US-Sweden dialogue about paternity leave, paid parental leave, Parentsmart Companies…

Great exchange of experience between Sweden and the US when The American Club’s Intercultural Forum in Sweden arranged a seminar about the role of dads in the U.S. and Sweden at The Hilton in Stockholm this week.

Am Club

We discussed hot topics in the panel, like paternity leaves – why and how? Which positive effects can it have on everything from the childs development to increased levels of female leaders in companies? We focused a lot on the steaming hot issue of payed parental leave in the US – who should pay, companies or the state?
And my focus area: WHY. As always I highlighted the impact for companies showing why they invest in support to employed parents, pay their parental leave etc = the ROI.
Namely all the competence they get back from their employed parents – a long list of key skills needed in modern, sustainable and successful/profitable companies.
Parenthood is one of the best management course you can get.

Michael Wells gave us interesting research about the treatment of fathers compared to mothers in Sweden, and Försäkringskassans latest info about effects of parental leaves was presented.  David Landes gave his interesting perspective as an American father in Sweden, having been on parental leave here.

Hope to continue this type of dialogues between Sweden and the US, they make both countries take steps forward.

Read more here:


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I wish…

March 8th 2016.

I have a wish. I would like to see more women and men empowered by knowing that parental competence adds value at work.
I wish more employers showing they know.

It is a simple and universal fact. It is nothing new. Yet many employers don’t realize where a large amount of the company competence is developed. They don’t see the ROI (Return On Investment) by supporting employed parents, why should they invest in PAID parental leave for ex? The ROI they get back is a long list of competences needed in modern leadership and successful companies, like employees constantly training delegation, prioritization, organization, becoming efficient and creative – often at the same time, in chaos and without much sleep… Knowing and showing the company value with parenthood gives more motivated and loyal employees, and it becomes easier to attract and keep the competence needed.

I wish to meet less of the stories below during the coming years…

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Future hope at Gender Equality Days in Malmö

”Gender Equality is one of our most important questions for the future – not a gift to women!..”. The simple and sharp quote was mentioned by the Swedish Minister of Gender Equality, Åsa Regnér, at the opening of the big Gender Equality Conference in Malmö/ Sweden last week. The days in Malmö were  filled with inspiration, new ideas and hope for the future – and a lot of persons who shared important convictions and beliefs.
It was an honour to participate in the program with the ParentSmart Companies initiative. And it felt great to keep a lecture in my home country again, beside being incredibly grateful for more and more involvement in seminars and panels for international exchange of ideas and experience.

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Inauguration with our Swedish Minister of Gender Equality, Åsa Regnér.
Dear meetings among the participants – here with Malin Rogström and Camilla Wagner.

As many times before I was reminded of the fact that such a simple question can make such a big difference… ”How does your parental competence add value to our company?” Parenthood, one of the best and toughest management courses you can find..

This time I kept a ParentSmart Co workshop together with a truly ParentSmart manager role model and father – Joakim Ströberg from Telge AB, the first ParentSmart Co in Sweden. Jocke talked about challenges for Telge now and in the future – how their parentsmart attitudes and activities help not only to attract but also develop and keep the talents needed. It builds the company Employer Brand to meet demands of future generations, it increases confidence among employed parents, makes it easier to go back to work after parental leave and makes both mothers and fathers see a positive career connection with being on parental leave.


”Leave no one behind!” One of the most interesting seminars from my point of view – about the new UN sustainable development goals – how they were developed and how the Swedish Government, counties, municipalities and organisations want to work towards the goals. Like wanting to have an ambassador for the goals in each municipality…great!
The journey towards the new goals is something I get more involved in for each day, and truly want to be part of with the ParentSmart Companies model – connecting to Gender Equality (goal No 5), Decent work and economic growth (No 8) and Reduced Inequalities within and among countries (No 10).  
Hillevi Engström (former Minister of Dev, today Head of Municipality of Upplands-Väsby and Anna Hedh (EU Parliament).

Kajsa B Olofsgård, Swedish ambassador for the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, beside Magnus Fälth, a fantastic person and Office 365-trainer, who is part of the team who will spread the ParentSmart Co concept internationally to the countries interested and in need for inspiration and concrete methods. Magnus has taken the wonderful decision to – together with his (today 6 year old) daughter – contribute in some way to each of the development goals until 2030. Imagine if everybody in the world would take the same decision..!

#‎jamdagarna‬ ‪#‎jamställdhet‬ ‪#‎foraldrasmart‬ #parentsmartcompanies

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Work-life balance focus in Estonia

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.

