If I couldn’t be myself, I wouldn’t be working here
In August of last year, the Proud@SEB group was formed to further promote inclusion and diversity within SEB, with a particular focus on LGBTQIA+ issues. The initial group, which has since grown as part of its aim to create a company-wide LGBTQIA+ employee resource group, first consisted of five people from various parts of the bank. One of them is Thalia Viinblad Henriksen, who works as a File Management Specialist at SEB Kort in Denmark since June 2022.
– Because of my background as a lesbian and trans woman, one of the first things that I did when I started at SEB was to look up the organisation’s policies on inclusion and diversity. To be fair, I found a good base, but there is always room to grow if we want to be even more sustainable in the future. So, I reached out to our Chief Inclusion & Diversity Officer, Mia Hamstedt, to see if there was anything I could help push forward. She has always been open to my suggestions, and together with her and HR, I was able to create a new trans policy within SEB. It is also thanks to Mia that the Proud@SEB group exists. She had received emails from different people within the bank and decided to bring us together to see what we could come up with.
What are the main goals of the Proud@SEB group?
– First and foremost, we want to raise awareness and foster a greater sense of pride when it comes to SEB’s diversity, openness and inclusivity. This includes everyone within our company, not only LGBTQIA+ individuals and allies. So, there are a lot of different topics that we want to focus on. But in order to get as many people as possible to join us on this journey, we need to start small. Therefore, we need to focus on building foundational knowledge. Hopefully, the two events we have planned for the month of May will be in the spirit of that, where we hope to see more individuals wanting to spend some of their spare time on the growth of SEB.
What difference does it make to have this support in the workplace?
– Being free to be who we are means everything, not least in the workplace, as it leads to improved performance and overall well-being. This is one of the reasons why I believe that it's important to build a strong and open team culture. In my team, there is always such a positive and bubbly environment where you’re able to make mistakes and get through them together. So, being myself has overall been received very well here at SEB. People sometimes make mistakes, but from day one I’ve seen an immense effort from my manager and co-workers. For example, when I had only been at SEB for a week or two, I overheard some co-workers using the right pronouns when talking about me. That made me feel so welcomed. Coming to a new place without being judged has been a big relief, and I can do my job even better. If I couldn’t be myself I wouldn’t be working here. That’s what inclusion and diversity means to me.
How can we further drive inclusion and diversity?
– I think it’s important that we learn to get rid of this binary culture and respect the fact that all families don’t look the same. There is no right way to be a woman, man, or non-binary - we’re all just striving to do our best. So, speaking about these issues is very important as it helps people feel seen. I’m actually a very introverted person, but being a trans woman in this universe and being my age, I have to push myself to talk about these issues. Because the things that are currently happening to trans women around the world are patterns we sadly know all too well throughout history. We need to do something about that. Waving a flag just isn’t enough anymore.
– As for the Proud@SEB group, it has really supported me through good and bad times. I have both cried and laughed in this group, and that has meant so much to me. Having a safe space where you can open up and share things about yourself means everything. That’s what makes this community so special. Going forward, I hope that others are able to find this same sense of belonging within the group.