Photo:
Raul Mee

Human Rights Centre recognises the University of Tartu with the quality label “Respecting differences”

The Estonian Human Rights Centre presented the diverse workplace quality label “Respecting differences” to the University of Tartu at Proto Invention Factory in Tallinn.

The diverse workplace label is awarded to an employer who values equal treatment and an inclusive organisational culture, and whose work in diversity management sets an example to others. It demonstrates the organisation’s commitment to supporting diversity and thereby creating a better working environment and society. The label is issued by the Estonian Human Rights Centre, and it has been introduced by the Ministry of Social Affairs. The label is valid for two years. This year, it is awarded for the third time. At the ceremony, Head of Human Resources Office Kristi Kuningas will accept the label on behalf of the university.

In a short interview, Legal Adviser Helin Jaakma of the Human Resources Office explains the reasons for applying for the label and how the university intends to promote diversity among its members.

Why did you decide to apply for the “Respecting differences” label for the university?

This spring we signed the Diversity Charter, coordinated by the Estonian Human Rights Centre. The objectives and themes of the charter have had an important place in the university’s policies for a long time already. Therefore, as the next step, it seemed only natural to apply for the diverse workplace label. We hope that it will help make our ongoing efforts to create a supportive learning and working environment even more visible.

What did you have to do to get the label?

We first completed a self-assessment questionnaire, and then compiled a diversity plan for the next two years, with an action plan including specific activities, deadlines, responsible parties and the budget. The plan was assessed by experts who found that we deserved the label.

As the university already had the Guidelines for equal treatment and had adopted the Gender Equality Plan at the end of last year, it was much easier to apply for the label because we had already given much thought to these issues.  

What are you planning to do in the coming years to promote diversity?

Already this autumn, there will be two training sessions on the basics of equal treatment, conducted by Kelly Grossthal of the Estonian Human Rights Centre. We will also include training courses on this topic to the managers’ development programme so that managers could better identify and address workplace issues.  

Probably the most challenging task is creating an online environment for equal treatment materials. The aim is to give more prominence to existing materials and make them easier to find, as well as create new content. In addition to discrimination and workplace bullying, the website will cover topics such as employees with special needs, parents with young children, reconciling research and family life, etc.

We also need to finalise setting up the network of equal treatment support persons. The support persons help students and staff understand who to contact in the event of unequal treatment. They also need to get training to carry out their tasks.

We will continue to support the adaptation of international staff and their spouses by offering them Estonian language courses. The monthly Live Positive Club series of events are held to discuss psychology issues, and both international staff and all other university employees are welcome to participate in the meetings. In addition, we regularly organise events introducing different cultures. There have already been 18 events introducing different nationalities and cultures. The next will be the Armenian Culture Evening in November.

We plan to start monitoring the situation of equal treatment by means of the annual job satisfaction survey. We will also take a closer look at the gender pay gap. The first steps have already been taken: the statistics dashboard now also shows pay gap in addition to general gender equality indicators. We plan to commission an analysis to identify the causes of this gap.

To increase the number of female professors, we want to support women researchers and help them move up the career ladder by offering leadership training, mentoring programmes and peer group counselling.

Why is respecting differences important?

It is very important to understand that equal treatment does not mean uniform treatment; on the contrary, it means recognising and respecting diversity. To put it very simply, respecting differences leads to happier and more motivated employees, a more effective organisation and a happier society.

“The label “Respecting differences” publicly shows that, as an organisation, we value a diverse membership and want our people to have the best possible experience here.”

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