This article was originally published on Focus on Business
Author: Evelina Lazareva, an Investment Advisor, Business services & ICT at Invest Lithuania
Diversity and inclusion are not just about paying lip service, it is also about driving revenue. A 2020 report by McKinsey & Partners, “Diversity Wins: How Inclusion Matters,” found that “Companies with more than 30 percent women executives were more likely to outperform companies where this percentage ranged from 10 to 30, and in turn, these companies were more likely to outperform those with even fewer women executives, or none at all.” And it’s in this regard that the Lithuanian Business Services sector is performing particularly well. In the 2023 Lithuanian Business Services report, a comprehensive deep dive into the state of the sector in the country, it is reported that 53% of all senior roles are held by women.
Indeed, Lithuania is a leader when it comes to gender inclusivity. According to the Global Gender Gap Index (2022), Lithuania is first in CEE when it comes to gender diversity, and it is equally highly ranked at both the European (7th) and global levels (11th).
But, of course, gender balance is only part of the picture when it comes to diversity and inclusivity. Apart from the revenue benefits already touched upon, there is also the increasingly important facet of employer branding. It is becoming more and more important for employers to promote and create company cultures that inspire employee loyalty and role ownership. And for employees, diversity and inclusion is a huge incentive. In fact, a Glassdoor employee survey carried out in 2020 found that “more than 3 in 4 employees and job seekers (76%) report a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers.” And here we can see that Lithuania’s Business Services sector is also showing a commitment. Around 12% of all professionals in GBS centers are foreign nationals (up from 10% last year), with 3,000 foreign FTEs working in the industry. This ethnic diversity is being supported by local education institutions, where 10% of the students now hail from abroad, with almost 80% of them coming from outside the EU.
So far, we’ve been solely looking at the macro picture in the context of the Lithuanian Business Services sector, but to get to grips with how diversity is being integrated into companies strategically, we should turn to a couple of notable success stories.
First of all, let’s turn our attention to SEB. Headquartered in Stockholm, SEB is one of the biggest banks in the Nordics, providing a full-service offering to both private and commercial clients across the region and beyond. In addition to SEB Lietuvoje, which focuses on serving the Lithuanian market, in 2008, SEB Global Services centre was established in Vilnius with the aim to provide a broad range of business services to SEB group companies in 20 countries across the globe. Diversity and inclusion are cornerstones of the company’s philosophy, with SEB acknowledging in its “Inclusion and Diversity Policy” document that, “embracing inclusion and diversity increases our ability to access the entire pool of potential future colleagues.” While further into the policy it outlines its broader aim as establishing “a workforce that reflects our customer base and society at large.”
Indeed, SEB is even integrating AI into its hiring process to increase such diversity and inclusion. Not only that, SEB has had a dedicated Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer since 2018. But how is the company implementing its vision across its Lithuanian operations, and further afield within its Baltic network?
Inclusion and diversity initiatives are driven by employees on a voluntary basis – last year a task force called OutStanding was established which consists of colleagues who are interested in promoting these values. Team OutStanding is also connected to Proud@SEB, a SEB group-wide team that mainly focuses on LGBTQIA+ related topics.
With a focus on raising awareness within SEB’s Global Services centers in Vilnius and Riga (comprising approx. 2800 employees all together), OutStanding organizes discussions, workshops, quizzes, and other events on Inclusion and Diversity topics. It invites experts and other guest speakers to share their views and experiences. These activities are also complemented by collaborations with other companies, where experiences are shared and discussed. Recent examples of such collaborations include IDAHOBIT Day, International Day of Tolerance, etc. Participation rates for these events are typically quite high, with up to 300 colleagues joining to listen in and take an active part in discussions.
SEB, of course, is not the only company in the Lithuanian GBS ecosystem that is committed to Inclusivity and Diversity. LGBTQ+ families that work for Danske Bank in Lithuania (as well as other locations), have access to equal conditions for parental, paternal, and maternal leave. The company has also launched the #Free-ToBeMe initiative to drive positive change within the larger society with the aim of making it more open, tolerant, and inclusive. The company also hosted The Inclusion Day ’21 event to provide a platform for business representatives, public activists, and artists on diversity and inclusion-related topics.
Meanwhile, the global integrated risk assessment firm Moody’s, with an office in Vilnius, has emerged as a strong ally of the LGBTQ+ community. During Baltic Pride Week 2022, Mariano Andrade Gonzalez, the Country Head for Moody’s Lithuania, along with members from the Vilnius office’s Inclusion Group, participated in public conversations on allyship and the importance of an inclusive workplace. It is worth mentioning the “Returnship” initiative launched by the Finnish Industrial Machinery Company, Metso. Through this program, individuals who have been away from the workforce for a while due to family duties, illness, or elderly age, are empowered to rejoin the workplace.
As we can see, diversity and inclusion are fast becoming a mainstay of corporate social responsibility initiatives. They improve employer branding, deliver increased revenue, and most importantly, enhance tolerance and acceptance in society.
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