09 March, 2023 | Posted by Michelle Hogan

University of Richmond Senior Associate Vice President of Campus Operations Maria O’Callaghan-Cassidy on Women in FM #IWD23

University of Richmond President of Campus Operations Maria O’Callaghan-Cassidy on Women in FM #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 Maria O'Callaghan-Cassidy 

Maria O’Callaghan-Cassidy, MSOD, CFM, SFP is Senior Associate Vice President of Campus Operations, University of Richmond and Chair of Women in Facility Management (WIFM). 

A proactive and strategic leader with 20+ years of operations, facilities and planning experience. An achievement-oriented innovator who ensures efficient and cost-effective implementation of simultaneous goals. Creative problem solver who is proficient in building resourceful teams with a strong customer service focus. Dedicated coach and mentor that supports the enhancement of skills and motivates others to strive for excellence.

University of Pennsylvania’s 2016 Models of Excellence award winner; recipient of the John J. Cook award for Emergency Preparedness; President of Woman in Facilities Management (WIFM); International Facility Managers Association (IFMA) Academic Facilities Council Board Member (AFC); International Facility Managers Association (IFMA) RVA Board Member and Former Vice Chair Building Owners and Management Association of Philadelphia (BOMA). 

What was your pathway into working in Facilities Management?   

Like many others in the field, facility and operations management found me because I was comfortable wearing many hats; never backed away from a challenge and was willing to evaluate, learn and own outcomes.    

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

As a woman in a male-dominated field, early on in my career I often felt that I had to be more prepared, more thoughtful, thicker-skinned, willing to do more than my male counterparts and be more accommodating with fewer resources. There was constant pressure to just be more.

Thankfully, the environment is changing. I have also grown to learn that saying no to unreasonable demands is ok. So, to those just entering the field I say – you are right where you belong, and you have a seat at the table. Be confident with your knowledge, your skills, and your intuition. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t be so hard on yourself. 

Why do you work in Facilities Management?  

It is never boring - no two days are alike. Problem-solving, building relationships, developing teams, helping people, analyzing data, and designing for the future – how we plan space, infrastructure, accessibility and flexibility will affect the productivity and longevity of organizations.

This, along with a renewed focus on green processes such as minimizing energy and water use as well as material waste, can reduce the negative impacts on the environment and our choices will impact generations to come.

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

The environment is getting better but more needs to be done to support diverse hires.  Mentorship is a key pathway to growing a pipeline of new talent to lead FM into the future.   

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

A lack of female mentorship in the FM industry is a significant challenge. Throughout my career, I have actively sought out mentors and have been lucky to find many. But most organizations do not have a clear path for mentorship.

Several studies released in the past few years including one that showed that only 23.3% of all FM’s in the United States are women. These women received, on average, 93% of what men earned.  Currently, the percentage of women in executive-level roles is under 8%. 

With a record number of women dropping out of the workforce and not planning to return post-pandemic, there is an immediate need for accessible, structured female mentorship and networking in the FM field. 

Are leadership opportunities available for women in FM?    

Absolutely. The industry is looking for a new generation of leaders. 

What women in FM do you look up to?   

I have great respect for all women working in facilities. Juggling careers, family and other obligations has its challenges. Everyone has a story and we can all learn from each other from the entry-level position to the c-suite.

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

I would like to see us move beyond statistics. Meaning, that articles that equate us to unicorns no longer are written and the focus is squarely on what individuals have contributed, accomplished and invented. 

What is the most interesting part of your job?   

It's ever-changing, forever challenging and people-focused.   

What are you passionate about?   

To be a forever student. Always curious, not afraid to ask questions, and always eager to listen and learn.   

What does International Women’s Day mean for you?

Celebrating the trailblazers that made my career possible. I have deep gratitude and the determination to pay it forward.     

The word equity is defined as “the quality of being fair or impartial; fairness; impartiality” or “something that is fair and just.” What does embracing equity mean to you?

Everyone should be allowed the opportunity to learn, grow and become their best self without judgment. This includes being singled out or held to a different standard.   

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? 

In addition to mentorship; diversity, equity and inclusion training and awareness. 

How do you think embracing equity can support women in FM?  

A strong sense of community and support can be created when you work alongside people that resemble you and can communicate acceptance. Cultivating a sense of belonging helps individuals see new opportunities and have the confidence of a safety net to take on risks; overcome setbacks and thrive.  

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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