ISSA/Interclean women's forum tackles gender imbalance

15th of May 2014
ISSA/Interclean women's forum tackles gender imbalance

Both real and perceived gender discrimination in our cleaning industry is best dealt with through education, cultural understanding, and determination. These were the key messages delivered at the women's forum held during ISSA/Interclean 2014 last week.

Facilitated by the ISSA's Dianna Steinbach, the panel comprised Sofitel vice president Marie-Paule Nowlis, ISS Facility Services director North America Holly Borrego, American Paper ceo Lydia Work and Diversey Care president Dr Ilham Kadri.

Steinbach invited her panel and audience to consider not only their corporate roles and environments, but just as importantly our cleaners. "They are our industry. What can we do to help them have a better experience?" she asked.

The meeting actually addressed issues facing both males and females in the industry. And, pointed out Steinbach, critical to a contented business career is a happy and supportive personal life.

Nowlis had some key messages for her audience. "Yes, we may work (from time to time) for poor managers but we can learn from them. By being loyal to them we can be rewarded, so make the most of it and help them succeed."

She suggested women take roles that allow them to bring something to the position that is worthwhile. Don't accept roles for the money or for the CV.

As with other panel speakers, Nowlis emphasised women have the natural skills and understanding that allow them to deal more effectively with a number of situations.

For Borrego, quickly recognising that she had to deal with high staff turnovers meant learning how to hold on to her people. That meant training them as well as giving them an opportunity to move upwards.

"The more we train, the more we show people how much we care about them," she said.

Borrego believes female managers need to identify positions into which their female employees can be placed.

"It's critical to work for a company willing to invest in your future," she pointed out. That means investing in courses, seminars and training. She undertook many technical training courses - carpet cleaning, hard floor maintenance etc - so that she knew more than others and hence was sought out by senior executives for advice.

For Lydia Work, having goals and directions are important for women. "Be proactive and focus on what you can control," she stressed.

"Never take a job based on who you will work for," she added. "People often move on after you have started in that new role."

On day-to-day management Work noted, "I set directions and then allow employees to make their own decisions on how to reach our corporate objectives."

Kadri explained her ‘recipe' for success, which includes six ingredients. They include passion, "a love for the job so that it's a journey and not a destination."

Education is also a critical element in the menu and for Kadri that has involved changing companies and learning about new industries.

As well as displaying humility by listening to others when starting a new role, in time give back through mentoring, Kadri advised.

For women particularly, determination and resilience are most important in facing cultural as well as potentially male skewed environments. Her experience, as a senior female executive in Saudi Arabia was a valuable and rewarding learning experience she said.

Finally, "have a sense of purpose, take ownership of your own roles", Kadri emphasised.

"When we (women) are no longer novelties, then we are there!" she concluded.

This report is published with the kind permission of Alan Hardcastle, consulting editor at INCLEAN in Australia.



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