SoftTeco at the “Inclusive Family Policies for the Better Future” Conference

SoftTeco has been a member of the United Nations Global Compact since 2017 and actively participates in activities, aimed at sustainability, healthy work environment and equal opportunities for all employees. In the light of this, SoftTeco took part in the process of evaluating family policies that is part of an initiative by the UNFPA. These policies are aimed at maintaining a healthy work-life balance, efficiently combining family and professional responsibilities of employees, and supporting involved fatherhood.

SoftTeco at the “Inclusive Family Policies for the Better Future” Conference

UNFPA representatives and companies around the world independently carry out such initiatives on a regular basis. On September 22, 2022 Istanbul held a conference “Inclusive Family Policies for the Better Future” aimed at exchanging experiences among UNFPA representatives from different regions and among the delegates of government and businesses. Ekaterina Trakhtenberg, PR Manager of SoftTeco, represented SoftTeco and the Belarusian office of UNFPA at the event and we talked with Ekaterina about the evaluation that SoftTeco performed and how it would impact further processes.

Q: Hello, Ekaterina! First things first: why did SoftTeco decide to evaluate family programs and how did it go?

A: SoftTeco has always been following the best practices in corporate sustainability so the evaluation of family programs was another step in the overall goal to create a comfortable working environment for our employees.

The support of working parents and the promotion of healthy work-life balance helps create flexible working conditions for employees. Moreover, it increases labor productivity by reducing conflicts between work and family and increasing job satisfaction. Last, but not least, this approach increases employee engagement and strengthens SoftTeco’s business reputation and our image of a socially responsible company. 

Getting back to the question, it is not always possible to see the existing “gaps” from the inside. And since the evaluation is performed by third-party experts, we saw an excellent chance to learn more about our internal processes and to detect possible flaws as well as highlight our strengths. Natalia Ryabova and Ella Dulinets, representatives of UNFPA in Belarus, helped us conduct the assessment. The evaluation was carried out in 2 stages. At the first stage, Natalia and I compiled questionnaires for employees and their  managers in order to assess their needs and find out how well managers are aware of these needs among their subordinates. At the second stage, we held several negotiations in focus groups where we discussed questions from the questionnaire and people’s opinions on them. Also, employees were asked to independently bring up the points for discussion and suggest possible solutions to them.

As a result, Natalia compiled a report and provided recommendations for improving these programs. 

Q: And what were the results of the assessment?

A: The results were even better than expected! For example, we were glad to find out that employees see SoftTeco as a company that is very focused on work-life balance, family and parenthood. As well, many people noted how our corporate culture is focused on ensuring equal opportunities and maintaining family values. One more great thing that we can be proud of is responsible parenthood that is promoted at the example level by the company’s management. 

However, there were also certain issues that could use a bit of improvement. For example, Natalia advised us to further work on the issues of the organization and quality of education, upbringing and leisure of children prevail.

Q: Sounds great! Now, as for the conference – how did it go and what were the main highlights?

A: The conference was held on September 22 in Istanbul and there was an informal networking event that took place the day before the conference. The conference was opened by John Kennedy Mosoti, UNFPA Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and it consisted of 6 discussion platforms:

  • Gender Equality & Demographic Resilience
  • Setting the scene: Demographic Resilience through Gender-Responsive Family Policies
  • Policy-makers & Gender-Responsive Family Policies
  • The Business Case for Family Friendly Workplaces
  • How to make workplaces family-friendly and inclusive
  • Past and Future: Reflecting on Gender-Responsive Family Policies

I participated in the fourth panel, alongside representatives from Ukraine, Georgia and Turkey. It was interesting to share SoftTeco’s experience and to learn about the experience of other companies. The moderator of our discussion was Katerina Modera, a BBC journalist who made sure everything went smoothly, asked guiding questions and overall created a wonderful atmosphere.

Oh, one more fun thing! During our speeches, an invited artist was sketching the main thoughts of the participants in real time. I think it turned out very cool!

Q: That sounds like fun indeed! Now the next question is what are SoftTeco’s plans for the development in the area of family-friendly policies?

A: There are many ideas on how to improve our family-friendly policies and in general the working environment of the company. Natalia helped us by providing certain directions and I managed to learn something from the speakers at the conference.

One of the biggest things that we want to focus on is to reconsider our approach to situations when the parent has urgent work, but there is no one to leave a sick child with. The solution may be sick leaves – several fully or partially paid working days when an employee works as much as they can while taking care of the child. SoftTeco’s sick leaves are not issued separately, but 4 additional days have been added to the number of paid vacation days.

In other countries, paternity leaves (fathers going on a parental leave) are more common than in Belarus but it’s something SoftTeco is looking to make more widespread. Such an approach implies that either a mother or a father can be the main financial provider of the family. Today, SoftTeco offers an opportunity to take paternity leave, but this practice is not very common in Belarus in general. Therefore, at this stage we inform our male employees that they can also help their families in such a way.

One more thing that was discussed on my platform during the conference was gender equality in the workplace. In the IT sector, the situation is favorable, but in other industries, there is still a bit more bias towards female employees. In this matter, it is important to convey that career opportunities for women and men are the same.

I’m sure that SoftTeco is heading in the right direction and I am looking forward to the implementation of renewed policies and the adoption of new ones! 

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