What is Pride for me?
Pride for me is both a celebration of LGBTQ+ community and an acknowledgment of how much more we need to do for LGBTQ+ inclusion. This is especially true for our sector. We are making some progress, but we are not changing fast enough. As an industry we continue to perpetuate the hetero-normative culture, especially on our sites. Construction sites are still seen as traditional, exclusive spaces dominated by hyper-masculine white males. This needs to change, least of all because it hurts us as an organisation. It leads to loss of talent from site-based roles.
But where to start?
Looking at the scale of change, it can seem daunting. Just as a home is built brick by brick, a workplace where everyone belongs is built by one small act of inclusion at a time. With every process we review, each policy we improve and each programme we implement we create a stronger foundation for a fairer and more equitable tomorrow.
In practice this means, for example, when we reviewed our family leave suite a year ago, we ensured it was inclusive in language. Paternity Leave was renamed to Paternity/ Partner leave. We also recognise that there are different routes to parenthood and our Adoption and Shared Parental leave are matched with our enhanced Maternity Leave offering.
Language is critical to being more inclusive. I now consciously include my pronouns in my email signature. I’d encourage everyone to start there, if you are thinking how to show your commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusion. This seemingly small action is a big gesture. This tells your colleagues that you are not making an assumption about anyone’s identity. You also open a door to conversation about gender identity in the workplace.
And if your fear of getting things wrong is holding you back, I would really encourage you to see this as a learning opportunity. I remember the culture on sites from earlier on in my career in the industry. Right from the safety aspects (no PPE) to behaviours (macho) we operated in that way because we didn’t know any better. We now do and therefore how we do things is as important as what we do. We have had to unlearn and relearn things. To me, it reinforces the belief that we can always do better and we can learn new skills and behaviours.
Building a safe workplace
We are a family-owned business. We believe that everyone should feel welcome, included, and connected at Wates. Our goal is to be an organisation where everyone loves coming to work. A company where we look out for each other. A safe space where everyone can be themselves. For all of us.
An important step towards this ambition was the launch of our Anti Bullying and Harassment policy in March this year. It’s a clear and comprehensive statement that Wates must be a positive place to work, free from bullying, harassment, or discrimination. The policy launch follows on from the zero-tolerance approach to homophobia, sexism or any inappropriate behaviour that was announced by our Chief Executive, David Allen, at Group Roadshows and in Leadership Conferences over the last year.
I hope that for any colleague who is experiencing inappropriate behaviour or comments on account of their sexual or gender identity, this policy will provide a framework through which they can share their concerns.
BuildOut Together, our LGBTQ+ network
In addition to ensuring a safe workplace, we are also focussing on education and raising awareness about LGBTQ+ inclusion. I am really heartened by the efforts of our LGBTQ+ employee network, BuildOut Together, who have organised a series of activities to support education and awareness building during Pride month. These include a LGBTQ+ Allies Toolbox Talk, quizzes, film club and a communication series on Pride heroes. These offer opportunities for colleagues to learn, know more and be more inclusive.
The network also organises ‘Spill the Tea’ sessions which are safe spaces for LGBTQ+ colleagues to connect with each other, share their feedback both for Wates to be more LGBTQ+ inclusive and for the network to be more effective in supporting colleagues in building a career of choice.
The steering committee of BuildOut Together are our real Pride heroes as they are helping the organisation evolve to be more progressive and deliver on our purpose of creating tomorrow together.
We are taking our visible commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusion further by participating in our very first Pride festival in Birmingham later this year. I am going to be joining my colleagues in a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community.
I hope that with us being at Birmingham Pride it signals our commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusion and encourages everyone to bring their whole selves to work, especially where previously they did not have the confidence that they would be supported. To every such colleague and member of the LGBTQ+ community, I want to say, I see you and I stand in solidarity and support with you.