07 March, 2023 | Posted by Michelle Hogan

Director of the Board of Women in Facility Management Alana Dunoff on Why FM is an Excellent Career for Women #IWD23

Director of the board of Women in Facility Management Alana Dunoff on Why FM is an Excellent Career for Women #IWD23

The theme of International Women’s Day 2023 is #EmbraceEquity.

Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities.

Equity recognises that each person has different circumstances, and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome. 

To celebrate and support International Women's Day 2023, Portobello Institute is sharing inspiring insights from women who follow their passion to fulfil their potential as they share their experiences with embracing equity.

Introducing Alana Dunoff

Alana F. Dunoff MS, ProFM, FMP, IFMA Fellow is a Strategic Facility Planner/Owner, AFD Professional Services, LLC and Adjunct Professor BS in Facility Management Program, Temple University. Alana is the Director on the board of Women in Facility Management (WIFM).

What was your pathway into working in Facilities Management?  

In college, I was a psychology major with a concentration in Environmental & Social Psychology – how people are impacted by their environment. For grad school, I found a program at Cornell University called Design and Environmental Analysis, and one of the majors was Facility Management. I had no idea what it was, but the course curriculum was everything I enjoyed – Environmental Psychology, Architecture, Design, Real Estate, and Human Resources – I figured it must be the perfect intersection for me - I was right. 

How do you feel about working in Facilities Management as a woman? 

When I first started my career (over 30 years ago) I was one of just a few professional women in a large planning and construction department for a university and hospital. I was young, with an MS in Facility Planning and Management.  The men didn’t quite know what to do with me, I got “tested” and challenged, but over time because I was curious and respectful I eventually found my place. 

I love my career in FM, it has taken a variety of paths, but it has always been rewarding.  I like that every day is different, that I can help create spaces and places where people can be productive and effective and I have met and worked with amazingly smart and caring people. 

Why do you work in Facilities Management?  

When I entered the profession it was an intersection of all of my interests and passions, I have stayed because it is a career that is fulfilling and rewarding, where I am always learning and being challenged and get the opportunity to work with super smart and engaging people. I also think I am now at a point in my career where I make a difference, particularly with my teaching. 

Do you think the FM sector fosters inclusive work cultures for women? 

I think that the industry has worked hard to open up the industry for women.  I think FM as a profession is open to and even encourages women to be a part of the industry, all warm bodies are welcome.  

I have attended FM conferences (eg. IFMA World Workplace) and have watched the growth of women in attendance, although I still think women only represent about 22%+, so even though the welcome sign is up – we still have aways to go to educate women about the many advantages and opportunities in the profession. 

Could improvements be made in making the FM work culture more inclusive for women?

One of the biggest challenges for women interested in a career in FM are the many different job titles associated with FM positions – although there are plenty of Facility Management opportunities out there – there are also a lot of confusing FM-related job titles such as Plant Engineers, FM Technicians, and Operations Supervisor that women may think they are not qualified for – thinking they have to have a mechanical or technical background to apply; but in reality, these job titles are often “place holders” or “catch-alls” – that don’t reflect the actual work, but they don’t know what else to call the position. HR needs to be more aware of more modern FM job titles and descriptions and some industries have some catch-up to do to attract and encourage women to apply for FM positions.

Are leadership opportunities available for women in FM? 

Yes. There are plenty of leadership opportunities in FM, particularly as we experience a huge demographic shift, senior FMs are retiring at a rapid clip – there will be a lot of higher-level FM positions to be filled. Women make great FM leaders, we are often collaborative and engaging, looking to bring out the best in people, but we can also be budget conscious, tough when we need to be, and excellent problem solvers.  

What women in FM do you look up to?  

As a young woman just starting out in FM - Stormy Friday, Sheila Sheridan and Teena Shouse were all amazing inspiring mentors to me – I am now fortunate to be able to call them colleagues and friends.

Would you encourage women to start a career in Facilities Management?  

YES! YES! YES! FM is a fabulous career for women,  a career in FM is not a boring desk job, it is a career that requires engaging with people – with customers, with senior management with staff; every day is different, and new challenges are always on the horizon, and it can be very gratifying. I think women have both the soft and hard skills to excel in the FM. Also, careers in FM are so varied, between different industries and different jobs – you can find FM careers with a focus on operations, sustainability, workplace strategy or occupant services-  the opportunities are endless! 

If you could change one thing about the experience of working in FM for all women, what would it be and why?  

I do wish we could get rid of some of the old gender stereotypes – the old boys club does still exist, but what I would really want to see is women lifting up other women - mentoring them, educating them, helping women to build their confidence so that they rise above the occasional “bad seed’ with grace, smarts and dignity. 

What is the most interesting part of your job? 

Every new project and opportunity is a new problem or challenge to solve, but I also have experience and knowledge to draw from that helps me to be successful. I also love the people who gravitate toward FM as their profession, the industry is full of amazing people who work hard, care passionately about what they do and are generous with their time and knowledge. 

What are you passionate about? 

I am passionate about FM education. Helping to inspire and encourage the next generation of FM emerging leaders. I think being a female professor in FM is having an impact on students being interested in the profession – we have more and more young women joining the program, I like to think that they see me and can see the possibilities of a career in FM. That is kind of cool.

What does International Women’s Day mean for you?

At my first IFMA Annual conference, the line for the men’s room looped around and a small group of women popped in and out of the bathroom - I was 23 years old and it was the first moment I realised I was entering a man’s world. 

My parents and friends didn’t quite get what my degree in FM was really about, but my dad used to tell me and my sisters that we need to find careers where we can forge our own paths and not be beholden to anyone else if necessary.  

International Women’s Day celebrates the journey that so many of us have taken to establish ourselves as leaders in our respective industries. It suggests that we are seen as equals in the industry and acknowledged for our meaningful and valuable contributions.  

In your work environment, what do you think can be done to embrace equity to allow people to follow their passion and fulfil their potential? 

When it comes to space and place, for years and years – the mantra I have been saying is that one size does not fit all. Successful spaces are flexible and adaptable no matter who you are and what you need. I like to say that everything we need to know about a successful workspace we learned in our kindergarten classroom.

In the kindergarten classroom, you have a variety of spaces that are used throughout the day to support your growth and education – group spaces, floor spaces, individual spaces, team spaces, one on one spaces, quiet spaces, and noisy spaces.

Somewhere along the way we said to be successful our spaces have to be structured and rigid – which from my perspective couldn’t be farther from the truth. When you create places and spaces with flexibility and adaptability and encourage universal design, you build places that create a level playing field  - equal and fair to all - allowing workers to find their best ways to work and be their most productive selves. 

International Women's Day Webinar with Portobello Institute

Portobello Institute is delighted to celebrate International Women's Day 2023 and support this year's theme of #EmbraceEquity

The webinar, led by Dr Danielle Prescott, will take place on Wednesday, 8th March '23 from 7 pm - 8.30 pm. You can register for the webinar here.

We invite you to this webinar with three industry practitioners from the world of elite sports who will discuss their experiences and the importance of embracing equity when it came to being successful in their chosen careers.

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IWD Webinar (640 × 476px)

Register for our International Women's Day webinar here.

Read More: International Women's Day 2023 Will #EmbraceEquity For A Better World

Read More: Dr Judith Butler on how to #EmbraceEquity in Early Years and Follow Your Passion

Read More: Mary Kate Murphy on Embracing Equity for Women in Facilities and Workplace Management


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