Third and last trip to Eastern countries this autumn – to Estonia again!
Invited by the BPW Estonia network (Business Professional Women), with support from the Ministry of Social Affairs in Estonia and Norway Grants, Tiina Bruno held a one-day interactive workshop (in Estonian, the native country of her parents) at the Estonian School of Commerce last week. Around 35 Estonian managers (mostly HR) got inspiration, new ideas and concrete examples from Swedish companies about the combination of work and family/private life, the promotion of female leaders and gender equality in companies – and the business value connecting to the issues.
The Parentsmart company idea of not only giving support but also knowing and showing the ROI (Return On Investment) from employed parents created interest and discussions about the attitudes needed to really make a change.
In smaller groups, using dialogue charts, the participants discussed the current situation in their own companies, the benefits in a desirable future, opportunities, barriers and concrete steps forward locally. They hereby made connections from the experience and ideas from Sweden to local circumstances and possibilities.
As in many of the Eastern countries that have shown interest in the work-life balance and gender equality issues as well as the Parentsmart model the dialogue also focused on the possibility and responsibility of companies to make a change in the society as a whole. Their power to increase inclusion, gender equality and the use of all competence available. Again the question of the human right to live a “whole life” is central – not having to choose between work and family, increasing birth rates in the long run.
Many Estonian companies have come far, and have flexible working hours, possibilities of distance working, help with child care etc. The country also has one of the most generous parental leave systems in the world. However, attitudes and norms in companies, not at least among top level managers, need to develop to get an economic and demographic leverage of the systems available. As everywhere else the most reliable recipe for this change is working actively with role models among leaders and companies. The Ministry of Social Affairs in Estonia works with an interesting project to promote more family oriented companies in Estonia, and maybe the parentsmart attitudes could be added in the criteria check list. Tiina Bruno will continue contacts and dialogues with interested cooperation partners in Estonian companies, consultancy agencies, NGO:s and political institutions.