It’s International Women’s Day, and we’re talking to Saltire’s Service Delivery Manager Natalie Milne, about her 16-year career in the facilities management industry.
Hi Natalie. As a female leader in the facilities management industry, have you seen things change and open up for women?
I would say it is still a very male dominated industry but I have seen a few females in recent years move into more senior managerial positions within the industry, both in the public and private sector. There does seem to be a preconception that you need to be technically qualified within more senior roles in this industry but that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. If you are a good manager, your skills can be used in any industry or situation.
Do you feel like a mentor to the younger women coming up behind you? What are their struggles and what advice can/do you give them?
Yes, very much so, especially because I have worked my way up personally within the company and can therefore share my experiences, both good and bad, and the lessons I have learned. I think the biggest challenge is the people management side of the role as you are dealing with so many different personalities. Also, if you are promoted internally, you need to ensure that the staff you have previously worked alongside then give you the respect in your new role. The trap you can fall into is “I will just do it myself!” especially if you have done the role previously yourself. You need to gain the confidence to effectively delegate. Even 16 years down the line, I am still guilty of this at times!
What are the challenges that women can face in a male-dominated workplace, in your experience?
Your voice being heard can sometimes be an issue, because the male leaders often come from an engineering/technical background. However, in this industry, it isn’t just about technical knowledge: it is also about being a good manager and understanding the requirements of your contracts, customers etc. Women need to remember that their voices are just as important and that we all bring our own experience to our roles.
This year’s IWD theme is #choosetochallenge. You’re a female leader in the facilities management industry. What have you ‘chosen to challenge’?
Perception definitely: there is no doubt the things I’ve said above are a common perception of females in this type of environment at all levels! The best way to #choosetochallenge is to have all your facts at hand, and be able to state your case professionally while having all the evidence to back it up. So essentially, be prepared!
Communication within any industry will differ from person to person so you need to be able to communicate with your customers, clients, tenants, staff and colleagues; the demands of all of these groups of people will be different. Being able to adapt your style to fit the situation is a challenge but it’s also such an effective skill to master.
When you think about Saltire as an employer, what can you share about how they support women in their careers and as leaders?
Saltire are a fantastic support to women in their careers – to all staff, really. Various women, including me, have been given the opportunity to undertake further training and education, which is invaluable. For example, I did a Management Diploma on day release whilst another colleague did a Quantity Surveying Degree. We have also had a few staff go through their Level 2 and Level 4 in Gas Safety Management – this technical understanding is very useful for people when they are dealing with customer calls. We currently have two accounts staff doing an evening course to further their qualifications, so overall I’d say Saltire are second to none in this field.
I constantly encourage my staff and Team Leaders to come forward if there are any courses of interest that will benefit them as well as the business. For example, a number of our female administrative apprentices have completed SVQs in Business Administration but some more experienced staff have also qualified for funding based on age, for example, and have been able to do the higher level of SVD.
As I have been so lucky to get all these opportunities myself through working at Saltire, I understand how valuable they are, not only to a young womens’ own self-progression and confidence, but also to the business. Our ultimate goal is for all of our people to grow as the business grows.