Opening a dialogue for diversity

26 January 2016
upm-dialogi-project

The Dialogue is a Finnish program that addresses the timely challenges of working life each year from a different angle. Last year UPM was one of the program’s partner companies. The subject of the study was diverse leadership and women as leaders. How does UPM seem as an employer from the point of view of young women? Is UPM a good place for a woman to build a career and reach personal goals? Let’s find out!

The theme of women in leadership was chosen because of alarming figures on this matter in Finland. In upper management of 30 percent of Finnish companies, there were no women at all in 2015, the number rising dramatically from 17 percent in 2014. In 2014, 21 percent of Finnish companies’ board members were women — in 2015 this figure was just 13 percent. According to research, diverse leadership is a significant factor in making sure that a company understands its surrounding circumstances and environment and is capable of making the right business decisions based on timely and relevant information.

Every partner company in the Dialogue program was assigned a team of female students from Aalto University. The team’s task was to find ways to help diversity to develop within the company culture. A team was also made up of female company employees, and career coaching sessions in leadership were held for the team. The coaching focused on the importance of always being aware of one’s career goals and strengths.

Christina Alexander, a student of bio and material chemistry, belonged to the group of students examining UPM.

“Our job was to review UPM as a possible employer from the point of view of female job applicants. What do women think about UPM’s recruitment and human relations communications? Do women seem to have the same possibilities to advance than men? We examined the matter in our team and also conducted a survey with 61people.” says Christina.

The results of the survey were published at the end of the year. “When compared with other forest industry companies in Finland, UPM was the most popular choice of company to work for. However, strong female leadership is not strongly associated with UPM and not everybody agreed that women would have the same opportunities to advance in their careers at UPM as men,” continues Christina.

Taking part in the program strengthened UPM’s view of the significance of diversity in the informed decision-making process. The different educational backgrounds, experience, know-how, nationalities and genders, as well as a varied age structure, all play their part in building a diverse working environment. The change comes from human resource policies that take diversity into account and from everyday actions at the workplace, at every level and every office and site. The male-dominated forest industry is not likely to change instantly, but the atmosphere can be changed for the better a bit more quickly.

“When working at a UPM pulp mill last summer I encountered a great working atmosphere. I can well imagine working at a mill again” Christina Alexander says.

Saara Töyssy

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