Great planning and cooperation around the seminar with Lee Murrand and Ester Eomois from BPW.

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.

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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.

Great thanks to Anders Ljunggren, Swedish Ambassador in Estonia, for making the picture clearer about local possibilities and challenges within the area in Estonia.

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.
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The right to live a “whole life”, with both family and work – dialogues in Belarus continue..

Sometimes it is almost possible to hear the sound of a norm breaking, or an attitude changing direction..

Like in Minsk last week, when I – as always – got the question about how much PROFIT Swedish companies can prove by supporting the combo work-family, being Parentsmart Companies. And how the same person, after a while really understood the connection to profitability, without figures and statistics. He realized the value of more gender equal companies to attract and keep talented employees, increase innovation and creativity, and add to a change in society as a whole. He also saw the leadership skills developed among employed parents, and how to see parenthood as an asset, not a problem. At the end he wanted to initiate a parentsmart company competition among the 1200 members in the business association where he is the chairman. GREAT!

I continue keeping dialogues and lectures in Eastern countries about WHY and HOW to increase gender equality and work-life balance in companies and societies – initiating ways of continuing thoughts and actions locally. As everywhere one key is to identify and spread local role models among managers, to prove that a change is possible, and possible locally. The interest and need for new initiatives and ideas within the area is big and increasing in these countries, and many companies show curiosity in the business value connected to employer initiatives and attitude changes.

Next interesting Parentsmart trip went back to Belarus again, invited by UNFPA and the Swedish Embassy in Minsk. This time meeting private sector companies in Brest and Minsk in connection to the ”UN70 Belarus Express” train tour around the country, to celebrate UN 70 years and show different initiatives connected to the UN goals etc.

In Brest the Swedish Institute expo Life Puzzle was presented to Belarusians of all ages, at the Youth Center, and I talked to some companies and representatives from local trade unions. In Minsk we held a seminar with a range of different private sector companies and discussed the possibilities of developing attitudes and activities for supporting the combo work and family in Belarus.

Everybody – everywhere – should get the possibility to combine family and work, and not have to choose… A human right I would say.

Above: The Life Puzzle expo!

Above: Karen Daduryan, Deputy Regional Director for UNFPA in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia Region.

Above: Magnus Sätterberg from the Swedish Embassy in Minsk, Elena Kasko, UNFPA Country Manager Belarus and Agnia Asanovich at UNFPA, planning the seminars with me.

Thank you all, and Sylvia Augustinsson at the Swedish Institute/Swedish Foreign Ministry, for giving me more fantastic opportunities to be a part of the important attitude changes and gender equality development in different countries in the area!


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The ParentSmart Company model something for Kaliningrad?

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.

With partners and participants – and our great moderator Svetlana.

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.

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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.

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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.

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Inclusive and gender equal leadership – Nova hot topic this morning

Nova Sweden (Karin Levander introducing below) arranged this morning a hot topic seminar about inclusive and gender equal leadership. It recalled some important things we constantly need to consider and discuss further on..
Below some of my impressions and reflections from the seminar.
(text in Swedish: scroll down)

I believe in focusing on ”Yes, AND..” instead of ”Yes, BUT..”.
BUT. In the field of inclusion and equality in companies there still are many ”but” left to deal with… And they need to be discussed – they need constructive attention to change.


The panel:
Britt Olin from Sweco, Heidie Vad-Schütt from Sandvik, Charlotte Sundåker from Hyper Island and Lisbeth Larsson from Grant Thornton – all of them role model companies in the field. Jennifer Råsten from Netlight shared her own thoughtful experiences and led an interesting dialogue with the panel.


Examples of ”but” issues in the discussion:

– The female networks’ advantages and disadvantages. Important that we have them, but – one would wish that they weren’t needed.. Not having to encapsulate and discuss issues with women only.. But – how can you attract men to the discussions? What’s in it for them?

– The importance of role models, especially a strong leader that drives the issue of inclusion and equality. But – nothing happens if not everyone owns and takes responsibility for the matter further on..

– Highlighting role models, important and right way to go. But – how does one actually choose role models? Male or female? What effects can different choices give and what effects are needed for different purposes?

– Important to hire people that sync with the values and the chosen path ​​of the company. But – also dare to hire more people who ask WHY and SAY NO sometimes – persons who dare to question and challenge norms and attitudes.

We need this kind of ”but” discussions! To start finding all the ”ANDs”…

In Swedish:
Nova Sverige (Karin Levander inledde) bjöd in till högaktuellt seminarium i morse om inkluderande och jämställt ledarskap. Påminde om en del viktiga saker vi ständigt behöver fundera och diskutera vidare kring.

