We are delighted to announce the new Hub Lead for the Women in Sustainability Network Hub in Staffordshire & Shropshire!
Vicki Hughes will be leading the WINS Staffs & Shropshire Hub, continuing the great work that former Hub Lead, Claire Nicoll, had been doing since 2019.
We caught up with Vicki to ask her some questions about her background in sustainability and what she’s looking forward to as she begins her new journey as a WINS Hub Lead!
As a woman in sustainability, can you tell us a little about your background?
For the past 20 years I have worked in the waste wood sector as a Director and shareholder of one of the UK’s largest, family owned wood recyclers. We sold the business in 2018. Having continued to work in it for a few more years, I have now gone back to my roots and my original consultancy McPhee Associates through which I help businesses in the waste and recycling sector to grow.
I am a Fellow & Trustee of CIWM, Fellow Chartered Marketeer with CIM and a member of the Board of the Wood Recyclers’ Association, having been the technical lead for over 5 years.
What unique qualities do you bring (as a woman) that makes a difference in what you do?
I have always tried to have a more empathetic approach to business, taking into account the broader picture and what is going on behind the scenes, rather than just focusing on achieving the end goal.
As a woman and a mother of two boys, I have a natural ability to look beyond the immediate task in hand. This has proved useful in managing employees and in negotiating contracts alike. Often people are so focused on what they want to achieve, they fail to see what might be blocking them or that there might actually be a different and better path to take.
What drew you to the Women in Sustainability Network?
I met Claire (Nicoll) through work and heard about WINS from her. I was immediately interested because for years I had often felt I was a loan female voice in a very male dominated industry. As I progressed through my career, I became determined to support other women in the industry, so that they hopefully had an easier journey and recognised their value sooner. WINS will enable me to do that and to share best practices from as many places as possible, to allow all our members to progress and flourish in their careers.
You are taking over the Hub for the WINS Network in Staffordshire, with a slight addition of Shropshire, since Claire Nicoll stepped down last year. What are you looking forward to in re-establishing this WINS Network Hub? What are your plans and intentions?
I understand the Staffordshire element of this Hub is very strong and active, so I am delighted to be inheriting that. I am looking forward to expanding the hub into Shropshire, which is where I now live, although I was born and educated in Staffordshire, so I’ve not strayed to far from home.
Initially I would like to support women by helping them to see the benefits of a work / life balance and how they can achieve this. It is not impossible to have a successful career and still be able to have a family and a fulfilling home life. I feel many women run themselves ragged trying to achieve this, so one of my aims is to introduce people to the Hub who have experience in supporting women in this situation. I also want to provide opportunities for women to develop skill sets they may not realise are even available to them, to help them understand and develop their strengths.
In your opinion, what are some of the main challenges facing women working within sustainability right now? How do you think being a part of your local Hub community can help?
I think many of the challenges centre around visibility. Sustainability is a relatively new term and something that businesses feel they “should do” but are not always clear what it means or who and how to make meaningful changes, so we need to focus on framing the communications and roles to help with this. Another challenge is around women’s confidence.
Often, we are quick to assume we don’t know the answer, we can’t be right or someone else must be better than us. This is in all walks of life but because the sustainability sector is still male dominated, I think it can become more of an issue for women working in this sector. Being a part of the Hub will allow women to network with other like-minded women who are going through the same experiences. Sharing stories is always a good confidence boost I find. Being a member also means access to training and development for women in a safe environment where they can be themselves.
What excites you about the future?
The endless opportunities that lie ahead of us all. Once you open your mind to the possibilities in life it is astounding what appears. The hardest part is choosing which opportunities to take. I feel like there is a real sea change and that both women and men in this sector are realising that they can play a big part in making changes that are meaningful and long lasting both at a corporate level and personally.
What are the opportunities for women wishing to work in some way to tackle the climate and ecological crises?
As I’ve said, I believe that we can all make some small impact in our own ways, that collectively means a big shift in attitude and therefore outcomes. I also think the focus of government on the environment, means that future policies should be more aligned and that keeping the pressure on leaders whether in business or politics, and ensuing accountability is something we can all engage in.
What is the question you wish people would ask you, and what is your answer?
Q: What one thing can I do, that will have the biggest impact later in my career?
My answer would be – Be Curious! Ask questions? Attend every training session you can, even if it’s not apparently relevant. Volunteer for things that push you out of your comfort zone. All these things will provide context, understanding, connections and will develop your sphere of knowledge, even if you don’t end up using them again. So always be curious – I still am and I still have much to learn and experience – thank goodness.
For more information on what’s coming up at the new WINS Staffordshire and Shropshire Hub, check out the Hub page here. You can also sign up to receive our weekly(-ish) newsletter, WINS Network News, to keep up to date with our wider Network activities, as well as the WINS Staffs & Shropshire Hub events.