Google changed its search logo for the day in order to honour the occasion, the USA designated the whole of March “women’s history month,” and, closer to home the WIFM group hosted their own celebration. What better time to examine the role and future of women in Britain’s FM industry
The International Women’s Day website claims that the event has over “the past few years, moved from being a reminder about the negatives to a celebration of the positives.” They highlight the success of women in politics, education and the workplace as evidence for this, but all the while bemoaning the still existing pay gap, the number of men in business and the boardroom still outweighing the number of women and the fact that globally poor health care and violent crime are more likely to affect women than men.
But there is plenty of evidence (overwhelming evidence) that the situation is improving. According to the Office for National Statistics women between the ages of 22-29 actually earn more, on average one per cent more, than their male counterparts. Between 30-39 they earn 0.2 per cent more.
Much was made recently about the equal gender split in Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish Cabinet. Of course you could argue that, as with celebrations of Tom Daley coming out of the closet, or Barack Obama becoming President that real progress will only be achieved when people shrug their shoulders and say “And?” rather than celebrate such things, but you can’t spin it as a bad thing.
Things are evening out in the world of sport as well, with Wimbledon paying men and women equal prize money for several years now. You might even point out that last November the England women’s team sold over 50,000 tickets for a friendly match against Germany at Wembley, challenging the men’s team’s recent attendances.
But if things are more even in general terms, how are they within the world of FM? Rightly or wrongly certain professions of course have a reputation as being for men or for women and will do for a long time yet. Engineering is commonly trotted out as something women simply don’t sign up for, but there are plenty of clichés out there. Mechanics being men for instance, or nurses and primary schools being largely women.
There are some that you might not expect however. Journalism is staffed with far more women (56 per cent according to the Office for National Statistic), insurance writers (57 per cent) and psychiatrists/therapists (a whopping 87 per cent) are also female dominated professions.
Do women in FM benefit from the fact that the industry as a whole is still relatively young? Without a long history of men dominating the way they have in say economics, where women make up only slightly over a third of the work force, do women have a better chance of reaching a level equivalent to their talents?
Of course it depends which parts of the industry you look at. Statistics show that the number of men working full-time is 13.58m compared to 7.68m women. The figures for part-time working show 2.01m men and 5.86m women. The landscape on the “factory floor” may look very different to how it appears on a management level.