dominated by men, but it doesn’t say that the men are against women (if so, they are foolish).
How do you think the FM industry could improve its diversity?
The industry is evolving and includes many more competencies than 10 years ago. (Think of data analytics, workplace strategy and maturity, flex working, IT-driven facilities management, and smartphones and wearables.) Therefore, it attracts a different group of professionals. Change is evidently coming but could be boosted by advertising the industry’s potential to educational institutions, corporate directors, and entrepreneurs.