Prioritising inclusion at every level

Prioritising inclusion at every level
Home Insights Prioritising inclusion at every level

Design Manager, Alice Fox, recently won the WICE award for Best Young Woman in Construction, recognising her achievements in the sector since she graduated from Loughborough University in 2020. In honour of UN International Women’s Day 2024, we sat down with Alice to find out more about her passion for driving gender equity both at Wates and across the industry.

International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to reflect on the progress that has been made to-date and look ahead to how we can inspire the next generation and encourage sustainable change. This year’s theme is ‘Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress’ which I think resonates perfectly with the work we’re doing at Wates to create a diverse and inclusive workforce, breaking boundaries to empower and inspire all our team members.

I’ve had the privilege of working alongside Riya Rathod as Co-Chair of the Wates Women and Allies Network, designed to drive gender equity across the Wates Group. We currently have over 500 members, both men and women, across the Group and this has grown significantly since I first joined the network in 2021. We want to empower everyone at Wates to play their part in a business where they feel they belong, whatever their role, and the network helps us to work towards this for the benefit of everyone in the business..

Leading the change

The WICE awards really felt like a pivotal moment for me, prompting me to reflect on the last few years; being in such a fast-paced role, I tend to keep moving forwards, but the award win has encouraged me to take the time to celebrate my achievements from leaving university to developing my career at Wates. Since completing the graduate scheme, I have progressed to Design Manager, mentored by my female and male colleagues from across the network and the business; they have always encouraged me to reach my full potential.

Visibility within any industry is hugely important but it feels particularly important in traditionally male dominated industries, such as construction. Attending the WICE awards, surrounded by hundreds of women excelling in their field can only be described as inspirational. Following the awards, I’ve had a springboard to expand my network and spark conversations and relationships with other women and men in the industry. Not only this, I’ve had the opportunity to share my experiences with my colleagues at Wates, drawing on my early career journey to inspire new trainees and develop my mentorship.

Driving gender equity

We must continue our work to drive gender equity until we’re in a place where everyone has equal opportunities. We acknowledge that men and women have different needs that must be identified and addressed so that we can develop strategies internally for the benefit of everyone. We also acknowledge that our methods must constantly change and evolve to suit the needs of our colleagues – for instance, we have recently updated our menopause and parental leave policies to reflect improvements fed back from the wider business.

I hope that we can get to a place where men and women everywhere are seen as equals in every sense of the word – valued, supported and empowered equally. It’s important for men to continue to feel valued and not to feel threatened by growing support for women. We should all be focused on rising together and creating an inclusive environment in the workplace and beyond. A workplace where everyone feels they belong is built by multiple small acts of inclusion, which we’re always striving for and will continue to.”

Looking to the future

As we look beyond this year’s International Women’s Day, I’m looking forward to another year of working on the Wates Women and Allies Network. We’ve got an exciting calendar of events coming up with plenty of opportunities to network within the Group and beyond to promote systemic change and gender equity. It’s been great to see the changes we’ve implemented so far, from ensuring there are adequate female sanitary facilities at all sites to playing our part in influencing the menopause policy. All our small actions add up to creating an inclusive workplace where everyone can truly thrive and be themselves.

I feel incredibly fortunate to work for a company that actively works to make a difference. As a network lead, I continue to highlight where improvements can be made and work with our business leaders to create an inclusive environment for everyone to be outstanding in our industry.