Swedbank in Lithuania has been implementing and contributing to various initiatives promoting equality and diversity for many years. The LGBT community festival Baltic Pride held in Vilnius this year is no exception. Simona Lėverienė, head of Swedbank’s Career Center and Board Member of the Lithuanian Diversity Charter, says that organizations promoting diversity reflect a more comprehensive model of society, which helps to get to know customers and their needs better.
Why is it important for Swedbank to support Baltic Pride? What motivated you to support the local LGBT community?
Swedbank’s activities are guided by the principles of equality, diversity and respect for human rights. Therefore, we support several initiatives that draw attention to human rights issues. Support and mutual respect for both our customers and employees is important. Only an open organization that recognizes the rights of all, sees and respects differences builds the trust of its colleagues, partners and customers. It is an integral part of Swedbank’s daily operations.
What other external or internal initiatives do you have to support LGBT equality?
We are ambassadors of the Lithuanian Diversity Charter and one of the first companies to publicly express support for Baltic Pride events. We are also a partner of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson’s Office and a major supporter of the National Equality and Diversity Awards. We supported the “All Families Matter” initiative organized by Mothers for LGBTQ+ Children group.
Last year, we became the main sponsors of the biggest human rights documentary film festival in the Baltic States, “Nepatogus Kinas”. We offered viewers Swedbank’s sustainable film program “One sustainable step for the benefit of all” and other activations.
Within the organisation, we have a series of ‘Sustainable Fridays’ events where we speak to experts and staff on a range of topics including equality and diversity. We believe that change starts with changing our own attitudes. We pay special attention to the training of all chain managers.
We are glad that our activities are appreciated: the Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson awarded Swedbank in Lithuania the highest rating in the field of equal opportunities – three “Equal Opportunities Wings”. It is a market standard that marks organizations that successfully implement principles of equal opportunities in their activities. Swedbank received the highest rating for active work within the organization and for the fact that it spreads the ideas of gender equality and equal opportunities in society and encourages other organizations to take more active steps in this area by its own example.
What is your main priority in the field of equal opportunities?
In our activities, we consistently implement the sustainable development goals of the United Nations. We determined in which areas we can have the greatest impact and to which we can contribute the most. One of them is gender equality, diversity and inclusion. We have set the company’s main goals in the field of equal opportunities, such as maintaining a gender balance among managers, reducing the wage gap between the sexes, ensuring compliance with the principles of non-discrimination, promoting employee diversity, implementing diversity and inclusion projects, including gender equality, age, sexual orientation, disability and other areas.
We believe that diverse organizations reflect a more holistic model of society, which helps us better understand our customers and their needs. Swedbank’s main aspiration and goal is for everyone working in the organization to feel safe and respected being themselves.
What measures are you implementing to promote diversity, inclusion and equality in the workplace?
We aim to be a good example in the market by building sustainable relationships with customers, ethical business development and responsible work on important social challenges such as gender equality, diversity and inclusion.
In our community, we pay great attention to education on the topics of diversity and gender equality, because it is the basis of a progressive and growing society. We approved and actively implement a policy of diversity and an inclusive work environment, we value the diversity of our employees, we work purposefully on maintaining the gender balance among managers, eliminating the wage gap between the sexes, and adhering to the principles of non-discrimination. We aim to ensure objectivity and equal opportunities in the recruitment process. In our job advertisements, we emphasize that all candidates are welcome regardless of their gender, age, nationality, disability or beliefs.
Swedbank’s managers and employees are invited to trainings, seminars, events and other social or support initiatives aimed at discussing issues of equal opportunities and diversity. We invite new managers in the organization to gender equality and diversity training. In order to create an inclusive working environment and culture, together with our partners we organized training for managers working in the bank, during which the managers were introduced to workplace adaptation and employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
A new impetus was provided by collaboration with the Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson in the implementation of the project, the main goal of which was to ensure even better opportunities for combining personal and professional life for all employees, regardless of their gender, marital status, age, nature of work performed, etc.
What challenges have you faced in implementing diversity and inclusion policies? What did you learn from them? What accomplishments are you most proud of?
When carrying out various social projects, we sometimes have to argue more intensively why we do it, but every year those arguments are needed less and less frequently. Good examples, already completed projects and their results speak for themselves. The circle of our partners is also expanding, they feel the values that cooperation brings. Being together and constantly working towards common goals helps to achieve them faster and more sustainably.
We have set ourselves the goal of eliminating the unjustified pay gap between employees in the same position. We reduced the difference to 1 percent, and in recent years the difference has become less than 1 percent. Therefore, we are very happy that Swedbank in Lithuania received the Fair Pay award in the category of large companies at the end of last year. This means that we pay equal wages in terms of gender, not only according to our calculation methodology, but also according to the Baltic Salary survey.
Assessing the pay gap has become part of our daily work. However, when assessing and addressing pay gaps, it is crucial that we are consistent and stand firm, adhere to principles and processes, and leave room for dialogue.
The article was prepared under the framework of the project Baltic Pride 2022 Communication Campaign, funded by the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany.