“We need to move the needle on what inclusion is by building our teams and coming together where differences and strengths are valued.”

Women in Facilities Management Webinar
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Last week, C&W Services’ Southeast Region Vice President of Operations Ericka Westgard, CFM, ProFM, participated in the FacilitiesNet Women in Facility Management Panel. As one of five panelists, Ericka answered key questions about encouraging women to join Facilities Management (FM), how mentors impacted her career growth, what she has learned from the industry, and how diversity, equity, and inclusion has shifted in Facilities Management 

  • Discuss the impact of women in FM roles. Why do you think Facility Management is a dream career and how can we encourage more women to get involved? 

  • So often, we find women coming into the FM world by accident, whereas I personally chose FM as a career choice. I have a bachelor’s degree in FM and after 31 years, it’s been a rewarding and challenging career. Every day is different. Yes, you get the day-to-day work done, but you also must maintain the environment, understand and implement new technology, and be innovative. You gain new knowledge everyday in all the pieces and parts that the FM world touches. FM covers so many different facets.  When you are engaged each and every day at work, you look back and realize how quickly it has flown by.  My career has afforded me the opportunity to move across the country and to travel across the globe.  I have 6 children, so my entire career has been a juggling act. 

    At one point, earlier on, FM was generally viewed as support or a functional role, but now, more than ever, it’s a core competency and this shift is significant in positioning FM as a recognized profession.  

    When we look at women in Facility Management, how do we encourage them to join? It’s about raising awareness of the profession and speaking with younger students in high schools that are thinking about what they want to do in their careers. Sometimes they’re not aware of the facility management options. Lastly, we need to advocate for women; women advocating for women, men advocating for women, showing we’re all allies. For me, this is a dream career and I’m so glad I made the choice I did.  

  • How has mentoring played a critical role in your career growth? 

  • I would not have made it to this point in my career without having a mentor. Personally, I was a mentee who then became a mentor, and learned invaluable lessons from both. In a formal mentee role, I was encouraged to take time to reflect objectively on my own professional development, set goals to work on, and consider ways to handle various situations differently. A formal mentor program can give you a safe environment to bounce off ideas and get feedback in real-time. It also instilled more confidence in myself, my perception in the workplace and expanded my professional network. In my opinion, everyone needs a mentor. Having someone you can count on to advocate for you is so important. 

  • What do you wish you knew when you first entered the FM industry?  

  • I didn’t get a full understanding of what the role of a Facility Manager looked like until I was out of school. There’s a saying that “the FM is always running towards the fire while everyone else is running out of the building”.  I didn’t realize the criticality of the FM when I first entered the workforce.  But I know now! 

    What I would recommend is to ask questions. It’s okay to advocate and stand up for yourself. Success will come and go, and it isn’t an endpoint once you reach a goal. You may get sidetracked or take the time to slow down or find yourself starting over, but realize that you are always continuing to learn, continuing to grow, and building upon yourself; success will always evolve. I didn’t realize going into the working world that success can look like this. Just because you don’t feel like you’re at a good point of success, doesn’t mean that you’re failing. You’re still growing, and you’ll continue to grow. 

  •  In your experience, how has diversity shifted in the Facility Management industry? 

  • I hope we’re not having these exact same conversations five years from now. When we talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), I want to make the point that Diversity is not inclusion. We need to move the needle on what inclusion is by building our teams and coming together where differences and strengths are valued. A truly inclusive environment is how you surround yourself and work within those differences regardless of size, shape, or color. We need to continue to empower and communicate with all generations in the world of FM. We’ll always learn something from one another. 

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