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Women in FM: Trends in the Workplace


To celebrate International Women’s Day, IFMA and our research partner Simplar hosted a panel webinar to discuss the findings of their recent report “Women in FM: Trends in the Workplace.” 

Researchers & Panel guests:

  • Jake Smithwick, Ph.D. — Lead Researcher at Simplar 
  • Dr. Steven Call, Ph.D. — Lead Researcher at Simplar
  • Karla Archer-Reid — Senior Facility Portfolio Manager at Semi-Govt Developer / Abu Dhabi
  • Irene Thomas-Johnson — Global Account Director / Executive Director for JLL 
  • Lorena Espada — Head of EMEA Facility Management for Chubb European Group
  • Christa Dodoo — Head of Facilities Management Services for World Food Programme 

Why focus on women in FM? 

“The reality is there is myriad evidence showing the benefits of a gender-diverse workforce,” said Dr. Steven Call. “Many of us know that women have historically been underrepresented in the facility management industry.” 

What was the goal of the research? 

Trying to understand if FM gender diversity/equality/inclusion (DEI) has changed over the last decade. What factors are helping to improve DEI in FM? What factors are inhibiting DEI in FM? 

What’s the methodology behind the report? 

IFMA and Simplar gathered data from: 

  • Previous IFMA and RICS salary and demographic reports 
  • Input and pilot testing from subject matter experts  
  • A survey sent to over 12,000 IFMA members and non-members globally 
  • Compensation data across the globe  

What's the average age of women in FM?

The average woman in FM is 45 years old. There are fewer women near retirement age (>56 years old) in FM than men.  

“It’s saying that with facility management experiencing some major attrition challenges...employers should consider the recruitment of women a strategic advantage in addressing the aging FM workforce,” said Call. 

What does gender in FM look like across regions? 

On average, women constitute 22 percent of the global FM workforce but this gender mix is not equal across regions. North America reports the greatest gender diversity mix where women make up 25% of facility managers. In the Middle East, women only represented five percent of the facility management workforce. 

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Why do you think women continue to be underrepresented in FM? 

IRENE THOMAS-JOHNSON: “I do think over actually has gotten better, but we do have a long way to go. I think part of that is that there are so many people that don’t know what our industry is. When they think of FM, they think of a whole host of things but don’t really think about the career journey that you can experience in facility management."

LORENA ESPADA: “I completely agree. I think it’s not particular to facility management...but it is true in general that people don’t really know what facility management is all about. I think there is a general idea that you need a more technical background (to become an FM) and that could look more masculine rather than feminine, and they (women) don’t even know about the management side of FM.”

CHRISTA DODOO: “We are still in the mindset that FM is a male-dominated field because most understand FM as a traditional, boiler-room profession. We need to shift our mindset.” 


KEY FINDING: Women are leaving the FM Workforce.

About one-third of entry-level roles in FM are held by women which is significantly higher than in other industries. Only fifteen percent of women make up senior-level positions in FM.  

Gender Mix by Job Level (1)


Has FM education benefitted your career?

KARLA ARCHER-REID: “It helps you to position yourself to be in that C-Suite. It gives you a position to understand the other players...Education is really key because it also helps you to mentor ladies like what we are doing here in the Middle East. I think mentorship will go a very far way in keeping them (women) in the profession.”  

CHRISTA DODOO: “It helped me transition smoothly into the field. I realized that coming into the field and meeting people who did not have education in FM... their perception of how we manage facilities was very different which allowed you to look at your facilities and the profession in a different way.” 


KEY FINDING: Women receive significantly higher pay than men for more senior-level FM jobs.

In fact, women find jobs faster at every job level in FM.  



How did mentorship help you navigate your career?

CHRISTA DODOO: “I was fortunate to have male mentors growing up that were very instrumental in me choosing FM as a career. I was fortunate to have a boss who showed me the ropes and guided me on my path. What was really instrumental for me were the female leaders that I had in my life that already had the opportunity to be in the room and opened the door for me to join them...They paved a path for me and made sure that I didn’t have to go through the challenges they went through.” 


Why did you stay in FM?

LORENA ESPADA: “If you really want to impact people’s professional lives and people’s lives in general, FM is the place to be. There’s so much to do and not a dull moment. I go home every day knowing I’ve positively impacted somebody’s life in some way.” 

KARLA ARCHER-REID: “It’s the flexibility. It’s a different thing every day. It’s the complexity of the job. It’s the interaction with people at every single level of the organization. It brings such value.” 



Want more information?

Read IFMA's report "Women in FM: Trends in the Workplace"