Jag försöker alltid ha fokus på ”Ja, OCH” i stället för ”Ja, MEN”. 
MEN. Inom området inklusion och jämställdhet i företag finns en del MEN kvar att vända.. Och de behöver få konstruktivt fokus för att förändras.

I panelen satt Britt Olin från Sweco, Heidie Vad-Schütt från Sandvik, Charlotte Sundåker från Hyper Island och Lisbeth Larsson från Grant Thornton – vilka alla är företag i framkant inom området. Jennifer Råsten från Netlight delade med sig av egna tankeväckande erfarenheter och reflektioner, och ledde en intressant dialog med panelen.

Exempel på ”men”-områden från diskussionen: 

– De kvinnliga nätverkens för- och nackdelar. Viktigt att de finns, men – man skulle önska att de inte behövdes.. Att inte behöva kapsla in och diskutera frågor med enbart kvinnor.

– Vikten med förebilder, särskilt en stark ledare som driver frågan om inklusion och jämställdhet. Men – inget händer om inte alla äger och tar ansvar för frågan vidare sen..

– Att lyfta fram förebilder, viktigt och rätt. Men – hur ska man egentligen välja förebilder? Man eller kvinna? Vilka effekter ger det och vilka vill man ha för olika syften?

– Viktigt att anställa personer som synkar med värderingar och den väg man valt. Men – också våga anställa fler nej-sägare, dvs personer som vågar ifrågasätta och utmana normer och attityder.

Behövs denna typ av ”men”-diskussioner! För att tillsammans börja hitta alla OCH..

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Belarus – impressions from Gender Equality Conference in Minsk

So close, and yet so different. However, many great initiatives and forces striving towards a more gender equal Belarus – for example initiatives by UNFPA in Belarus. There is a strong common strive for a sustainable cooperation between the government, the civil society, international organisations and NGO:s.

I want to share some highlights from the ParentSmart Companies participation in the International Conference ”Strategies to Achieve Gender Equality in Belarus”. The project was implemented by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of Belarus, with financial support of SIDA. There are several interesting focus points I want to remember and continue discussing with contacts I got in Minsk, like UNFPA in Belarus and also with UN Women in Moldavia.


The conference focused on gender equality mechanisms and international experience in societies and companies, and on the big critical issue of domestic violence in Belarus.

To start with the violence issue, since it affected me a lot: as many as 77% of Belarus inhabitants say they have been violated in different ways in their relationship, and it is a central issue in gender equality efforts in the country. Among the challenges to get a change is of course the high level of alcoholism, but also the fact that violations are seldom reported. There is a fear that the children may be taken away, as they will if there is violence at home, and mothers sometimes hear that “what mother are you if you send the father of your children to prison?” There is now a powerful and important anti-domestic-violence campaign going on, with the famous Belarus hockey player Alexei Kalyuzhny acting role model in a video spread on a national level.
To read more about the “Bedroom without violence” campaign:

Regarding gender equality and balancing work with family life there are today many laws, mechanisms and support systems ready to be used for both mothers and fathers in Belarus, and the support is continuously developing further. This was presented initially at the conference by Mr Alexander Rumak, the Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Protection in Belarus. He was however seriously worried about the lack of use of the support offered. We had an interesting dialogue during a coffee break, and I later also discussed on stage during my lecture the important fact we talked about: there may be all possible laws in place, but you cannot legislate about an attitude change. The only way to get a real change in action too is to start showing WHY. With the help of strong role models breaking norms.

There ARE of course amazing role models in Belarus, like in all countries and cultures. Not least among female entrepreneurs. But they are not visible enough. And if presented they are often described as successful “despite her family and children”. The opposite message would start making a difference, showing how parenthood added to the success. And as always, there are proofs needed. Parenthood is a universal concrete example of competence needed in successful companies – no matter where in the world.

Challenging but interesting to lecture with Russian slides… 🙂

Another thing that I reflected about during the day was the importance to talk about “employers” when discussing parenthood value according to the ParentSmart Companies idea. It is not only a value for private sector companies, with profitability goals, but crucial for all employers wanting to attract and keep the competence they need.

Like in Japan fathers in Belarus now have the challenge to balance between the traditional and modern image of being a father, when considering taking paternity leave or not. There are no shortcuts to make more fathers take parental leave. They need to find their free will and make an active choice. Starting with finding a WHY. And a why that not only connects to the joy and importance of being with your child – but also a why regarding the value for the employer.


