Equality in the workplace: the Experian Bulgaria practice

The mission of Ekaterina Karavelova Foundation is to support the personal and social development of women in Bulgaria through original programmes for personal development and active citizenship trainings. The experience we have gained over the years has taught us that in addition to our work on the ground it is crucial to advocate for gender equality policies based on data and evidence.

In a series of interviews, we introduce you to the policies and practices of companies that have been awarded the Badge of Distinction for Significant Achievements in the Effective Implementation of the Gender Equality Policy, which is awarded annually by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy.

We discuss the topic with Experian Bulgaria.

In 2022 Experian Bulgaria PLC was awarded with the Badge of Distinction for Significant Achievements in the Field of Equality between Women and Men. What are the internal policies that you implement and helped you achieve this honour?

The issue of equality between women and men is extremely topical today and we are glad that it has been strongly enshrined in the company’s global policy for some time. In its history of almost 20 years, Experian Bulgaria has been encouraging gender equality, but also its focus on respecting diversity among people in all its forms.   

In Experian we aim to build a strong culture of continuity and enhance a mindset of accepting other people’s differences among all employees, which is an ongoing process, aiming at all employees – from the early stages of recruitment, the following introductory and regular training development programmes of their knowledge and skills.  

First, the company abides by its internal equality principles during the whole recruitment process of selection and hiring of employees. Each job seeker, regardless of their gender, race, religion and social status, has equal rights for career development in the company. Our equality recruitment policy forms a part of each recruitment notice. Besides, the candidates receive a digital file “The job seeker book”, which describes in detail how the company encourages diversity and equal opportunities. Another mandatory component in the Experian recruitment process is to conduct interviews for each vacancy with both men and women.  

As part of their onboarding programme, each employee gets acquainted with the Experian Global Code of Conduct, which contains the core principles of the company for building a culture of inclusion, mutual respect and equal opportunities for development. In addition, during their first day at work, each employee is acquainted with the Rules of internal procedures, which underline the culture of inclusion and equality. 

When we say that our policies apply to everyone, we would like to emphasize that our human rights specialists and recruitment managers also undergo a series of internal diversity and equality trainings. In such a way we encourage their thinking towards inclusion of people with all forms of differences and reducing all potential preconditions for unjust and prejudiced recruitment processes of candidates. 

The company’s role is not just to create conditions for gender equality, but also to give opportunities to women for additional professional development. During our tailored training development programmes for women, the participants share their career goals and with the support of mentors and business partners a detailed plan is drafted based on these goals. 

For us, at Experian, it is extremely important to be close to our employees at each stage of their life. That is why we have a special internal programme, focused on the maternity period for the women who work at the organization. Each mother or father of a newborn receives a special gift – a gift package with presents for their child. What is more valuable for us is that we keep in touch with the mother during the maternity period and send her all the novelties surrounding the company. The ultimate goal is that she is acquainted with all that is happening in the company when the time comes for her to return to her job after maternity leave, to get back to her work-related tasks without any challenges and to have opportunities for development. Following her return after maternity leave, the company provides for additional opportunities for reduced or flexible working time to facilitate smooth transition and good balance between personal and professional life. 

Last but not least, in the last couple of years we have been actively developing our so-called internal interest committees. These are volunteer groups from the various business units for the company, which organize different initiatives and events for the Experian Bulgaria team with the aim to contribute to the work-life balance, to create community value campaigns and help all colleagues to exchange experience and knowledge in various fields.  These committees receive the company’s leadership support and one of those volunteer groups is our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion committee or the committee that promotes our internal culture of diversity, acceptance of differences and equality.  

All these efforts have a real impact also on the internal satisfaction. During the annual employees’ satisfaction survey we ask a series of questions related to the colleagues’ perception about the culture of inclusion and social diversity. We are happy that the last year feedback reconfirms the strong feeling of equality among over 96% of all employees. 

All these policies are local for Experian Bulgaria, while in addition Experian on international level implements a global strategy for the development of this culture of inclusion and equality. One of the last innovations within the company is creating a global internal platform, providing an opportunity for connecting all specialist and volunteer organisations in Experian. 

How does the application of these policies positively affect your company?

The company creates and develops a culture and principles of equality applicable for all activities’ areas and among their employees in Bulgaria, as well as world-wide. We are happy that the company leaves a lasting contribution for changing attitudes in society and eliminating all prejudice as well as for the development of its business. Our observations together with globally recognised studies demonstrate that the companies, which are open to diversity and promote a culture of inclusion are also:  

  • More capable of surpassing their financial goals;
  • More capable of reaching high-level efficiency at the workplace; 
  • More innovative and adaptable; 
  • More capable of reaching better business results. 

Transparent pay and career development procedures are an important factor in promoting equality in the workplace. A Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council to strengthen the application of the principle of equal pay for equal work or work of equal value between men and women through pay transparency and enforcement mechanisms has recently been adopted and is to be transposed into the national legislation. What are your company’s internal policies on transparency and equal pay for equal work?

Contrary to other countries in Europe and in the world, in Experian Bulgaria there is no pay difference between men and women. This is a very important precondition for the promotion of career and personal growth among women, helping their standard of living and bringing a sense of worth in them. No matter whether a woman applies for the position at the specialist level, expert or a manager, each woman receives the same payment for the respective position as each male candidate. 

Your company works in the field of development and sales of software products. Although Bulgaria is in the leading positions in the European Union of women employed in the information and communication technologies, men still occupy prevalent positions. What is the ratio of women to men in your company and are there women in leadership positions?

Nearly 1,000 professionals in IT, finance, accounting, data analytics, and others find their careers with us. The truth is that the share of women in Experian Bulgaria has a slight advantage, with a ratio of 52% to 48% as of May 2023. 

Our management team consists of 8 people with three of them being women and they occupy key positions within the company. A prevalent part of the mid-management positions in the company are also occupied by women. 

Do you think there is a need for legislative changes and more specific policies at a national level to encourage employers to implement internal gender equality measures?

During the last couple of years the Bulgarian state has advanced in its initiatives to promote gender equality, but this is a long process which requires time, sustainable practices and continuity in the political sphere. It is important to elaborate an encouraging framework targeted at the employers, but it is also essential to create favourable conditions for its effective implementation. We think that national policies should focus on the following areas: 

  • Improving the terms and conditions for child care in the state-funded facilities from the earliest possible age;  
  • Promoting earlier return to work through extending and providing better flexibility within the scope for financial parenting support;  
  • Equality among men and women in ensuring state child care support; 
  • Organizing information campaigns and initiatives aimed at raising awareness and recognising and building upon good practices by employers. 

We are happy that the information technologies sector, where we also belong, is proud with gender balance and well-defined programmes and policies aimed at promoting diversity. 

  • Ekaterina Karavelova Foundation is a member of the National Council for Equality between Women and Men at the Council of Ministers, which votes on the proposals for the selection of the winners of the Badge of Distinction for Significant Achievements in the Effective Implementation of the Gender Equality Policy made by the Commission for examination and evaluation of the submitted applications, which is appointed by the Minister of Labour and Social Policy.
  • You can learn more about the activities of the National Council for Equality between Women and Men at the Council of Ministers, which is a permanent, coordinating and advisory body that assists the Council of Ministers in the development and implementation of the national gender equality policy here.
  • You can find Ekaterina Karavelova Foundation’s statements in relation to the work of the Council here.

Photo credit: Experian Bulgaria