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Breaking down barriers

Louie-Mae Gibson, Estate Director and Operations Board Member for Business balance at Knight Frank Promise (KFP) focusing on Women in Business, is using her considerable experience to fulfil a commitment to advancing the opportunities for women in property and FM

It’s been estimated that men outnumber women by nine to one in facilities management leadership roles. Louie-Mae Gibson, Estate Director and an Operations Board Member for Business balance at Knight Frank Promise (KFP) which specialises in the property and facilities management of residential properties, believes that the way to combat this shortfall is to take a complete lifecycle approach, from recruitment to training and mentoring, through to encouraging women who succeed in FM to put something back by mentoring others.

Gibson began her career in the army, moved into management consultancy after leaving the services and subsequently took on HR, operational and project management roles before moving to KFP in 2019. She advocates that the way to break the barriers to recruiting women into property roles begins at the application stage. In KFP they are breaking the trend and taking a refreshing and fully supportive approach to initiatives that bring about gender balance.

She says: “I strongly believe that people follow their natural behaviours and they tend to employ people that are like them, so if you’ve got heads of department who are all men, they will follow their behavioural traits. This is why effecting change from the top is crucial and it’s important to get men on board with this process. It is not ‘man bashing’ but rather acknowledging that you’re never going to get anything done if you don’t address the structural set up from the top down.

“We are the only all-female team in my area and when we recruit for roles it is a case of looking at skills and advising that your core skills may be considered more ‘female’, such as admin or supportive roles. But don’t just think that you are confined to those positions, you can aim for fee generating roles.

“Being in FM is not about going on a building site with digger boots, it’s been estimated that 87 per cent of the role is desk-based so you’re not going to be digging up a field. Unfortunately, if you go to recruitment fairs and you look at the stands, they’re often heavily represented by males so the sector needs to begin by getting recruiters on board that aim to get women to turn up at fairs as a school leaver, graduate or someone who is transferring
from another industry who is interested in moving into FM.”

When it comes to the actual recruitment process she says: “Eradicating tick box qualifications is key – you don’t need to scroll through and look for engineering degrees, because in the main, you don’t need one for an FM role. Instead ask, what is critical for that role? Once you look at the soft skills and ask questions like, ‘have you taken a leadership role?’ that flips it to a heavier pool of candidate and opens up a wider influx of female applicants that could do the job.

“The KFP operations board is currently 70 per cent female, and we’ve rolled out a blind CV process where you take off the candidate’s name and any pronouns to nullify any unconscious bias. This way you know the people you interview are the best people going forward and it helps to flip recruitment on its head.”


Mentoring is another important part of the mix. Gibson mentors in a variety of ways, both across different sectors via Women in Business, and on the property side with Agents Together which offers the sector resources and tools to support their professional growth.

She explains: “With mentoring I might give a woman help with the technical side of the role or a steer to a particular legal requirement. I don’t know her boss, her business or her client but my help should take away the fear factor for her as I’m completely removed and have no impact on her job. I am just there to give help and advice. In this way those being mentored can present themselves
more confidently.

“I’ve also been asked within the FM sector to mentor other people. What is so rewarding is when you have people you’ve mentored over the last decade and they message you to say they’re head of accounts, head of a property team or a development manager. They say ‘how can I thank you? and you say ‘you can be a mentor now too.’ It’s infectious and people are so appreciative that they are more than happy and keen to pay it forward.”

Mother’s often get a raw deal in terms of the career prospects so for the future Gibson believes that organisations need to think more creatively so that when people with experience and knowledge come back from maternity they’re offered even senior roles as job share posts.

She says: “In helping to create these roles within business we’re going to have to proactively create these roles. Flexible working because of COVID means that more than ever, you have positions in the business that are attractive to those looking for shared roles and this flexibility will encourage a return to work and says that women’s careers can flourish whatever their circumstances.”


Gibson herself has been inspired by a number of powerful women ranging from: “Eleanor Roosevelt, who is easily forgotten in modern day times, for the trailblazing achievements, human rights activism, and the embryonic systems that we take as a given today. I also admire, respect and am in awe of ladies like the NASA mathematicians; Kathrine Johnson, Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan. For equality, Women in Business and educator, it has to be Jacqueline Abbott-Deane, Director and founder of Tactix Consultancy and One Loud Voice which aims to mobilise and bring together the many groups tackling the continuing barriers for women in the
UK workforce.

“Overall all though, it would always be my mum, who, was ahead of her time, bright intelligent and hilariously funny, who set a very high bar, and always empowered me to do whatever I wanted to no matter if ‘only boys do that’, or if ‘that’s a man’s job’; she was the one that lightly said over coffee one morning, ‘why don’t you join the Army?’”

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