- Flexible space is a growing, evolving sector, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement.
- In particular, the male-to-female balance in top positions is under scrutiny.
- Jane Sartin, executive director of the U.K.’s Flexible Space Association, shares insights on how women in flexible space can advance their careers and empower others along the way.
Those of us involved with flexible space are lucky enough to be part of a growing, evolving sector. Research from The Instant Group showed that flexible workspaces have grown by 22% in the U.K.
But there’s definitely still room for development in certain areas.
At FlexSA, we’ve recently been focusing on one area in particular — advancing women in the flexible space industry and helping to redress the male:female ratio in the top positions.
Our recent Women in Flex event brought together a room full of women to share inspiration, support, and career advice. This opened my eyes to the importance of helping women in our industry use their voice as they progress.
Here are four things women should consider as they move through their career and set their sights high.
1. Get involved with events
Your voice is important — fresh perspectives are often welcomed at industry events. Don’t assume you wouldn’t be welcomed into a debate because you feel you’re too junior or don’t have a profile. It’s hard to get yourself on the map, but try and make it known that you’re happy to participate if opportunities arise.
For instance, after our recent Women in Flex event, I had a few people from the audience approach me and say they’d like to be part of a panel in a future event if needed. That’s so helpful as someone who organizes events, and I’ve remembered those names.
Most events will arrange for the panelists to meet beforehand and discuss key points, which allows plenty of time to prepare for a discussion. Remember, they want to get the best from you — not throw you in at the deep end or put you on the spot.
2. Express yourself through the written word
Your company may have a blog, and it’s worth seeing if you can contribute to that. Responses to industry news or a write up of a recent event are good starting points. Hopes and predictions for the year ahead are also always useful at this time of year.
There are also industry bodies — such as the Flexible Space Association — which welcome outside perspectives on industry issues, so that’s also worth exploring. Most organizations will support you in the development of a piece.
Otherwise, use LinkedIn to express yourself through an article. I’ve been struck by how popular this platform is among people working in the flexible space industry. Tag others who the content might be relevant to. It’s a great way to get across your thoughts and viewpoint, and actively engage in the industry.
3. Mentor others on the journey
Mentorship is a brilliant way to help others who may be a few years behind you in the industry — it’s a great opportunity to share your wisdom and support others. You can learn just as much from mentoring as you can from being a mentee, and you’re likely to find that it reinforces how much you’ve learned so far in your own journey.
Again, start with your company, as they may be part of a specific scheme. There are also industry organizations such as Mentoring Circle, or nationwide organizations such as The Mentoring Club. So even if you work for a small business, there are always ways to get involved.
4. Networking to build relationships
There’s no getting away from it — the term “networking” still has some negative connotations. But really, networking is about connecting and chatting with others, and developing your professional relationships. Your network will be invaluable throughout your career. Did you know that in a LinkedIn survey, 80% of professionals consider networking essential to their career success?
As well as dedicated networking events, most industry events are ready-made networking opportunities. Grabbing a coffee and chatting during the break is just as valuable as formal networking opportunities. Equally, virtual networking can work well if you’re working from a different location.
It’s always best to aim to chat with people and connect without having an end target in mind — any conversations that resonate are important and will help with all of the areas listed above.