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WSPs Abigail Frost builds inclusion by design

WSP's Abigail Frost builds inclusion by design

 February 22, 2022

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Abi Frost, WSP's Diversity and Inclusion Manager, is helping to drive inclusion and diversity across the projects the company is involved in with HS2.

Building a culture of inclusion requires targeted action in several key areas, from employee behaviour and line management capability to leadership and wider people management practices. Alongside this, transparent and reliable data helps everyone see where things are working and where they aren’t.

Here, Abi shares how her role with WSP helps support the drive for even greater inclusivity and diversity.

Fostering an inclusive culture

"More than ever, inclusion and collaboration need to be part of every organisation’s cultural identity for it to attract, develop and retain the best talent. And in our “culture-first” environment, it is incumbent on business to lead with and embed behaviours that enable people to bring their true selves to work without fear of discrimination or harassment," says Abi.

"For example, from our recently published D&I Strategy we know that while WSP benefits from above-industry representation among female and Black, Asian and minority ethnic colleagues, a significant proportion of colleagues are reluctant to share their personal information. We need to be sensitive to the reasons for this and a key part of our strategy is to ensure colleagues understand the significance of sharing their personal information and feel comfortable and happy doing so," Abi explains.

Once-in-a-generation opportunity

Abi helps drive inclusion and diversity across the contracts WSP is involved in with HS2. "This transformative project represents a unique opportunity to change the skills landscape," comments Abi.

Abi started her role as WSP's UK Diversity and Inclusion Manager in 2018. She explains, "Our focus was gender parity; we recognised that the historical over-representation of men in rail and construction had produced a greater concentration of men at the executive level. With the average proportion of women working on HS2 contracts at 29 per cent (versus 17 per cent in the infrastructure sector) we are heading in the right direction. And having signed up to the international female focused jobs board, Where Women Work, we expect further progress."

Removing barriers to entry

"The Black Lives Matter movement undoubtably sharpened society’s focus on addressing racial inequality. It’s also encouraging that for each of our HS2 contracts the proportion of WSP colleagues from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds is above the infrastructure and engineering sector averages. And on our Rail Systems Support, Old Oak Common and Euston contracts, over twenty per cent of our colleagues are Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds," says Abi.

HS2 asks all its suppliers to gain external Diversity and Inclusion accreditation (which WSP does through the National Equality Standard). To support HS2’s drive for even greater inclusivity and diversity through its growing number of Tier 1 suppliers, WSP’s Procurement Team formed a Supply Chain Diversity Taskforce. This new initiative is reviewing how WSP engages with those smaller companies owned by women, people from ethnic minority backgrounds, LGBTQ+ and disabled communities, and helping remove barriers to entry with practical support and guidance.

Inclusive by design

The inclusive behaviours WSP builds into its contracts are also being embedded into its designs. "I was excited to be part of a test group to help refine a new inclusive design training module that aims to do just that. Developed by my WSP colleague Kevin Mainwaring, The Principles of Inclusive Design is an interactive training module that will help designers better consider what it means to be inclusive," comments Abi.

Technology has a big role to play in creating more inclusive spaces. A fantastic example of this is the virtual reality, eye-tracking and emotion-sensing technology being harnessed to feed stress free wayfinding back into the design of the Old Oak Common super hub. The innovative work Abi's WSP colleagues are doing with CCD Design and Ergonomics, along with HS2, will benefit millions of station users, particularly those with restricted mobility.

Standing for diversity and inclusivity

WSP encourages all of its colleagues to speak up against attitudes and behaviours that don’t align with the company's values, which they can do directly with their line managers and HR, or via reporting tools, such as the H&S hotline.

"When it comes to issues of intolerance and discrimination, we want everyone to know that WSP has their back," Abi adds.

Influential companies like WSP and HS2, who are proactively making inclusivity part of their cultural identity, will reap the benefits of greater innovation, happier workforces and greater revenues. They also have an incredible opportunity to build a more inclusive society for everybody.

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Disclosure: Where Women Work researches and publishes insightful evidence about how its paid member organizations support women's equality.

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