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Women of the Cleaning Industry

 

Industry professionals talk about their challenges as women, the work life balance and experiences…

 

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Business
 
March 28, 2021
 
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Women of the Cleaning Industry
 

Women - they are capable of achieving so much!

However, even in these modern times, it is women who often find themselves in difficult positions and subjected to stereotypes. The women in the cleaning industry are no exception to this. We’ve heard them speak about technologies, thrive on their organizational skills, and transform the cleaning industry with sheer hard work, skill, and dedication. This issue, we look into their personal journeys, the challenges they have had to face, their work-life balance, and more. 

In honor of International Women’s Day, let us hear it from the women of the cleaning industry!

Andrea Deutschbein, Director FM - Soft FM at EMAAR Malls Group

Challenges faced

Personally, I had no challenge being a woman in the cleaning industry. Honestly, it was only when I moved to the UAE that I realized the male dominance in the industry. While at least in the hotel it was accepted that the housekeeping department was headed by women, there weren’t even female cleaners available in commercial cleaning at that time. I still remember these early years very well and the skeptical looks of my male colleagues when I was the only woman on a site visit for a new project.

Through my knowledge and practical experience in this field, I was quickly accepted and colleagues were not afraid to ask me for advice.

Work-life balance

My best friends are books, favorable thrillers and history. And of course spending time with the family.

Advice to female colleagues

Don’t let anyone restrict you from cleaning toilets. Do not be afraid of new technology and machines and continue to educate yourself. There is nothing that a woman cannot do as well as or even better than a man.


 

Andrea Yoko, Head of Soft Services at Ejadah

Challenges faced

The cleaning industry has predominantly been seen as a female environment, so the challenge for other females has been to be able to move into other sectors especially within the hospitality industry. I remember being told in the early 90s by a general manager during a salary review that I should be grateful as the Executive Housekeeper’s position was usually another department’s head wife! With gender equality, it is pleasing to see that the growing number of Executive Housekeepers are now male.

My drive was to raise the profile of housekeeping and for it to be seen as a career of choice. The cleaning industry plays such a vital role in maximizing and maintaining the value of a property, the aesthetics, and more importantly its health and wellbeing. The cleaning industry is now getting recognition for the importance it has due to a pandemic

Work-life balance

Probably not my strong point at this time in my life; however, when I had 3 young children and was working full time – organizing, scheduling, and discipline was the key. I managed to leave work on time, and my family was my focus: it helped that in those days we only had pagers. Easier said than done nowadays with smartphones and instant messaging 24 hours a day. 

Advice to female colleagues

Stay true and authentic. Believe in yourself and don’t measure your progress using someone else’s ruler.


 

Bhawani Bhargava, Director of Housekeeping at Park Hyatt Dubai

Challenges faced

I am grateful to have been working in an equal opportunity work environment throughout my career. This has helped me build healthy relationships with peers, put in work towards creating a strong personal brand, value each member’s contribution to the success of the establishment, and learning from the best.

I have overcome any obstacle by trusting my own voice, control overthinking, replacing my negative thoughts with more encouraging and positive thoughts. Most importantly, not criticize myself for matters beyond my control.

Work-life balance

Balance is a very important factor in every aspect of life. Hence, actions such as delegating, setting boundaries, remaining focused on goals and priorities lead to having a more balanced professional side of life. Pursuing what you really have dreamt of can be a motivation for a balanced personal part of life. Don’t forget to take time out for yourself and recharge to be better at whatever you do.

Advice to female colleagues

Don’t be afraid to speak up and be heard. Learn to manage your business. Build your personal branding and lastly, don’t forget the power of supporting each other.


 

Carla Beaino, Director Of Housekeeping at The Palms Beach Hotel & Spa, Kuwait

Challenges Faced

As a woman, the cleaning industry instilled in me a discipline to work hard to achieve what I want in life. I can tell you from experience that I did start at the bottom, and I am proud of what I’ve become and achieved. Setting a goal, having a support system in my life (my family) helped me a lot to live this journey and overcome most of the difficulties I’ve had to face. 

I would like to take this opportunity here to talk about women’s challenges and fears I’ve worked with since I joined this industry. They think this is an industry where you need to be only friendly, offer good customer service, and be open and honest, we’ve got a lot more happening, particularly with female culture. 

* Many women who might have an interest in cleaning may not have the right education. It is important for us to motivate them.

* In the recruiting space, one often has to push female candidates to be more confident when talking about their abilities while preparing for an interview. It is important to build trust and respect for their job, teach them how to be strong, and to never underestimate their skills and abilities. 

