When President and Managing Director APAC Dana Nelson joined BGIS, one of things that impressed her was the healthy discussion in the organisation about promoting diversity. According to our ESG report, 28% of our workforce is female. But in an industry like ours that’s challenged by the low number of women in leadership, what are the strategies that are effective in attracting more women to senior roles?
Here, Dana reflects on the benefits of a more diverse team. She discusses the programs at BGIS that support the advancement of our female workforce as well as what younger recruits expect today from businesses.
Female leaders in a mix of roles
Dana says that one of the most pleasing aspects of the makeup of her team, along with a relatively good mix of ages, is that we’ve gravitated away from having senior FM or Account Managers promoted to stereotypical roles. The APAC leadership team currently has about 40% female representation. This includes senior female leaders in ‘non-traditional’ roles of Head of Operations, Head of Safety and General Counsel.
But she believes the team is not as diverse as it needs to be, citing organisations with a good balance of men and women in leadership as driving different thinking and ways of problem solving, which ultimately leads to better outcomes.
Establishing the path for career growth
“One of the things I did early on was create a Gender Diversity Pillar that sat separate to the broader Diversity and Inclusion Pillar,” says Dana.
“In Facilities Management, operational roles in particular tend to be quite male dominated as you go higher in the organisation. When I started at BGIS, there was already a lot of activity going on to promote gender diversity. So creating such a platform was about driving the momentum that I was seeing and hearing in the business, and really wanting to encourage strong representation of females throughout our business.”
This allowed women to see that there were sustainable and challenging career paths available to them in the FM space. Specifically, it involved campaigns to engage and develop our talent at BGIS. In addition, there was greater energy put into mentoring programs and communicating about succession planning. This helps women to see how they are able to obtain higher roles and create a career.
Women of BGIS initiative
At BGIS, we have a set of policies that we communicate internally, and we back that up with training programs, plus informal and formal mentoring. We also promote stories about what’s worked and what hasn’t worked, and importantly, what we’re going to do to improve on that.
Another initiative is Women of BGIS. Co-chaired by Dana and a colleague in North America, it encourages and supports the advancement of our female workforce. It acts as an internal networking opportunity, and provides a space where women of all ages in different levels of their careers can share stories, career goals and advice. Setting up a forum like Women of BGIS has worked well because it exposes our high potential female leaders to their peers around the global, while promoting a sense of confidence.
Reflecting the diversity in the community
“I always say to people that you want your workforce to reflect the diversity that exists in the community from which you’re involved in,” says Dana. She believes that companies that don’t do that will fall behind eventually.
“What I’m hearing from the next generation of people that I see coming through our organisation, is that it’s not just about how much money they earn. There’s a whole range of company values and expectations that they have of us as organisations, and gender diversity is just one of them. And if you don’t deliver upon them, then you’re not going to retain your talent, and risk disadvantaging yourself because of how you’re perceived in the market and with your customers. It’s greater than just a financial disadvantage.”
What does success look like?
Success involves building greater confidence in women to put their hand up for opportunities that sit outside their comfort zone and in the operational space, such as running an account or leading a project team.
Dana says that the ultimate success is where the organisation has a mindset that focuses on retaining and recruiting talent, and removes the biases that exist. That means the best candidates are put forward for opportunities and rewarded on their merit.
“It’s those non-traditional roles where historically women may have stayed as an Assistant Project Manager, instead of putting their hand up for the role of Senior Project Manager. Building confidence in women who are equally capable to take on these roles – that’s probably the biggest challenge facing our next wave of female talent. We want to influence the mindset of FM Managers and Facility Supervisors who are at career crossroads, and strengthen their self-belief that they are ready to take on that next senior role. And encourage them to apply for it,” she continued.
“I want to be in a position where our organisation can measure the success of having a diverse workforce. We don’t yet have those metrics in place, but I’d love to have a dashboard that shows the financial return for the organisation, as well as the wins that diversity offers, such as better collaboration or more innovative thinking.”
Promoting diversity offers financial and non-financial benefits. So, organisations need to drive it in two ways. The first is the formal governance needed to drive the agenda. And second, informal programs such as mentoring are equally important. That’s because they challenge the status quo and get people thinking about their decision making.