Varma remains an official partner of Helsinki Pride in 2021, marking the third year of collaboration between the two. Promoting and speaking out on behalf of an equal working life is not a marketing campaign for Varma – it is part of our everyday life and responsible work culture. Equality and diversity are values that become a reality only through actions, Varma’s Katri Viippola reminds us.
For Varma, key aspects of Pride work are speaking out on behalf of an equal working life and decisive practical development work.
In many workplaces, sexual and gender minorities in particular is still a sensitive topic.
"I wish more and more employers would have the courage to stand behind equality issues. Building diversity involves the same kind of transformation work as other development, and therefore it requires management, targets and follow-up. Progress has been made, but Finnish workplaces haven’t quite reached the finish line in this matter,” says Katri Viippola, Varma’s Senior Vice-President, Communications, HR and CSR.
“A high-profile marketing campaign or welcoming everyone to the organisation is not enough to make Finnish working life genuinely more diverse. Knowledge and understanding of sexual and gender minorities are increased through dialogue and by coaching both personnel and management. At the same time, this strengthens the psychological safety of the entire workplace and helps identify possible barriers that minorities face in workplaces,” says Viippola.
Developing equality is proven to have numerous positive impacts.
“Every employee has a unique life story that contributes to the work community’s creativity and problem-solving ability. Diversity and inclusivity enrich the work culture, improve well-being and prevent burnout. When people can use their full potential at work, they also perform better. This is no small matter, also for the employer,” says Viippola.
Promoting an equal working life is our year-round mission
At Varma, promoting equality and diversity is about goal-oriented, systematic work and daily actions throughout the year.
In connection with the Pride collaboration, Varma’s experts and supervisors have received training in recent years with HeSeta’s experts on topics related to the status of sexual and gender minorities and, among other things, identifying latent bias.
Varma has also switched to using gender-neutral job titles, and the company’s toilets are marked in a gender-neutral way.
“Varma’s own first steps and journey of growth have been shared openly at various events. With our story, we have wanted to convey that the key is getting started and that it is possible to make great strides even if you are behind in the game. We are by no means there yet, but the development work continues,” says Viippola.
“Equality in working life is especially significant, as we spend a large part of our lives at work. The exceptional circumstances we have faced lately have challenged Finnish working life and employees. People can handle all of this if they feel safe and confident at work,” says Viippola.
Good feedback from employees on Varma’s equality and non-discrimination work
Varma’s employees are asked to take an equality and non-discrimination survey every two years. According to last summer’s survey, experiences of fair and equal treatment among Varma’s employees, covering different genders, ages and minority groups, improved significantly since the previous survey, so our long-term work appears to be bearing fruit.
In recent years, Varma has focused on, among other things, increasing and communicating on diversity, equal pay and development opportunities, as well as on reinforcing employees’ understanding of equality issues.
Work is done together
Varma has an equality and non-discrimination working group that is available to all of the company’s employees. Together with the HR and Sustainability departments, the working group plans the priorities of the company’s equality and non-discrimination work and contributes to and follows up on the implementation of measures throughout the year. One of the group’s priorities is sexual and gender minority issues.
“Equality and non-discrimination issues concern Varma as a whole and each one of us, so it is important to get people from different parts of the company involved in the planning and work,” stresses Viippola.
Varma has also had a special ‘Pride gang’, which any Varma employee could join to help plan and carry out actions and events related to our Pride partnership – and just to be part of promoting diversity.
Varma additionally encourages its customers to foster a diverse work culture. Last autumn, Varma organised for its customers a webinar on diverse working life, because companies have a great thirst for knowledge on the subject and are keen to hear Varma’s experiences and views.
“We want to share the lessons we have learned, but we also want to learn more ourselves about diversity and sexual and gender minorities. Every organisation is different, so a good approach is to try new things and experiment with what works best for each company in equality and non-discrimination issues. By trying new things and taking action, together we will build a better working life for all of us,” Viippola sums up.
Helsinki Pride 2021
Pride week will take place in Helsinki from 28 June until 4 July. The week’s events will again be arranged in exceptional circumstances and, for example, the intention is for the Pride parade to take place online this year too. Varma will participate in Pride week as before, and we are currently planning this year’s activities around Pride week.
Read more about Varma’s actions and views on equal and diverse working life from our Annual and Sustainability Report 2020.
Katri Viippola’s tips for promoting diversity in organisations
1. Get started. The organisations of the future are being built today.
2. Perfection won’t come overnight, and that’s OK.
3. Include all eager participants in the equality and non-discrimination work.
4. Focus on developing leadership. Supervisors are important enablers.
5. Be prepared for open discussions – the majority doesn’t know how the minority is doing.
6. Ensure the right balance of action and communication. Do first, talk later.
7. Remember that sustainability is a moving target.
8. Stand up for what you believe in.
9. Don’t get discouraged – you’re going in the right direction.