* Women cleaners earning low wages are likely to experience harassment from multiple sources like customers, colleagues, seniors. It is important for them to realise the value of self-acceptance and inner self-criticism. 

* The nature of the job of cleaning is physically tiring and mentally stressful; sometimes our colleagues are single moms who are totally responsible for their family. It is always important for us to find a mentor in order to support and motivate. 

Work-life balance

Trying to balance my personal life as a woman with my career was a consistent challenge; however, it forced me to practice more of my hobbies, networking, and be able to finalize my future career plan, which I am still working on improving daily. 

I’ve always felt the highest level of respect from my peers and superiors. And in fact, being a woman sometimes even felt like an advantage because I brought a unique perspective, which was appreciated.

Advice to female colleagues

Have realistic goals and don’t be afraid to go and achieve them. Be adaptable and open-minded, flexible, and courageous. Be ethical; your reputation is everything; ensure it is a good one. Surround yourself with people who bring the passion and best in you, and you can learn from them. And enjoy what you do and get the balance right: work hard, play hard.


 

Denise Frem, Senior Director of Housekeeping at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Lebanon

Challenges faced

I was raised in a family that worked in hospitality; my 2 sisters, my brother, and I all work in the same industry - an inspiration we got from our passionate and hard-working parents.

We knew what we were getting ourselves into, and we do not regret making this choice.

Challenges are part of life; as humans we face them daily - the ones I came across were never related to gender. However, I do acknowledge that such a thing as gender inequality exists; hence my advice is to choose a place or a company that puts its people first and believes in equal opportunity.

Work-life balance

Work-life balance is a perception and differs from person to person. I learned to do less but do it right, to say No, to schedule time for myself, and to live with purpose.

Advice to female colleagues

Set a higher goal from the very beginning, and do not be afraid nor hesitate to dream big.

Invest in yourself, create opportunities to do so, and keep in mind that being a leader involves serving others.

Surround yourself with people who inspire you and believe in you. Take advantage early in your career to learn and build experience in different positions; the hotel industry is one of the places that offer a wide range of skills and take the most out of it.

Choose a company that represents your beliefs and values, a company that puts people first and treats everyone equally. Enjoy the journey for self-discovery, be open to change, and keep evolving. Be ready to make, own and learn from mistakes, they will only make you and your team stronger. Build strong and lasting connections. Trust is the basis for everything and above all, keep in mind that you only can change yourself.


 

Lamis Harib, Chief Executive Officer at Ecabiotec Middle East Manufacturing LLC

Challenges faced

A common question I used to get is why I’m in this industry ‘as a woman’ since it is quite male-dominated. I’ve allowed my work and contribution to demonstrate that as an answer, and I haven’t been asked that in a long time now. Otherwise, in terms of challenges as a company founder in Dubai, it’s mostly a very equal ground in terms of gender.

Work-life balance

I’m not a mom yet, so that’ll be a new chapter to figure out I’m sure, but having both a supportive, like-minded life partner as well as a team that I can truly rely on and having them stand strong in their roles definitely helps. It all adds up to make it all work in the end, even if it’s not always perfect on a daily basis, which it never is for anyone anyway.

Advice to female colleagues

More pressure is on women to prove themselves in any male-dominated industry, but trying to work ‘like a man’ is giving up how powerful we are as women. Claim your intuition, your ability to see people for who they are, and lead with the feminine (receptive energy) that most institutions lack right now.


 

Manuela D’Agata, International Education and Certification Director, ISSA EMEA

Challenges faced
Somehow throughout my career, I have always worked in male-dominated industries like finance, real estate, and now for the last three years cleaning. Having said that, been very lucky because being part of these industries but working for their associations has given me the possibility to actually work on some of the biases and help and coach women in the sector and raise their visibility.

Knowledge is power. I always worked hard to know what I know, to understand what I understand so that I could be prepared. At the same time empathy, sensibility and strong work ethics have played a great role in helping me with challenging situations.

Work-life balance

Maintaining work-life balance is indeed a balancing act. My goal is to avoid working whilst being with the family or vice versa. If I am working, I try to focus on work, but if I am with my family, I do my best to put the phone away and be there for my children and my husband. 

Advice to female colleagues

Trying to be a superwoman and doing everything simultaneously could have a negative impact on the quality of my work, on my relationship with my family, and my mental health. Men are champions in not multitasking, we should learn from them. Keep building your skills, keep learning and be visible.