In the final conference summary of Mr Rumak, the Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Protection:
“Implementing the social programs for a more gender equal Belarus is a joint effort in cooperation between state authorities, NGO:s and international organisations and institutions. Now we will also start inviting and involving companies in the efforts. The ParentSmart Companies idea about company value can be another important building block creating a strong and healthy country.”

Even though there often is a distance between words and action these final words made me thankful for the dialogues we had during the day, for choosing to make efforts to do research and adapt my lecture for Minsk – and most of all hopeful regarding the continued development in the fantastic country I had the honor to visit.

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Publikengagemang kring nyckeltal

Nyckeltalsinstitutet överträffade sig själva igår på den årliga Nyckeltalsdagen!

Inte lätt att presentera nyckeltal efter Colin Moons energiboost, men upplägget ”5 Myror..” och ”en ska bort” var ett genidrag för att engagera publiken i vad som egentligen påverkar vad. T ex  att det mesta verkar gå åt rätt håll vad gäller jämställdhet i företag – men långtidssjukfrånvaron går åt fel håll… Anders Johrén och Bino Catasús resonerade kring möjlig koppling till ökat deltidsarbete, som verkar leda till totalt fler arbetstimmar (betald + obetald) än om bägge i en familj jobbar heltid och delar lika på hemarbetet. Intressant..


Grattis alla pristagare också, t ex Västfastigheter och Pfizer – vinnare inom kategorin mest jämställt företag enligt JÄMIX. Höggravida Ami Hemviken skapade äkta vinnarstämning!

Ser redan fram emot nästa års Nyckeltalsdag, 20-årsjubileum och allt – förväntningarna är nu på hög nivå..! 🙂

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Estonian ParentSmart dialogues and impressions

Back from Tallinn!

Overwhelmed by great impressions and new contacts from the seminar last week in Tallinn, about gender equality and promoting Work-Life Balance in Estonia. The event was connected to the Swedish Institute global expo ”Life Puzzle”, like in the other countries where I’ve been invited to talk about the ParentSmart Company initiative. The seminar was very well arranged by the Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs, the Embassy of Sweden, the Swedish Institute, the Responsible Business Forum and support from Norway Grants. Perfect timing for the theme too – 2 days after presentation of the new Parliament, and one of it’s prioritized questions: Work-Life Balance!

The seminar at Radisson Blu Hotel Olümpia attracted Estonian companies from various business areas, and although female dominance there were both women and men in the audience. During the day we got current reports about challenges, possibilities and intiatives going on in the country, as well as Estonian research within the area and a Norwegian case about Storebrand’s activities to be an attractive employer.


I had the pleasure to lead a 1,5 h interactive workshop with the audience (in Estonian – it worked – well! :-)) – a dialogue about how to make use of ALL the competence available to a company – and thereby increasing gender equality, work-life balance etc. We talked about how the ParentSmart Company initiative helps companies see and show why parents are a valuable asset to the company, and why it’s profitable to have both mothers and fathers on parental leave. And how the process is initiated in practise, to achieve concrete and quick results.

The participants reflected together about their ideas, thoughts, doubts and convictions. The room was full of energy – it was interesting to follow the exchange of ideas and experiences within the area, current to all. The ParentSmart opportunity is there, in these Estonian companies like in all others I’ve met – since company benefits from parenthood always have been there. The step for an employer to show they know this connection isn’t that big, but makes all the difference. And results come quickly if working with practical support, attitudes and role models at the same time.


Below: The Swedish Ambassador Anders Ljunggren and Katri Eespere, from the Ministry of Social Affairs. Estonia has a very generous parental leave law, and several projects going on in the area. The Ministry supports initiatives in companies in different ways, both with ideas and financially (funds from Norway and EU for ex). Katri is responsible for gender equality questions at the Ministry and was showing a genuine and inspiring optimism towards the future. She talks about the gender equality development not seen as a problem, but as an interesting challenge. Liked that attitude.

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Triin Roosalu from Tallinn University presented research and ideas under the theme “Forming (gender) identities through time management”. She had an interesting reasoning about what really causes gender equality/inequality, and how we add to it and not in society, through attitudes, behaviors and role models.

Beside the Life Puzzle expo below: our excellent moderator Lee Maripuu from Swedbank, and my great support with everything from translation of slides into Estonian to expertise in the topic area – Karel Parve, Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs.


I look forward to continue my good contacts in Estonia, and hopefully be able to follow the development further in Estonian companies and society.

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