Last week the ParentSmart Company ideas were presented and discussed in Kaliningrad, the small (and beautiful) part of Russia by the Baltic Sea. Another interesting seminar connected to the Swedish Institute/Swedish Foreign Ministry Expo “Life Puzzle”, arranged by the Swedish Consulate, the University and the Kaliningrad Chamber of Commerce.
An honor to be invited as key note speaker, and fascinating to listen to other, Russian speakers on the same theme – followed by discussions and round tables about possibilities and obstacles for more parentsmart attitudes in Russian companies. Employers, employees, NGO:s, trade union representatives and researchers focused on the topic “Are parents a value or burden to companies?” One interesting observation was the large (and rather unexpected) presence of students – a strong indication of the importance of the issue for (their future) employers… I wish that the future/students were present in ALL dialogues – about them, when discussing how to attract and retain future talents.
Priorities among women in Russia have changed from the main goal of a good marriage to marriage/family + good career in combination. But having a (another) child is still perceived by many as “a factor of poverty”, connected to lower living standard and smaller possibility to find a good job. This fear must be dealt with and concrete proofs of the contrary shown. What can employers do? Covering up a certain amount of the salary loss during a parental leave is one idea. And telling WHY it’s worth doing so. If they also communicate that pregnancy and parenthood is connected to career and competence development they could affect the feeling of not having a chance to make a career/find a good job when you become pregnant. Abortions could probably decrease in number, and increased birth rates are needed in Russia in general. The parentsmart model can thus add value in Kaliningrad, but the dialogue and cooperation between companies and authorities is crucial, to have a common view of the values for both business and society. For companies and society in Kaliningrad an increased number of Parentsmart companies could lead to increased business possibilities too. Being close to the rest of Europe it would make foreign investments easier to attract, as well as production orders from foreign companies.
Questions about business value and proofs of profitability were as always very important for the participants. And the reasons why Swedish companies invest in support for work-life balance and parent support needed to be described in other ways, since not many Swedish companies can show figures and statistics of ROI yet. Quotes and convictions from top level managers in Swedish companies was the way I could show “proofs” of WHY. These proofs are strong and convincing.
As in all countries the first and easiest step to get going and start affecting norms and attitudes is to identify and show strong local role models and quotes from high level managers in important companies. They are possible to find everywhere, if the right questions are posed. To present and listen to local ParentSmart leaders in panels/seminars, present them to media, gather them in presentations in different ways to spread their testimonials/quotes/stories… It is an efficient step further, since it often leads to reflections among others, and gives credibility among both companies and authorities. Swedish examples can inspire. But only local role models can convict and change local attitudes.