ISSA Interclean 2014 Industry Women’s Forum
‘The more we train, the more we show our people how much we care about them.’ Holly Borrego, cleaning services director North America for ISS Facility Services.
Perhaps one of the most valuable cleaning industry seminars held in our industry, the ISSA Interclean 2014’s Industry Women’s Forum had lessons for males, as well as females, reports INCLEAN’S consulting editor Alan Hardcastle
Both real and perceived gender discrimination in our cleaning industry is best dealt with through education, cultural understanding, and determination. They were key messages delivered at an excellent forum held at ISSA/Interclean 2014.
Facilitated by the ISSA’s Dianna Steinbach, the Industry Women’s Forum
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.
Of course, it would be unfair to say this was simply a ‘women’s’ forum, in reality it addressed issues facing both male and females. And, pointed out Steinbach, critical to a contented business career is a happy and supportive personal life.
All panel members have had interesting business careers but space does not allow coverage.
Nowlis had some excellent 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 in a number of situations.
For Borrego, quickly recognising that she had to deal with high staff turnovers meant learning how to hold onto 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,” Borrego stated.
She 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,” pointed out Borrego. 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 execs for advice.
For Work, having goals and directions are important for women. “Be proactive and focus on what you can control,” she stressed.
A particularly pertinent point made by Work was, “never take a job based on who you will work for. They often move on (quickly) after you have started in that new role.”
On day-to-day management, Work noted, “I set directions and then allow employees make their own decisions on how to reach our corporate objectives.”
She concluded with a lovely quote, “Quality today is our job tomorrow.”
Kadri expounded on 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 exec, in Saudi Arabia was a valuable and rewarding learning experience.
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.