 

Nithya Mehrotra, Executive Housekeeper at Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts, Dubai

Challenges faced

Out of my 21 years in hospitality, driving an ambitious career path was definitely taxing at times, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I had to face the challenges, and there were bumps on the road, but this was not necessarily due to the fact that I was a woman. Whatever challenges you face, Just keep going. I'm so glad I kept going because I do have the career I wanted, and it has given me a lifetime of insights, learnings, values, and tactics.

Moreover, in the hospitality industry, the required skills and qualities are not gender-related anymore. Gone are those days where it was used to be stereotyped that men take charge and women take care. What I love most about this industry is having a voice without any gender bias, and you are constantly able to share your ideas and vision and be heard. This has helped me grow in my career as well.

It’s important to understand who you are, the value you can add as an individual to any organization, and finding your own place. The first person that has to believe in you is yourself. Believe in yourself and prove it. If you believe in your values, talent, expertise, work & creativity, you can convince anyone.

Work-life balance

Work & life - these are definitely not two separate entities, it’s integration, and what we call a ‘balance’ is about being in control of our life and career path, which will create happiness for ourselves, feeling good about ourselves, and bringing meaning to our life. Consistently find time to unplug, recognize your priorities, practice self-care - your physical health & mental wellbeing is the most important factor, so do activities that make you happy. Always remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup.

Advice to female colleagues

There is no finish line where you will find it all perfect, so never underestimate yourself during your journey. Try to constantly put yourself forward for opportunities and don’t be afraid of speaking up. Some days you will not do as well as other days, and that is completely ok. Please resist the urge of judging yourselves. Judging yourself often means that you haven’t lived up to your unrealistic expectations. Failures will never overtake you if your determination to succeed is strong enough.


 

Pamini Hemaprabha, Complex Executive Housekeeper, Marriott International, Dubai

Challenges faced
Over 16 years of my career, I have seen the hospitality industry grow stronger for women, and we can do so much more, too. Growing up, I encountered very many barriers like striking the right balance between work and family. Then, there was the biological clock pressure - getting married at a certain age and having children at a certain age remained in my mindset whilst I continued with my career graph.

I got many overseas opportunities, but again the work-life balance became a point of concern!

I want the best of both worlds, which is my professional and personal life, striking a perfect balance has always been my priority. I am committed equally to both worlds and do not take either of them for granted.

Work-life balance

The key is to master the art of people management, which could be your colleagues, superiors at work or spouse, children, parents, friends in your personal life. Be real and committed.

Advice to female colleagues

Don’t settle for less and don’t quit on your priorities. Don’t just have a career instead leave a legacy to empower others!


 

Ute Knott, Executive Housekeeper, Ajman Hotel, Ajman

Challenges faced

I am a hotelier by heart and have worked in hospitality for more than 20 years. Even though both industries are connected, there is a big difference as well. I am German; I am tough. Challenges are what made me stronger as a woman and a leader and helped me to grow personally and professionally. 

In my home country, for example, the majority of the housekeeping employees in hotels are females. Many hotels prefer to have a female leader in the housekeeping department for different reasons - higher attention to cleanliness and details are two of them.

I cannot miss talking about the challenges in the industry itself facing the ongoing pandemic. As an executive housekeeper, I had to think about maintaining the standards at minimum costs, whereby I faced additional costs with the required disinfection and sanitizing process of rooms drilled down by the Government of the UAE. 

As a woman, I see it is more challenging to move to higher positions like EAM or GM because these positions are preferably given to men; however, this should not be a hurdle for a woman who aspires to become a GM.

As for my current role, the flexibility and having the right people on board is what made it and still makes it possible. Your eyes and instincts grow more detailed. Proper planning, daily and routine inspections, engagement with my team to keep the motivation going is what makes sufficient work successful. 

Work-life balance

Proper planning, immaculate time management, delegation, trust and efficiency, the right people in the team, are pros for me, and I have managed to have all that, which makes my working life wealthy and productive. Also, I love my family, and I love spending my time with them, but not only that, being able to plan, trust and delegate helps me to be present when being together. You need to have that lens of comfort when at home along with the sense of responsibility while at work. 

In the end, it is not about the amount of time we spend; it is more important to be productive and efficient while at work. Working long hours is counterproductive; however, I see it a lot in hotels, especially with male employees in higher positions.

Advice to female colleagues

Simple advice - it is important to love what you do. If there is a situation you don't see as acceptable or could be handled differently, speak up, voice your opinion and stand for it. We all have our responsibilities. We all need to look after ourselves when on and off duty. Show your employees that you care for them and engage them; this will improve the quality and quantity of work and workplace satisfaction.

 

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