An informal chat with Jenni Winslade, Head of Safety and Sustainability at Bellrock Property & Facilities Management:
To celebrate International Women’s Day, Bellrock wants to shine a light on some of our amazing female employees at Bellrock and the challenges they have overcome in their careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
At Bellrock, we believe in equal opportunities for everyone and gender inequality is an issue that is close to our hearts. The fight against gender inequality is one that is a long way from being won but we know that by leading the way and challenging how people think, we can make significant progress.
How did you begin your career in Facilities Management?
I was with a company before it was acquired by Bellrock, called Fasset. I worked with them for about five years and started as a Quality and Environmental Coordinator. I progressed to Head of Quality and Environmental, looking after ISO management systems, compliance, etc. I then went on maternity leave and while away, the company was acquired, so I came back to a completely different world than the one I’d left.
I wasn’t sure what would happen, and I was worried that I might lose my job but everything worked out when I came back into this new world. It was exciting and everyone was so supportive. I’ve loved working for Bellrock in my new role ever since.
What do you and your team do exactly?
A lot of people see our Safety and Sustainability heading and have no idea what that means. Basically, we strike a balance between managing health, safety and environmental matters and auditing. I’m approximately 50% dedicated to auditing across our portfolio which looks at quality, environmental, building compliance, and health and safety aspects.
We’re also in charge of Bellrock’s Safety and Sustainability strategy. This year we’ve refreshed our strategy and are developing our Sustainability Policy. I’m actually developing the policy, key performance indicators (KPIs) and working to get Bellrock to net-zero Carbon by 2050 – which is the government’s goal for UK businesses, and that’s going to be a massive project. I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into that properly!
In addition to that, I am a business partner for our TRE division. Each of my team members has been given a division and we support them with any health and safety-related aspects. I join their senior leadership team meetings, providing any support they need, advising them and providing a flow of information from my team to them and back, really solidifying that relationship between us.
Why did you choose this career path and how did you get to this point?
Not many people wake up and choose this career. I didn’t come out of college and say, “I want to be an Environmental Auditor or Health & Safety Auditor today”. I didn’t even know what facilities management was! It was definitely a career I stumbled upon, but I’m very happy with the way that life has worked out.
I actually studied a BA in Archaeology at university, worked in archaeology for a bit and then I moved into the media industry to work for the TV series ‘Time Team’. I left the media industry because I needed more of a stable job, so I started working as a Quality and Environmental Co-ordinator for Fasset, now Bellrock. That’s how I started and discovered that I really liked auditing. I was interested in the environment and it was perfect for me – as I’m somewhat of a perfectionist. I enjoy looking at a process and then auditing it – making suggestions for improvement and working with people to achieve those goals.
What qualifications do you have?
For this role, I worked my way through a range of Lead Auditor qualifications for various ISO standards including ISO 14001 Environment and 9001 Quality. I’ve also got a NEBOSH Certificate in Environmental Management.
At the minute, I’m working through my NEBOSH National General Certificate journey for Health and Safety – if you’re looking to become a Health and Safety professional, that’s the first one you do and then you go on from there. I’ve got my exam in April, so I’m hoping I’ll pass and then I’ll feel more comfortable about advising people on Health and Safety matters without so much support from my team.
Aside from on-the-job training, what is the most rewarding part of your job?
I would say the most rewarding part of my job is the variety I experience. No day is the same for me, I speak to different people every day in different locations. I could be auditing one day and doing an SLT the next day. It’s never boring. I also get the privilege of being involved laterally across the company – so I impact every department.
That feeling of “doing something important” seems to be a key theme in this sector. Do you feel like you make a difference?
It is true, if you look at the statistics from 50/60 years ago, so many people were at risk in their jobs. In fact, two of my partner’s grandparents died from work-related accidents. If that were to happen today, it would be headline news.
Is it hard to make people pay attention to Health and Safety Managers or Advisors or is that sentiment changing?
I think health and safety used to have a reputation for being a little ‘jobsworth’ and a bit ‘box ticking’ – you know, you get the classic image of the older male Health and Safety Manager. However recently, especially with Covid, there is a big focus on health and safety in the workplace, including mental health. Now that the world is at home – many in isolation – working on our computers, organisations are making sure they are looking after their employees’ mental health. Even if it’s as simple as keeping them connected to their colleagues!
Do you think mental health will become even more important in Health & Safety practices?
Yes, it is very much ‘up and coming’ on our radar now. Especially men’s mental health, as historically, some were not very good at talking about their feelings. It’s certainly coming to the forefront and that’s important. We’ve recently hired a Coordinator who is really interested in this subject; some of his degree work was focused on mental health practices and we are all looking forward to advising on good mental health practices more.
Historically, Facilities Management has mostly been a male-dominated industry, how have you experienced this during your career?
I do think it has been heavily male-dominated in the past. Even just looking at my team, I am one woman in a team of three men still. I’m quite young in my career in FM, but I have seen it evolve from when I started. There are more women coming in and more respect given to women with childcare needs or for women who want to work part-time.
I remember thinking this career might be difficult for me, seeing how other women have found it hard, but both Bellrock and Fasset have been brilliant to me. I’ve never experienced sexual discrimination. Admittedly, I found a few challenges when I first came into FM. As a young woman, I did question myself when presenting to a room full of men which can be quite nerve-racking. I felt as though I was not quite confident enough to voice my opinions, thinking that I wouldn’t be taken seriously. Looking back now, I would have done it differently – I know now that I can say what I need to say and my opinion is valued. It may have been more of an ‘age’ thing, but the point still stands, it can be intimidating to be the only woman in a room full of men.
I’m grateful to the strong women that paved the way for me and I’ll be so interested to see what my daughter does when she grows up and starts her working life. I am in the process of being mentored by Valerie Miller (Bellrock’s Sales & Marketing Director) at the recommendation of my manager. He said that I could benefit from having a successful female mentor, who has paved her way in a heavily male-dominated environment. From a personal perspective, I’m looking forward to hearing about how she balances her family and work life, she is someone who can understand my needs better. It will be nice to have that connection.
Do you have any role models you look up to?
I do have a role model – I think Dr Alice Roberts is amazing. She’s an intelligent woman who has followed her love and made a career in anthropology, biology and archaeology, and then progressed into the media to show the world how important it is. Media can be a heavily male-dominated environment too, so she must have faced challenges along her way and overcome them.
If you were to have a message to young women starting a new career, what would that be?
I would say you can do anything you set your mind to, that would be my motto. When growing up I didn’t have that mindset, but as I started working, I decided for myself that I wanted to work in archaeology, I wanted to work in FM … If you want something enough, you can do anything you want. So, the sky is the limit, don’t hold yourself back by thinking that you can’t do something. Cheesy, but true!