Power in Diversity: Vija Pakalkaite from Volue
How should one look at diversity data in a company? Is it just a numbers game? According to Volue’s Vija Pakalkaite, the answer is no. She recognises the hidden traps in diversity data and points to the need to have diversity built into all levels of an organisation.
“I am happy to say that this is something we are very focused on at Volue. Our ambition is to establish a 30 per cent gender balance on all levels of the organisation. At Volue, it all starts from the top. Last year, three new female directors joined the Board,” says Vija Pakalkaite.
Volue believes that the challenges ahead of the energy and critical infrastructure sectors call for innovation and new thinking. The solution is developing diverse talent and getting more women and culturally diverse people in the room, so not all heads think alike and everyone can offer a different point of view.
In addition to leading the Insight European Medium- and Long-Term Analysis team, six months ago Vija Pakalkaite became one of the three new female directors in the Volue Board. She joined as an Employee Elect.
Initially, she shied away from putting her name forward for the election to the Board. Her concern: the approaching birth of her child and imminent maternity leave. Her manager encouraged her to apply, and, despite her concerns, she was elected to the Board for the two-year position.
“Not only in the energy sector, but across the globe, and sadly, very much in the industrialised countries, women face the so-called ‘motherhood penalty’. Their salaries and careers often compare negatively to those of other employees. They miss promotion opportunities. Volue did the exact opposite of that.”
Vija Pakalkaite says that it’s encouraging for women applying to Volue to see that the company has a very high number of women managers.
“But this is not enough. Female talent wants to see that the company ‘walks the talk’ also at the junior staff level and across the board and that the managers mentor, advocate and sponsor women.”
Thanks to hiring strategies put together before she joined Volue, the team of analysts she led before going on maternity leave was predominantly female, an unusual sight in the world of engineers, software specialists and analysts, especially in the energy sector. Building on the diversity effort and through carefully worded recruitment campaigns, she added more diverse talent to the team – both in terms of gender and origin.
“We don’t want to advertise positions ‘for women only’. We need the best people, no matter the gender, country, or continent they come from. But what if the best people don’t apply when we recruit? We solve this by choosing to word our advertisements very carefully to make them less ‘corporate’ and more inclusive. This encourages more women and people from different cultures to apply. That is the reason we had a larger pool to choose from with the latest recruitment campaign.”
Thanks to the boom in software and IT disciplines in the past 30 years, there are more and more women attracted by these fields of study.
“There are qualified women out there – the question is, how to support their applications.”
Volue employees have different academic backgrounds. Some have studied quantitative disciplines such as engineering, IT, sciences, and statistics, while others come from qualitative disciplines such as political science, economics, and law.
Vija Pakalkaite says that, as humans, “we’re all prone to our biases” when choosing members of staff or managing them. Being actively aware of our bias, however, would open up possibilities for a conscious balance in recruitment. If men are more likely to choose men, and women are more likely to choose women, the world of work would become too divisive instead of diverse. Redressing the balance consciously with the correct criteria will help women and highly qualified specialists across the board.
Following her maternity leave, Vija Pakalkaite returns to the steering wheel in the context of an exciting expansion for the company and in the midst of rising energy prices across the globe and geopolitical concerns for the energy sector.
She recognises the challenges ahead and, in her own words, welcomes them.