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Women in FM Annual Conference 2016 – Play your part

19 January 2016

It simply wouldn’t be a WIFM conference without an agenda packed full of inspirational speakers sharing stories to make the audience laugh and cry. This year’s conference certainly had plenty of Kleenex moments - there were even some standing ovations!

The ever witty and lively WIFM founder and Chair Lucy Jeynes introduced the event, and shared the findings of a recent survey carried out in conjunction with the conference. Without much surprise, it demonstrated a vast difference in confidence between men and women who want to join a board. Approx. 70% of men said that they would want to join a board, with 60% of those saying they feel ready now, whilst only 20% of the total 80% of women wanting to join the board said the same. More women want to join the board, but less are comfortable to say they feel ready now.

Guy Stallard, Head of FM at KPMG and avid supporter of the Living Wage Foundation, officially opened the conference as the host. He highlighted that there are still 6 million people not earning the Living Wage, and shared KPMG’s experience since implementing it for all of their staff and contractors (increased staff productivity, dramatic improvement in staff retention, positive client feedback, fewer helpdesk complaints etc).

Fran Moscow took to the stage to share tips for getting on to the board. She showed the audience how to create a personal blueprint, which included developing a personal brand (“YOU are your best PR, go and tell your great news”) and creating an objective to aim for. Fran amended a phrase often heard in business; “Work/Life balance” should become “Work/Life fit”, something that seemed to resonate with many of the attendees. She left everyone with a checklist to follow in their journey to the board, which included “be known as someone who gets things done” and “don’t sell your soul”!

Next up were three personal and very different FM journeys from WIFM Deputy Chair Sajna Rahman, Polina Eaton & Louise Burns, which really touched the hearts of many in the audience. Sajna shared a key piece of advice “It’s not who you know, it’s what they know about you”, and Louise closed the session with the motto “Dream, believe, achieve”.

Heather White’s session offered a change of scenery and the chance to get up and move about after such powerful and emotive stories from Sajna, Polina & Louise.
Heather is a sought after international speaker, trainer and coach who ran a very well-received event for WIFM in 2015 and is known as a leading expert on networking, personal brand and making connections. Heather challenged the audience to think about their value to other people in a networking environment.

A delicious lunch was then provided, allowing attendees to put Heather’s tips to good use by building up their network with others in the room.

The afternoon kicked off with a panel debate chaired by WIFM Deputy Chair and multiple award winner Tanya Horscroft. The theme “targets or quotas – what is the best way to improve the gender balance of your board?” saw plenty of questions submitted by the audience, which led to some valuable points made by the four panelists – Neil Murray (Sodexo), Fiona Perrin (HSS), Christopher Kehoe (EMCOR) & Rachel Tranter (Women on Boards).
The panel’s advice included:
“Believe that you belong”
“Be really good at your job. Understand your skillset and where your passion lies.” “Mentoring and sponsorship is important, but don’t be afraid to put yourself forward. Keep an eye on your next role”.
To get involved with the WIFM mentoring program (mentors and mentees are required), please contact Beth Lawton of Larch Consulting wifm-mentoring@larch.co.uk

Debra Ward, Women in the City Woman of Achievement award-winner took over the stage next to introduce the EuroFM Women in FM video, but not before she had everyone up on their feet to show them how to perfect their power pose!
To view the EuroFM video, http://www.eurofm.org/index.php/projects/women-in-fm

Fiona Bowman followed the video with a story of how she overcame an abusive relationship, thanks to the support of her workplace. After discovering what was happening at home, Fiona’s manager transferred her to a new job in London, allowing her to relocate from Scotland overnight and escape the situation. Fiona was a finalist in the BIFM Awards 2015 for the Impact on Society category because of her ongoing campaigning to help support others in domestic violence situations. She guides employers to play their part, showing them how to make a difference in the lives of staff who may be affected by stalking or domestic abuse by using their existing infrastructure. This could be through a specific domestic abuse policy being put in place, or encouraging staff (security, FM, cleaners etc) to remember the 4 Rs: Recognise, React, Refer & Record. A staggering 104 women die every year (that’s 2 a week) as a result of domestic violence.  Report incidents via the UK 24 hour national domestic abuse helpline freephone number: 0800 2000247

KPMG diversity director & Paralympian Claire Harvey was next on stage. Claire was working within the criminal justice system before an accident in 2008 left her paralysed. Forcing her to adjust to a new life, Claire turned to sport. She took up sitting volleyball, amassing 60 GB caps before being selected to captain the GB 2012 paralympic team. 
Claire’s advice included:
“Focus on what works well, not the perfect goal”.
“When working in a team, find commonalities, not differences”.
“Lead by example – Know your “game” and lead by example”.
“Passion is contagious – shout about it”.
Claire brought her session to an end by reminding the audience that “There will be someone looking up to you – YOU are role models. Never underestimate your power”.

The audience really did “play their part” on the day, bringing along piles of donations for the conference’s chosen charity, Smart Works. This charity provides high quality interview clothes, styling advice and interview training to out-of-work women on low incomes, allowing women to not stand out when all they want to do is blend in. CEO Kate Stephens took to the stage to talk about the charity, and show the audience a short film of success stories of past clients.
To find out more about Smart Works (or to review their current volunteer vacancies), please visit http://www.smartworks.org.uk/

Lucy Jeynes summarised the day and left the audience with a final piece of advice, which is our rallying cry for WIFM in 2016 - Lean in. Step up. PLAY YOUR PART.

The audience helped to get the event trending at number two on Twitter – An improvement on last year’s 6th place. To review all of the day’s tweets, search for #WIFM16 or @BIFM_WIFM on Twitter, or use the new WIFM microsite http://wifm16.weebly.com/

Here’s a small selection of comments:

Mary O’Connor, FM at CBRE: “Woo hoo, my favourite day of the year has arrived… It’s the WIFM conference today”

Liz Kentish of Kentish & Co who was in Singapore on the day of the conference: “We may be in a different timezone but with you in spirit (and on twitter!); have a fab day at WIFM16.”

Julie Kortens, BIFM Chairman: “Aspiring female leader next to me taking copious notes. What WIFM is all about”!

Anne Lennox-Martin, MD of FMP360: “Fantastic morning. This conference is overwhelming in its emotional intelligence.”

Chris Morris, Director at The Xenon Group: “Thoroughly exhausted after today. Who knew being inspired could be so tiring! Well done to WIFM for a fantastic event.”

Cheryl-Anne Sanderson, Regional Manager at G4S: “…words can’t describe how I feel after today’s event. 2016 = build your network, develop your blueprint and swim with the sharks.”

We could have filled this event twice over. If you have a venue available to host next year’s conference, please contact Lucy Jeynes: wifm@bifm.org.uk

To find out more about the BIFM awards (and how you can submit YOUR application to follow in Tanya & Fiona’s footsteps), please visit http://www.bifmawards.org/2016-2/

WIFM extend huge thanks to: Our annual sponsors, Mace Macro and Condeco; Stuart Butcher of Albion Images, who captured the day beautifully through his photography; all of the guest speakers; KPMG & Guy Stallard and his team for providing the venue and day-long hospitality; goodie bag contributors; the WIFM committee; their ever-faithful WIFM members


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