Vytautas Benokraitis publicly shared a sensitive story: that even today I can make a promise to myself and to those sitting here


At the LOGIN 2023 conference, Delfi’s CEO Vytautas Benokraitis and Telia Lietuva’s manager Giedrė Kaminskaitė-Saltrs discussed the topics of equality, inclusion and diversity – they shared what has already been done in this area in the organizations they lead, and mentioned ambitious plans for the future. During the discussion “Creating a culture of togetherness: how to create an inclusive and diverse workplace”, the CEO of Delfi shared a sensitive story and made a promise to himself and the audience.

V. Benokraitis: it is really very difficult

The CEO of Delfi has spoken publicly for the first time about the challenges his family faces raising a nine-year-old boy with autism spectrum disorder. V. Benokraitis is already raising questions about what will happen to his son in the future, when he will need to get a job with such a society’s attitude as it is now.

“Actually, it’s difficult. I thought it would be easier. Yes, my child has autism spectrum disorder, which is treated as a severe disability. (…). There are many people like me who have very difficult situations, but it is not talked about much. First of all, I can say that it is really very difficult. The first five years were kind of a nightmare, because you didn’t realize what kind of situation you were in, and there isn’t much help in Lithuania. (…). In the last three years, we have discovered private centers that cost crazy money – literally thousands of euros”, V. Benokraitis shares his difficult experience.

Vytautas Benokraitis

© DELFI / Josvydas Elinskas

According to him, it is necessary to talk about this topic, because there are many children with special needs, but they seem not to exist, and this topic is becoming a taboo.

“There is one other interview somewhere, there is some talk about it, but that part does not exist in society. Yes, it is difficult for me and my wife to answer the question of what will happen in the future. When we talk to people who delve more deeply into this topic and who see what is happening in the West, where both the state makes great efforts and society is more accepting, we see that a lot of things can be done in Lithuania”, says the participant of the discussion.

He draws attention to the fact that society and organizations do not have the opportunity to properly familiarize themselves with the situation and learn how to deal with such people.

“There are really good examples. We’re not saying no one is talking about it. There are certainly organizations that work on this topic, but there is no state approach, no strategy that would include all essential interested groups – media, state institutions, society, business. After all, business mainly employs them. – Insights are shared by the manager of “Delfi”. “I would say there should be a complex solution and approach.”

He made a promise to himself and others

V. Benokraitis says that he could also throw a stone in his own garden, because being the head of a portal like “Delfi” and having such a personal history, these topics do not fit into the agenda at all.

Illustrative photo

© DELFI / Josvydas Elinskas

According to him, the “Sustainable Lithuania” initiative is a certain promise of the organization to pay more attention to the topic of sustainability, as well as inclusion.

However, according to the panelist, although the initiative covers both equality and inclusion topics, the company should put even more effort into this area, as they are not “hooked” in principle.

“Even today, I can make a promise to myself and to those sitting here to devote even more time to this topic. – assures V. Benokraitis. – I have absolutely no doubt that a year from now, when we will be discussing on the same LOGIN stage, we will hear that we have big important initiatives dedicated to the topic of disability inclusion.”

Changes are already happening at Delphi

Be that as it may, the manager of Delfi is happy with the breakthrough this year in the fields of sustainability and equality, both in the organization itself and in the management team, because together with its shareholder Express Group, a company with Estonian capital, Delfi has already drawn up clear sustainability goals and an ESG strategy.

“The crucial moments are related to the issue of men’s and women’s wages. We are already close to the average, so there is a balance there. I will admit, we reorganized the entire management team, which was more male. Now we have fifty-fiftybut there is still work to be done.

As one of the three main goals in the ESG strategy, there is also the promise of employment of disabled people, which the management team and I need to realize right now – to set goals, make an action plan and achieve it. I just feel that this (inclusion theme – Delphi) is the next big step both for me personally and in the life of the organization. And this step, I believe, will be supported by our shareholders in Ekspress Group.”

G. Kaminskaitė-Salters: society was injured by the Soviet era

For her part, the manager of Telia Lietuva, G. Kaminskaitė-Salters, believes that the situation with the areas of inclusion and equality in Lithuania is not good because our society is injured by the Soviet legacy – where disabled children did not exist, they were hidden. According to her, this is a stigma, because then having such a child was like a curse.

Giedrė Kaminskaitė-Salters

Giedrė Kaminskaitė-Salters

© DELFI / Josvydas Elinskas

“It’s different in the West. When I returned to Lithuania after twenty years, I was really shocked by the fact that there are simply no physically disabled people. They cannot be seen. When working in England in really serious institutions, there were always disabled colleagues around. I worked with a diplomat who is blind and deaf. She is one of the leading diplomats in England, who has been given all the conditions to work with us, – the panelist gives an example and adds, – the autism spectrum is another area where we see those cases increasing, but as a society we are not yet committed to accept them,” she says.

According to the participant of the discussion, companies like Telia not only want, but also feel obliged to represent inclusion issues, as well as set an example and create conditions.

“Yes, it will take effort. We will have to adapt, learn to accept, provide certain working conditions. These people are part of our society and we cannot morally allow ourselves to pretend they don’t exist,” she says.

Telia aims to become more open to people with disabilities

G. Kaminskaitė-Salters also draws attention to the fact that Telia has organized such internal events as neurodiversity week, where the company’s employees could learn about various disorders, from dyslexia to autism.

“But this is dating at a distance. This is just the beginning. In order for us to prepare, we need to start with ourselves – with me as a manager, with the management team. You need to learn how to conduct job interviews with, say, someone who has an autism spectrum disorder. We also need to prepare our employees. The most interesting thing is that when you start to delve into this field, you realize that there is not so much knowledge in our society. We will all have to make this change. But our plan is this – we want to become open to people with disabilities, as well as representatives of the neurodiversity community, and make that change.

I will say it quite cynically, in this area I also see bus cases. Currently, Telia is looking for IT programmers everywhere – in Pakistan, India, and wherever. These people are here, only they are hidden. I think we have a duty to invite them into our family, create jobs and benefit from it ourselves,” she emphasizes.

Telia also takes initiatives in the areas of inclusion, diversity and equality

G. Kaminskaitė-Salters also points out that the company also works with other inclusion and equality initiatives.

“Our work in the field of gender equality, I think, has brought a really good result – the Women Go Tech initiative has been running for more than the first season, women are being attracted to the field of technology,” she says.

The participant of the discussion also emphasizes that in 2019 the company started with support for the Baltic Pride march.

Baltic Pride in Vilnius

Baltic Pride in Vilnius

© DELFI / Augustė Smailytė

“Until now, we carry and will carry that colored flag. Yes, we received a negative reaction, threats to leave Telia. In fact, left – units. Every year those threats are less and less. I think that organizations like Telia must bear the responsibility for changing our society, she says and adds, we are also very active supporters of the Duoday initiative. During it, disabled people visit our company and work next to employees, get to know each other.”

However, G. Kaminskaitė-Salters emphasizes that although “Telia Lietuva” has started several initiatives related to the topic of inclusion and feels that it has done this in this area, there is a clear plan for where it should move forward.

The article is in Lithuanian

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